It’s no secret that writing a book is hard. If it were easy, everyone could do it.
But writing a book isn’t difficult for only the reasons most people assume. From the outside looking in, it can seem like writing is difficult because a writer is trying to expand a unique idea, or they have Writer’s Block, or it’s just generally assumed writers spend most of their time talking about writing but not actually writing anything.
What I don’t see writers talking about enough is WHY writing a book is so hard. I don’t mean that telling a story is a hard thing to do — weaving together a decent plot and all that.
Writing is an extremely physically, mentally, and emotionally draining activity. WHY ARE WE NOT TALKING MORE ABOUT THIS?
It’s not that writing is not enjoyable (most of the time) or that it’s so easy we put less effort into it and appear as though we aren’t doing much.
No. It’s that writing is like exercising physically while doing a crossword puzzle and watching a really intense, emotional movie simultaneously. You walk away from it and you feel like you’re DYING.
Not because the experience was bad, but because you. Are. Just. So. Tired.
This is one of the many things about being a writer that is so difficult to explain to family and friends. “Why are you so tired? All you did was write all day.” Yes. And like every other job, I leave mine feeling totally drained. As I should. It means I worked hard and I am proud of that.
To me, THAT is the hardest part of writing a book. Finding the energy to do it — and the energy to do everything else in addition to it. There are days there simply isn’t any left, and as much as I desperately want to make more progress, I physically, mentally, emotionally, cannot do it.
And on those days you know you can’t do it, you have to accept the fact that you can’t do it and move on to the next thing. Wipe away the guilt. Try again tomorrow.
But on most days, you have to Deal With It. With coffee, with a babysitter, with a drink and a few ounces of hope that somehow you will miraculously meet your quota for the day without staring at a blank screen and/or writing 100% garbage.
(Not that writing garbage is a waste of time. But … some salvageable content is nice, sometimes, you know?)
Here’s the good news, friends. You are not alone, if you are also feeling this way. I know it can feel like no one around you gets it and they don’t understand why you work weird hours or why you’re always so tired or why sometimes you just need to be alone (with your work-in-progress).
Well I get it. I get how exhausted you are. But the only solution is to keep inching forward until you figure it out — until you figure out how to balance work and play, wants and needs, writing time and things-that-don’t-require-thinking time.
To write while physically and mentally spent is a challenge we all wish we could avoid. But the reality is, we can’t avoid it. We have to practice and learn to do the work despite the moments we no longer want to.
Keep writing. It’s going to be worth it someday. I promise.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.