The Dark (and Not So Dark) Parts of Writing No One Ever Sees

What goes on before a project comes to life?

Every aspiring and working writer alike imagines the day they will be able to hold a copy of their very own book in their hands. We can picture it so clearly, as if when we close our eyes and open them again, that book will be there staring back at us.

But of course, that’s not how it works. Writing is not magic. You don’t just decide to write something one day and have a near perfect copy of a finished product in your hand the next.

That’s how a lot of people wish it could work. After all, anyone can technically write and publish anything they want to. Many of them jump into a writing project thinking it will be easy, only to realize four pages in that OH. This is like, hard. It takes, like, effort. It’s, like, actual work.

And some of them accept that reality and keep on going, week after week, month after month, until they’ve finished a first draft of something they’re almost proud of.

Others never quite get to the point where they’re willing to work on overcoming the various obstacles associated with physically turning blank pages into pieces of a book. They either don’t know how to do the work or decide it isn’t worth it, and give up.

There’s a lot about the writing process most people don’t see.

They don’t see you sitting on the couch with your laptop at 9 p.m., dog curled up next to you, coffee getting cold on the table, trying to block out all the noise around you, desperately trying to get those last 500 words in.

They don’t see you so lost in those words that an hour passes without your noticing.

They don’t see the tears you shed on behalf of an imaginary person’s pain, the excitement you feel when a fake conversation pours out of your soul and makes you laugh and brings you hope because five minutes ago you felt like every word you wrote was trash and wanted to stop.

No one sees any of these things. Maybe it’s because we don’t want people to see them. Maybe it’s because they’re not interested in seeing them, and only want the shiny, polished stories of how one writer sat down to write a book and one page later they were a bestselling author.

Do people not want to know about the struggle because they don’t want to struggle? Or do we just neglect our responsibility as writers to be open and honest about every step of the writing process, not just the good parts but the bad ones too?

Maybe it’s both. Maybe some people don’t want to hear about the bad parts, so we stop talking about them without realizing we’ve stopped.

So many aspiring writers wish they could just skip over or speed through those late nights and unpredictable emotions and the various forms of temptation to quit.

The other problem is that even when we do talk about these things, a lot of us aren’t able to acknowledge either why we’re struggling or how we plan to overcome it. “I was tired so I didn’t write.” I know I’ve written that in blog posts before. But that’s not helpful, to you or to anyone else. “I had a bad day so I gave up on writing.” That’s it?

I have nothing against sharing your struggles as a writer online … OBVIOUSLY. But I think it’s important to offer hope when you do — advice if you have it. Because you don’t want to discourage someone from writing by admitting it’s hard. You want to admit it’s hard, and then also say, “Hey, but plenty of people have done it and so can you!”

That’s why this blog exists. I don’t think we talk about this stuff enough. I want more people to see the human side of writing. There are enough blogs and books out there already about how to write a good story, how to make money as a writer, how to sell a book, how to get published. And that’s all important information.

But I’m more interested in the process. Hence the tagline: “Putting ideas into words.” I want people to know this is not an easy road. But they also need help figuring out how to navigate it.

I hope I’m at least doing my part in this, filling some kind of need people might not even realize they have. It brings me joy. That’s important too, right?

Talk about the hard stuff. It matters.

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.

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6 thoughts on “The Dark (and Not So Dark) Parts of Writing No One Ever Sees

  1. Very good point! Dare I have a minor gripe?! I have struggled this week to write and here I am at Thursday with very little to show for it! Grrrr! And of course the problem is that I have nobody to blame except myself. Ok gripe over, and I promise I won’t write an entire blog about it. Thanks for the post … it’s actually rather a good reminder. So I’ll stop moaning, stop looking at my blog and crack on with the writing! Katie

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