28
Jul 17

Writing Only Gets Harder

Paradoxically, writing only gets harder the more you do it.

Writing Only Gets Harder

Original photo by rawpixel.com

You can practice for years.

I’ve been actively writing since I was 8, and I can say conclusively that it’s harder to write now than it was then EVEN THOUGH NOW I CAN READ MULTI-SYLLABLE WORDS.

You can dedicate several years of your adult life and thousands of dollars to undergrad and graduate programs, but writing only gets harder.

Don’t believe me? Here’s why:

When you’re a kid, a story is any weird string of words. Have you ever listened to a kid tell a story? They start out telling you that their grandpa is coming over on Friday, and wind up at how much they love pudding. And while those things are probably true, the story itself, sucks.

(Sorry, kids.)

But that doesn’t diminish the kid’s ease at vomiting out words. It’s easy for them.

When I was in the first grade, I wrote books ALL THE TIME. I don’t think any of these tomes still exist to this day, as neither I nor my parents are particularly sentimental. But I sandwiched copy paper between sheets of construction paper, stapled those bad boys, and then went to town with a pencil and crayons. I wrote so many “books.” I was prolific.

It felt so easy.

(Probably because these stories were like 3 words to a page with a very intricate crayon drawing to illustrate the point.)

But then as I grew up, I started learning about story structure. I learned how to construct a sentence for maximum impact. I learned literary conventions and pacing and word choice all played a part in everything I wrote, and I made allowances.

Even so, this wasn’t the straw that broke the camel’s back. Writing was still pretty easy.

In middle school and high school creative writing classes, we had to turn in a short story once a week. That’s a helluva writing load, one that college classes wouldn’t inflict on their students. But I hit those deadlines. Sure, it was draining, but writing was easier then. I still have some of those stories (they managed to survive the great notebook throwing out of 2017) and they spanned topics like dystopian junkyards, a man going crazy in a grocery store, an unconscious father on life support mentally recounting life events as his family cries in his hospital room, a young girl posing as a squire so that she can become a knight someday…

I wrote all of that and so much more.

And it was really fucking easy compared to the writing I do now.

The ideas are all still there, disparate and diverse.

But writing only gets harder.

The ideas are all still there, disparate and diverse. But writing only gets harder. Click To Tweet

In college, I procrastinated. (In much the way I encourage my college students not to.) I waited until the day before a story was due for workshop, and then I’d bash one out. And, admittedly, it was never the best story in class. But it also wasn’t the worst.

And I could get away with that procrastination, because writing used to be easy.

Now, I can’t crank out a story in an evening. I can’t hear a song lyric and turn it into a plot line. I can’t watch a movie and use big chunks of it for my own craven purposes.

I don’t just sit down and dump my brain on the page the way I used to.

I have better taste now.

(Some of you who are more acquainted with some of my more colorful posts may disagree.)

I can’t write stories about dystopian junkyards, a man going crazy in a grocery store, an unconscious father on life support mentally recounting life events as his family cries in his hospital room, a young girl posing as a squire so that she can become a knight someday because these stories don’t align with what I want from my writing.

It’s not just writing anymore. It’s actually figuring out what I want to say, understanding the consequences and impact this will have, and how it will frame everything else I write from now until I die.

Writing only gets harder.

Sitting in a chair and bashing out words on a keyboard isn’t the hard part.

Sitting in a chair and bashing out words on a keyboard isn't the hard part. Click To Tweet

I’m saying that Writing, with a capital W, gets harder because it’s Writing with a capital W. It’s the bigger picture of what a writer does. It’s being aware of what writing actually means. It’s understanding who will take your words and how they will be used for years to come.

It’s not wanting your name associated with some garbage concept just because it’s popular at the moment or because it came to you or because it was easy to write.

(There are still things that are easy to write. Some things are so easy they’re out of my brain and on the page before I know it. But are they worth it? If you’ve been paying attention, you know they aren’t.)

Writing only gets harder because you know you’re capable of better prose, and pulling it out of yourself is like exorcising demons.

It’s looking back on the words that you put on the page, and making sure they mean exactly what you want.

This is why writing only gets harder.

The more you practice, the worse it gets. That’s what nobody tells you about practice. Sure, it makes it easier to complete the physical task of putting words on paper. But those words? They get harder and harder to bring to the page.

Writing only gets harder. Click To Tweet

22
Jul 14

10 people you meet in creative writing class

I’ve been thinking a lot about creative writing classes lately. Some of my favorite classes in college were the creative writing workshops. Whether it was in a fiction or poetry class, it was always interesting to write something and see how it plays in the minds of readers. Some of my classmates would give me great critiques–in some cases more helpful than the professor’s. And some of my classmates would write something so amazing that I couldn’t believe I was in the same class.

typewriter

As I took more and more workshop-style classes, I started to notice a pattern. There were always certain personality types in the class, without fail. And so it is with great pleasure that I bring you the 10 people you meet in creative writing class.

1. Person in it for therapy

Art can be therapeutic, but that doesn’t mean the whole class wants to watch you go through the stages of grieving or emotional catharsis every class. And even though all the kids in class will get to know you through your writing, it’s always weird to read about super personal things that you just had to get out during workshop. Also, no one likes your emo poetry. No one.

That being said, it’s always nearly impossible for you to give this person a negative critique because you really want them to get over the tough time they’re going through.

2. The clueless blowhard

Critiques are for people who don’t know what they’re doing. Seriously. Why would this person even need to take your advice when you clearly didn’t understand what they were trying to convey at all? They will not change that poorly written scene with the crows descending upon the city, or take out all the references to Doors lyrics. There has never been a more self-assured writer, nor has there ever been someone who deserved less to be self-assured.

3. Pretentious asshole

“I’m not sure what you were trying to do there, but it doesn’t look like you achieved it. Let me focus on this one element that I noticed, and then harp on it for a good, long time. Then, I’ll have to lecture on something that I’m going to pretend is way more esoteric than it actually is. You’ll think me. I’m really nice to spend so much time educating you.” -every critique this asshole gives you during workshop

4. Teacher’s pet

Every critique this person gives during workshop will closely resemble those of the professor. Also, they read EVERYTHING the teacher references, and occasionally bring up the published works of the professor during class discussion. This person is incapable of writing anything without the approval of the professor, which is why they have a really hard time doing any writing after graduation.

5. Druggie

Even if you’ve never done drugs, you will sincerely enjoy this kid’s psilocybin-induced poetry. It’s like The Jabberwocky, only with way more Taco Bell references.

6. The artist

I guess having your soul tortured by the art that dwells within is hard. That’s why this kid is so weird and incapable of communicating any ideas they have with the class in a way that is recognizable as human. But don’t worry. This person just exists on another plane. That’s why they will never turn in anything on time, if at all. And any critique you get from this person will be indecipherable.

7. Commercial fiction entrepreneur

You know that overachiever in the class that does really well? Well, this person is an overachiever, but they never achieve teacher’s pet status. Your professor will quickly tire of hearing the anecdotes they have about writing those past 12 NaNoWriMo novels, as well as all about how they made $13 last month on Amazon with their YA septuplogy. Everything they submit for workshop is basically Twilight, but sub vampires for the paranormal creature du jour. You like this person, but you hate everything they write.

8. Your new best friend

Every once in a while, you get lucky and you find a person in your creative writing class that is not only a good writer, but has a style and tone that you really respect. Unlike the teacher’s pets or robot parrots, they never get hung up on little elements that don’t 100% follow the rules of grammar. Instead, they see your writing for what it is, and they enjoy it as well as your company. And if you get really lucky, you’ll enjoy the same type of alcoholic beverages.

Start a writing critique group with this person immediately.

9. The easy A

“I thought creative writing was supposed to be easy? I’m just here for the A, man. I can’t let my GPA drop anymore or I’m getting kicked out. What do you mean, my piece that is just a bunch of text messages I copied and pasted into a Word Doc doesn’t count as a story?”

This argument with the professor will happen about 75% of the way through the semester, and it will be supremely uncomfortable for the rest of the class. But, after having to read the crap this person turned in, you’ll be really glad this person doesn’t get the grade that you actually worked for.

10. The pervert

No one wants to read about someone having sex with a pig. No one. This goes double for your Lolita-wannabe short stories. Actually read Lolita and tell me it’s sexy and not creepy. If you can, you should probably go ahead and register as a sex offender.