Who Says Writing is Easy?

Sandra Scoppettone has written 18 novels. She must, on some level, love to write. But it seems like doing it for her is agony.

I feel like throwing the manuscript into the water and deleting all
copies on my computer and back ups.  I know I won’t.  But I wonder how
much of my discouragement is laced with my bookstore blues.

I’m on page 178 and I feel I don’t know what I’m doing, where I’m going
or who these people are.  My closest friend just told me she wishes she
had a tape to playback to me because I always say these things. 

But this time it’s real.

It’s always real. And she doesn’t need a tape playback —  all she has to do is look back at her blog, where she left virtually the same post about her last book. She’s been successful, critically and financially, as a writer. A couple of her books were even made into movies. So she’s had plenty of validation over the years that she’s really good at what she does. But it’s not enough. It never is.

But what this post proves is that no matter how long you do this, or how successful you are,  this job never gets any easier. I’m not sure what’s harder  — the writing itself or overcoming your insecurities about your writing.

I know how Sandra feels, though not quite to her angst-ridden extreme. I love to write, I need to write, and even when I am in creative hell (which is often), I am usually enjoying myself more than I am suffering… otherwise, why would I keep doing this?

UPDATE 11/10/2006:  Sandra elaborates on her feelings about writing.

17 thoughts on “Who Says Writing is Easy?”

  1. Oh boy. I am SO there. I’ve been working on a novel proposal before I dig in on the next book in my contract with Midnight Ink, and all I need is 100 pages and a synopsis/outline, right? Give or take? So I’m 80 pages in and I’m telling myself, this sucks, I can’t make this work, where do I go from here? Nowhere. Just put it aside and work on the book you’re contracted to write. Just put this damned thing aside. Stick it in a drawer.
    Wake up at 3:00 in the morning, brain buzzing, what if you do this, what if you do this, go back and do this, start at the beginning and change this and this and this and this… zzzzzzz…
    Wake up in the morning, take a shower, think, No, my 3 AM brain was wrong, I can do this and this and this, I was right all along, I can finish this proposal this week, all I have to do is…
    Sure. It’s easy. Just like brain surgery. All you do is take a scalpel and cut, right?
    Mark Terry

  2. Hey Mark, I woke up at 3 AM, too, thinking about the beginning of my new book. Why? Because of Cabbages and Kings and the book opening blog. I started writing at 3:10 this morning, trying to get the beginning down, and after five hours I gave it up for the day. I was too intimidated by THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOWS opening.
    Thanks a lot.

  3. Thank goodness. I thought I was the only writer who felt that way. I’ve got a major case of second-book-blues right now and it’s nice to hear that other people go through the same thing…

  4. Yeah I have fifth book blues, albeit not severe and took a break after nearing 100 pages by writing it as a screenplay. Seems easy compared to the novel. Selling either is another matter.

  5. Re. difficulty (running the gamut from mildly uneasy to tearing my hair out) my first book had its moments, my second book was a nightmare, and my third book was surprisingly easy. I’m just waiting to see what the fourth one will be like. Judging from the lousy beginning pages written at three this morning, it might be trying.
    I’m hoping it was the “three this morning” that messed me up. G’night.

  6. Because each story is unique and involves creating new characters, the writing never gets much easier. But one does acquire an intuitive crap-detector that helps to deal with things that aren’t working. Some books do write themselves, but most of them feel like I am pulling out molars with a pair of pliers. Oddly, one usually reads as well as another after they’re published. Which is not to say I’m ever content with a book after it’s in print. Mostly, I wish I had cut deeper. After you’ve written a bunch of books, a new anguish arises: where will you end up in the literary hierarchy? I’m in the anonymous lower middle, having never written a memorable book and not a very bad one either. Mediocrity isn’t so bad if it paid the freight for a quarter of a century and gave me a marvelous life in the process.

  7. My plan for writing is simple. I usually leave a “hook” at the end of the chapter. It’s no more than a question, but one that I don’t know the answer to at the time I ask it. Then I have to answer it later, and ask another one. This happens ever 5 pages or so. Since I don’t know where the book is going, at least in any great detail, the writing never bores me. In fact, I’m often eager to get to the keyboard and see what Coventry will be up to today.

  8. Hemingway said always quit when you still know what will happen next. That way you won’t stuck the next day. I’m fortunate to have him as a character in this one so that isn’t hard to adhere to. It’s the one’s nobody ever heard of that are the problem.
    Yeah, Mr. Wheeler there’s a lot to be said for paying your way and getting to reside in Livingston in my view. Give Tom McGuane a run for his money with a current Montana novel. You can do it. Then buy him a whiskey at The Stockman’s Bar.

  9. On the other hand, a big part of my second-book-blues is being caused by the fact that I know too much about what’s going to happen for the first half of the plot. There’s something miserable about writing out stuff when I’m not making it up as I go; it feels wretchedly plodding. I get the definite impression that all writers find something depressing about writing; the variation is in which bit is depressing.

  10. Keith is right.
    I agree that it can be a very difficult vocation. It can be endlessly frustrating at times.
    But I love it. There is nothing I would rather do.
    I can’t stand the writers who whine about how much they hate writing, hate the process. If you hate it, quit. Go dig ditches.
    I love it when it’s flowing and the words come out faster than you can put them down. And I love it when it feels like I’ll never be able to write another sentence.

  11. It beats digging ditches and can be high art if done right. Imagine the effort Thomas Pynchon has to put in to get his creations? I’m about to find out with Gravity’s Rainbow. A good book is the only thing that lasts forever. A bad one is gone in a flash.


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