Writing. It's Hard.
By Becky Tuch
What is the point? You sometimes ask yourself.
You brew your second cup of coffee and carry the mug to your writing desk. You stare at your computer screen, type a sentence. Delete it. Sip your coffee. You write a new sentence. Pause. Take off your glasses, rub your eyes. Sigh.
What is the point?
For years, you’ve been waking up at six-thirty, brewing coffee, sitting at your desk and pattering out whatever thoughts come into your head. Sometimes they’re in the form of a story. Sometimes they’re solipsistic ramblings, stream of consciousness stuff that you would rather die than let anyone ever read. Sometimes you are writing a novel.
Often you feel as though you’re failing. At the novel. At the short story. At writing, period. Your characters are in their heads too much. Or else they don’t pause and reflect enough. They’re unlikable. Or they’re not flawed enough. The story doesn’t go anywhere. The story goes in too many directions at once. You need less description. The characters need to be described more clearly. You don’t know what you’re doing.
Often, you want to give up. You ask yourself: what the hell is the point?
Why work so hard at this ineffable thing called writing? There is never a guarantee of publication. And if you do publish a novel, there are so many other things to start worrying about. Refrigerator magnets with your name on them. Business cards with a picture of your book. Hiring a publicist. Getting reviewed. Planning a book tour. Responding constantly to emails, Facebook messages, Twitter messages, connecting with other writers, managing your website, starting a blog. Not to mention selling copies of your book.
And if you don’t publish a novel, you will continue to feel obscure, unappreciated. Who will recognize your hard work? Who will acknowledge all that you’ve done? Who will experience the characters that you’ve created with your bare hands?
Plus, there are other frustrations. You never have any money and you’re paying way too much for private health insurance. You’re forever hustling for teaching gigs. Your crappy car is always breaking down. You worry each year about your landlord raising the rent. You’ve fallen entirely out of step with your peers. They are all having kids, getting great jobs that pay well, investing in condos and nice houses in pretty neighborhoods. Meanwhile you continue to wait tables at a local restaurant, occasionally mopping up a Harvard student’s vomit from the bathroom.
Or else, it’s something different. You have a full-time job and you have kids, so you are constantly trying to find time to be alone and think about your work. You feel selfish. You hate that you’d rather be writing than taking your child to the playground. When you do write, you can’t concentrate because you know that at any moment your kids will interrupt you. You can’t think with their video games blaring. Your house hasn’t been cleaned in so long it’s like a swimming pool, filled not with water but with dust.
Maybe your wife is getting impatient. She can tell that you’re thinking about your novel during dinner, during your child’s birthday party, during sex.
Or else you don’t yet have children and your husband doesn’t like that you’re a writer. He doesn’t like it because he wants kids and you keep saying, “Let’s wait, let’s wait,” because you want to savor all the time you have for your writing, and he just doesn’t understand. He’s not a writer.
But you do it anyway– endure your marital difficulties or your financial concerns or falling asleep at your day job because you’ve been up all morning writing. You endure the cold air biting into your fingers as you shiver in front of your computer at the wee hours of morning, while the kids are still asleep. You drive the crappy car. You slurp your coffee and even hold in your need to pee just so you can get this last sentence down and not forget it.
Why do writers do what they do? Sometimes it feels like trying to uproot the Earth from the galaxy. And yet, you keep working at it, keep pushing. You just keep showing up.
Even if your work ends up in a heap in your closet. Even if no one you love fully understands it. Even if your parents wish you would do something else. Even if you are riddled with guilt. Even if your novel gets published and it gets the world’s worst reviews. Even if it’s all wonderful and you are afraid of spoiling it with a bad day’s work. Even if this is your last day on Earth.
You just keep showing up. With your doubt, your despair, and your anxiety. With your questions, your uncertainty, your anger. Your longing, bitterness and hope. Your fear and confusion.
You may be hungry, tired, sad, happy, present, absent, eager, humble, nice, obnoxious, distracted, focused, employed, jobless, full of joy, full of anger, full of wonder, full of pain, terrified, cold, in a wheelchair, on the beach, uncomfortable, rich, poor, compassionate, resentful, Democrat, Republican, Communist, Socialist, old, young, single, married, confident, self-conscious, awkward, hostile, fat, skinny, gay, straight, bisexual, inspired, proud, wrong, right, unsure.
You show up. And you bring it all to the page.
Because, in all honesty, the point of it all is not really the point at all.
You do it because there is no alternative. You are a writer.
You show up.