Writing Sucks

1 Apr

I am trying to write a novel and it sucks.

It sucks for all the reasons I’d expected: the weeks and weeks of writer’s block, the stilted clichés that sneak out the moment you’re not vigilant enough, the grinding frustration of trying unsnarl a set of words that for whatever reason just won’t do what you want them to do. I knew about all that stuff and, on some level, was prepared for it; after all, these are all things that I’ve experienced to some degree as a semi-professional freelance writer. What I wasn’t ready for was my inability to justify writing a book. Every time I open that goddamn Word document all I feel is this rush of ugly panic, and the cloud of oh my god what am I doing why am I doing this displaces every confident thought I’ve managed to muster up.

Here’s what I’ve realized: I am afraid of creative writing in large part because I’m worried that it will be a waste of my time and resources. I’m worried that it will take away from the other work that I do – including unpaid gigs like this blog – and that in the end the measurable satisfaction that I get out of writing a novel will be less than the effort I put into it.

Even more paralyzing is the fact that I know I’m not supposed to feel this way. Art is supposed to be this thing that you do because you’re a Very Special Person who has to create or else you’ll die. That’s why artists starve, right? Because their passion is noble and authentic and above the heights of reason, and they’re willing to do whatever it takes to be real and free and I don’t know, whatever other garbage people believe about art. Creativity is supposed to be a calling, and if you worry about failing then you’re Doing It Wrong because you can’t fail if you’re being true to yourself. And forget about considering finances, because real art has nothing to do with money. Talk of money sullies the purity of art.

The thing is, all of that is very high-minded and beautiful, but it’s also not really how shit works.

We live in a culture that simultaneously holds the idea of art up to these ridiculous standards, and at the same time provides very little concrete support for the people actually creating said art. Our society loves the idea that artists are these ascetic geniuses with a single-minded dedication to their craft, a belief that tends to let us off the hook when it comes to funding art. I mean, if artists are going to create art anyway, then why bother offering assistance, financial or otherwise? And really, doesn’t poverty somehow heighten the legitimacy of art? Like, if the art you’re consuming isn’t created by some tortured soul living in a rat-infested tenement, then you might as well be buying framed prints from Ikea and reading Danielle Steel.

If wanting money is crass, then wanting fame  – or, at the very least, some kind of recognition – is worse. Because you’re not supposed to create with an audience in mind; that kind of thinking is for people who use words like “brand” and “content.” A true artist only ever makes things that are a perfect reflection of their most precious ideas, without ever wondering how other people will react. Who cares how people react? People are peasants, and if they don’t understand what you’re trying to communicate then the failure is theirs and theirs alone.

But, like, fuck that. Fuck all of that. Why are people allowed to want money for literally any other job besides creative work? I know writing is supposed to be a vocation or whatever, but that doesn’t mean you only ever do it without expecting payment. I’m not out here expecting free childcare because my son’s daycare teachers are performing a labour of love or whatever. And sure people should be making things that they’re passionate about, but that doesn’t mean they can’t ever possibly consider their potential audience. What is so filthy-dirty wrong about wanting success?

I know that anything that brings you joy is never a waste (uh, I guess unless the pain of others brings you joy, in which case maybe it’s time to reevaluate your life), but I’m tired of pretending that the act of creating itself is the be all and end all in terms of fulfillment. Making money for what you’ve created is also fulfilling; so is receiving praise. If I said that I never thought about either of those things while writing, I’d be lying. So either I’m just not cut out to Write Fiction (which, let’s face it, is entirely possible), or else maybe we need to revisit how we view creativity.

Art is work. Most of the time it’s lonely, boring work. Sometimes you feel your internal needle slide into the groove and you feel unstoppable, but most of the time it’s kind of miserable. And not miserable in a romantic, 19th century painter with a weirdly attractive case of tuberculosis kind of way. Miserable in the sense of I wish I was doing literally anything else but this. But the fact is that you’re still doing it, and that must count for something.

So how do i justify writing a book? I don’t have an answer for that yet. What am I doing and why am I doing it? I don’t know. Will it be worth it? I have no idea. What metrics do you use to determine your own personal satisfaction? The heart wants what it wants. In short: I’ve got nothing. I just want to take this space to acknowledge how sucky creative work can be, and how the high ideals we have about art don’t do much to alleviate that suckiness.

I am trying to write a novel and it sucks.


64 Responses to “Writing Sucks”

  1. Misha May 5, 2015 at 9:01 am #

    You’re a writer with a cat. So am I (aren’t we a cliche?). Love the post and relate to it at every level. It’s not just applicable to writing novels though, sometimes I even feel like that for paid freelance gigs.

  2. emculp1 May 5, 2015 at 8:12 pm #

    How you feel about creative writing is exactly how I feel about it. I’m currently writing tons of novels and short stories (because I can’t just stay focused on one) and I always wonder if I’m just wasting my time on something that will never be published, or will be just a complete failure. Chin up, though! Writing is therapeutic for me and I like to think it would be the same for you.

  3. Jaszy McAllister (@MsJaszy) May 5, 2015 at 8:41 pm #

    One word… LOVE. All of it. Every single word.

  4. margauximson May 9, 2015 at 4:35 am #

    Hey I just wanted to say that writing a novel is stressful but don’t fret its a start of writing…..I know the feeling of having a writer’s block and it sucks when you have one…..I actually wrote a novel about 2 months ago and I tell you it was ok I knew it could have been better since the deadline was only 2 weeks.I wish you goodluck in your upcoming novel 🙂

  5. geeitsyou May 9, 2015 at 1:18 pm #

    Reblogged this on geeitsyou and commented:
    Writing sucks and you’re right. It’s hard and it painstakingly takes a lot out of us mentally and physically. I would know, because I’m trying to write a novel too. And why do we stick with it when we wish we had never even started it in the first place or regrett being born with thar burning passion? To me it’s pretty simple. I see it as challenge to prove to myself that I am capable of more than I think I am. I see it as a way of feeding my soul with success that comes deep within me. But above all I see it as something that I love to do ( though I hate it sometimes) I see it as something that I cannot live without. I see it as a weapon that I can use to make a change in this world. I now have a meaning and purpose to my life.

  6. unicornland101 May 25, 2015 at 6:09 pm #

    i agree writing sucks i feel like it makes are brains sometimes shut down then they already are they give us brain blocks and this happens when we are doing any thing sometimes we just need to step away from what we are working on and take a break it does not hurt.please like this and visit my blog its about art it would make my day. also i loved this blog

  7. Stephan J Harper June 17, 2015 at 4:04 am #

    I have something that might help you whenever you have writer’s block (in fact, I no longer believe there is such a thing as ‘writer’s block’). It helped me; it may help you as well.

    You hit on it yourself in another post where you echoed Fitzgerald’s “a writer doesn’t write to say something; a writer writes because he (or she) has something to say.” After reflecting on this, I realized that a writer of more than 160 short stories certainly meant this in a deeper way than a surface reading suggests. So now, I have two sentences, like cookie fortunes, cut and snipped and tapped at the bottom of my monitor:

    “I have something to say about…”

    “I have something to say to…”

    And this has not only been helpful in the genesis of new short stories but, more importantly, has helped in character development with the work itself!

  8. pietraluna July 7, 2015 at 11:26 am #

    I understand the feeling… I have been thinking about all these things… Love writing, love reading and I know that my productive moments are during my vacations – which is happening now.
    I do think a lot about how to make these gigs profitable, productive… and the most of all, well done.
    Maybe I will write a text based on yours, in Portuguese =)
    Thanks for the inspiration =)

  9. Dana December 11, 2015 at 12:08 pm #

    Yes, writing sucks. I really don’t know why I do it either. It may be because I still, somewhat stupidly, believe that it will change me, as well as someone else. And also because I sometimes really love the process of writing, just as I sometimes like reading. In my best moments, I can see the stuff I’m writing about happening in front of my eyes, being such the producer of my own private head-movie. It feels like some sort of magic. And sometimes, I also love reading the shit I wrote a few years ago, laughing hard as I read some descriptions of the people I was angry at at the time. I always wonder how come I find myself so funny, when other people don’t. So, yeah, I guess it doesn’t suck as much 🙂

  10. pennymatters January 14, 2016 at 8:34 pm #

    But why should you want to become rich?
    But today I found myself wondering if at all we should be rich, are we in anyway destined to be rich or is it that riches are the treasures reserved for only those who deserve to be? And if so, are we among them? Are our names somewhere in the list, or our faces in the photo? Even if it is in the periphery or the background, we don’t care, so long as we are double-sure that we were caught by the camera, somehow, even if it was by a mistake! One other interesting question, if we are truly among them, do we fit to be there? Should we be there in the first place, or we will only feel too uncomfortable and inadequate after the long run?

    Read full article in my blog here https://pennymatters.wordpress.com/2016/01/14/money-matters-have-you-been-getting-it-wrong/

    Yeah, writing sucks but we cannot afford to be desperate now. We didn’t come all this far, to only come this far.

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