Challenging Ourselves: Why Writing Needs to Be Difficult

Here’s something that should be said more often: Writing is really, really difficult. From the outside, it looks deceivingly simple. You open up a Microsoft Word document, bang out somewhere around 40,000 words, and suddenly you have a novel. What could be easier? Why are those authors over there whining about the pitfalls of editing and the horror that is first drafts? What do they have to complain about? Writing is easy!

I used to think like that. I used to think that if it wasn’t easy for me, than I must be doing something wrong. I must not be a good enough writer. I’m procrastinating too much. My sentences are incoherent. Most the time, I fail to have an actual plot until I’m about half way through the first draft. I must not have had enough practice. I am not worthy to call myself ‘author’ unless I can write a new book every three months and have it be completely fabulous the first time around.

Here’s the thing, though: none of that is true. Writing is not easy. We don’t write because it’s easy. We don’t write so that, someday, it can be easy. We write because we have to, because it challenges us, because we are called to write. We write for the same reason that musicians make music and painters paint.

This might not sound super relevant, but stick with me for a moment: I work at a gym, a jungle gym, where kids come to learn parkour and gymnastics. Before I got a job there, I took classes. My teacher, now my boss, had a few things to say to us students about challenging ourselves. I am greatly paraphrasing, but, “If you’re doing something and it’s easy, then you’re not learning anything,” he told us, “Pick something difficult, something that you can’t do, and do that until it’s easy. Then pick the next difficult thing.”

So when we write, and it seems impossible to get it just right even on the third or fourth of fifth draft, let’s not complain (not too much, anyway). In that moment, you are learning something entirely new. You are learning the ten thousand ways that don’t work in order to find the way that does. You are mastering something difficult. You are improving your writing, even if in the moment it looks like absolute rubbish. Writing is not easy. It’s not supposed to be. If we wanted to do something easy, we would be shuffling papers in an office somewhere. Writing has to be difficult so that we can learn to writeย better.


Thank you so much for reading! I hope you enjoyed this post. What do you think? What are some things you find difficult, or some difficult things you’ve mastered or learned from in the past? Let me know in the comments.

๐Ÿ™‚


Challenging Ourselves

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