Writing Is Hard

On Writing

This week, I heard an interview with bestseller and Pulitzer Prize winner Jhumpa Lahiri in which she noted that “Writing is hard.”

She’s not the only writer to say that. I think every writer who has ever been published has uttered that sentence in an interview. I probably have as well.

But it’s not true. Writing is not hard. No one dies if a writer’s finger slips, the way someone could if a surgeon’s finger slips. Writers don’t climb poles in the pouring rain to jigger electrified wires so that some poor person’s power can be restored. Writers never risk life and limb to type a sentence. (At least in this country.)

So why do writers make this false statement? I used to think we did it to justify our existence. The fact that we sit alone in a room and make things up makes us feel a little foolish. We worry that others will think we’re not working, so we tell everyone we meet that writing is hard.

Over the years, though, I realized I was being harsh on myself and my fellow writers. We don’t complain that writing is hard because we’re trying to justify our existence.

We state that writing is hard because we’re being inaccurate. We mean that writing is hard work. We work as hard as someone who spends the day digging a ditch. We just exercise different muscles. And sometimes it’s hard to see those muscles working. We’re not as obvious as the ditch digger, but we put out as much effort.

I came to that conclusion after struggling with one fact: If writing is not hard, like I stated above, then that means this sentence is true: Writing is easy.

And writing is not easy. On some wonderful days when the muse actually shows up for her job, the writing is easy. But my muse is a slacker extraordinaire. Sometimes she doesn’t show up for weeks. I can’t fire her because she’s the only one available muse (and if she isn’t, then someone please tell me how to hire a new one). So I often have to work without her.

And working without her is hard. Um, hard…work. I struggle. I suffer. You don’t know how I suffer.

Wait. I don’t suffer. And maybe that’s where I have the most difficulties with the complaints. Writing is hard work, but how can I be suffering when I do what I love? I show up every single day. I make up stories. I write them down. I mail them. Occasionally someone publishes one—and pays me for it! What can be better than that?

So is writing hard? Of course not.

Is it hard work? You better believe it, baby.

copyright 2008 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch