On Writing, or: Why We Inflict This on Ourselves


When I told my ministry coach a few days ago that I would commit several blocks of time each week to writing, this is how I envisioned it: me, sitting in our sunny front room, steaming cup of strong coffee by my side, eagerly typing away on works of Great Importance, and sighing deep sighs of satisfaction as I leaned back in my chair, surveying my work after hours of deep productivity.

Of course, this was a bunch of crap. What writing actually looks like is: me, sitting in our sunny front room, badly-made lukewarm coffee by my side, checking Facebook/Twitter/email for the millionth time after searching Spotify for the perfect writing playlist. Then jotting down a few brainstorms in a new document. Then re-organizing eight years worth of files on my Google Drive. Then going to the kitchen for more coffee and complaining to my housemates about how Writing is Hard Especially When You Can’t Spoil the Game You’re Writing About, But I’m Okay, Really I Think I Know What I’m Going to Write About. Then, terrible coffee in hand, it’s back to work, where it’s time to stare at the screen for a while and hope that words magically appear. When they don’t, it’s time to go read some of my old writing to remind myself that yes, I’m a Real Published Author on the Internet and Also One Small Poetry Chapbook, and people like my writing, and really this whole writing business isn’t that hard, it’s just words and I should be able to do it again no problem.

And now, even though my goal for the morning was to start writing a new article about a game I just finished, I am instead writing a rant about how Being a Writer is Hard Work, Guys!

I’m pretty sure all of us writers are masochistic. Why else would we keep returning to this work that we know will just fill us with self-loathing, self-doubt, and keep our thoughts swirling in our heads with ideas at the most inconvenient times, like when we’re driving, or showering, or in the middle of our day jobs when we’re supposed to be earning a paycheck like responsible human beings so we can squander away the rest of our lives on thinking about writing, avoiding writing, telling people that we are working on Very Important Writing, reading other people’s writing and being envious that we didn’t write it first, or sometimes if we’re very lucky, actually writing. Also in among our list of personality defects is self-importance, the kind that makes us think that despite everything we learned from our English teachers and every book about writing we ever read or intended to read, run-on sentences and intentionally poor grammar are actually signs of literary genius, and if you don’t like it then you’re probably just not cultured enough and deserve our scorn or maybe pity.

Despite our penchant for both self-pity and also over-inflated egos, there’s something about being a part of the World-Wide Fraternity of Writers that is comforting. When I start doubting whether I’m even a “real writer” because I haven’t published or even written anything of importance in over a year beyond scrawlings in my journals, the moment I sit down to write again and am filled with the too-familiar feeling of existential dread, I remember that I’m not alone. A short self-deprecating tweet later, my fellow malcontents confirm that yes, writing is a stupid profession filled with pathetic, neurotic dreamers trying hard to exorcise our inner demons and find meaning in the confusing, wonderful mess that is life. Also, most of us spend more time avoiding writing than actual writing. God has given us a gift that is both terrible and glorious. Mostly just terrible, but those moments where we can feel his glory shining through us, where the words flow and our fingers dance on the keyboard without hesitation, where we manage to write something that actually manages to reflect the vague image we had in mind when we sat down that morning – those are the moments that make it all worthwhile.

(All this to say that I have been terrible about both updating this blog and contributing writing elsewhere over the past year, and I am going to attempt to correct that. -ANC)

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