On writing (and not writing)

“I don’t like writing – I like having written.”

This over-used and widely attributed phrase is by far the most succinct summary I have ever heard of the sublime agony that is writing. Despite what popular culture would tell us, writing rarely flows from the fingertips like grammatical gold. It’s hard. Like, really hard.

You sit and stare at your computer, willing the embryonic ideas swimming around in your brain to present themselves on the page in a neat and orderly fashion. A sentence comes to mind, then a paragraph, and occasionally a page or two. Sometimes you love what you’ve written, and you can sleep easy knowing that your place in the pantheon of brilliant writers is secured. Other times you agonise over every word, worrying if you’ll ever get it right. Doubts circle over the carcass of your prose like vultures, waiting to feed on the thin veneer of your self-esteem. Why is it so hard? My last book/story/article/chapter was so much better – am I losing my knack? So-and-so writes so much better than me – why would anyone want to read my tripe? And perhaps the biggest doubt of all – why does everyone else find it so easy?

I can answer the last question with two simple words – they don’t.

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