Is Writing Actually Awful?

I'm currently making my way through Amy Poehler's Yes, Please. I know, I'm like two years late, but better late than never. In the introduction, Amy goes on and on about how hard it is to write a book, that it's awful, like pulling teeth. She writes about the myths of how glorious and glamorous writing is, about morning pages (screw that) and daily routines (screw that) and the image of someone being struck by the muse. She argues that writing is nothing like that.


As I was reading Amy's take, I was thinking, well, okay then, why are you writing if you hate it so much? (Maybe because she's had a very interesting life, but I digress.) I thought, hmm, I don't think it's awful. I wish I could be writing all the time, actually.  Granted, Amy Poehler is primarily an actress, and to my knowledge, she has never written a novel,  but I've heard other writers say the exact same thing, over and over again: writing is awful. It's not completely untrue. Writing is not as romantic as many think.  For example:


What people imagine writing looks like:

Sitting at an oak desk overlooking a beautiful view. You're in a cozy woolen sweater drinking something hot.

What it actually looks like:

It's two thirty and you haven't brushed your hair or showered. You are in a sunken-in chair in your living room and there's laundry and dirty dishes everywhere and your body hurts from lack of movement.


So I agree, the muse thing and the glamour thing--no. But I still don't think writing itself is awful. I do think, however, that a lot of what surrounds writing is awful, especially if you've decided to take writing seriously in your life.

What's Awful About Writing

You're not paid for the hours you put in

Having to have a real job that also doesn't take up too much of your time

(speaking of which) Poverty

No one really understands how you live your life unless they're living it the same way

(speaking of which) When people ask if your novel's almost done (IT'S NOT DONE UNTIL IT'S IN PRINT, OKAY!?)

Thinking you're done for the five millionth time and then realizing you're not done

Proof-reading for the 20th time and still finding errors

When you re-read a passage that you thought was good while writing but it's actually a hot mess

Navigating publishing options and all the details

(speaking of which) realizing you're not gonna make much money

When you can't tell if something is good anymore because you've read it so many times

Any bodily function that gets in the way: hunger, exhaustion, needing to pee

That feeling when you wrote all day & so it's like you never really woke up



Note, not much of that is really about the process of writing, at least not for me. It wasn't always that way. I used to hate revising, but now it's my favorite part. It's easier and more fun for me to chisel away at something and slap on more clay than to make a sculpture out of nothing. I love feeling completely lost in someone else's life. I love how writing validates you and lets you escape yourself at the same time. I love when you reread something you forgot you wrote and feel moved. Most of all, I love how after a certain point, it feels like you're not even deciding what happens anymore; the characters are just showing you. (NOTE: a story "telling itself" and "writing itself" are two completely different things. A story should always ideally tell itself, but write itself? Um, no. YOU are going to be writing that sucker. And rewriting and rewriting it.)


I guess it is frustrating when you can't describe something, when the prose just won't cooperate. But I've even started having fun with that. I cup my hands around my head and tell myself, "That's bullshit that you don't know how to say it. How do you say it? How do you say it?" And I zone out until I hear it. Same if I mistakenly think for a second that I don't know what happens next.


Listen, I'm not saying I'm better than Amy Poehler. I'm not saying I'm better than any of you if you don't enjoy most of the process. I just think it's interesting to think about this, because my list of things that are awful would've been twice as long ten years ago, and some of the things I love now would be missing too. Your relationship with writing is something that's always evolving-- if you stick with it.


What about you? What's your take on all this?  What do you think is awful about writing, and what do you love about it? If you think it's mostly awful, then what motivates you to keep going? Isn't Amy Poehler hilarious? Don't you miss Parks and Rec?


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