In the above tweet, Lev Grossman absolutely hits the nail on the head in regard to the writing process: even though this is the activity in which I’ve found my calling, sometimes writing feels like the most difficult, strenuous thing to commit to. On a very surface level, writing is literally just impressing words upon a page, but when it comes down to being able to string the right words together to properly get your message across, it can feel laborious. With the millions of words at our disposal in the English language, there are literally trillions of permutations and combinations of the vocabulary to just simply say, “The dog ran.” How do we, as writers, decide what deserves more emphasis? Less emphasis? How do we shape phrases to project the same image in our mind into those of our readers?
The more I think about it, the more I realize that every individual writer has a mini existential crisis the second they decide to verbalize their thoughts. Just something as small as the wrong word choice can mean the difference between sparking a flame in the reader’s heart and receiving flames in the comments section of a blog post.
Since we’re emotional creatures by nature, writers want to be sure that they’re tapping directly into the correct emotions of their readers; we see writers like J.K. Rowling and John Green whose writing style seems so simplistic, but god damn if they don’t know exactly how to extract feeling from readers as if they were squeezing a sponge of emotion. We read their works and think, “Well, if they can do it, why am I having such problems crafting the same response with my own work?” But then one has to realize that their books — more so, using the Harry Potter example — must have taken years of fine tuning and editing in order to create the master works that line the shelves of millions of readers.
Also, let’s be real, we’re in an age where distractions lurk around every single corner. As Tom Haverford in the above gif so brilliantly illustrates, there are a myriad of social media sites in which we often find solace to escape whatever problems are facing us. (In that particular episode of Parks and Recreation, Tom’s addiction to social media was so bad that he crashed into a fire hydrant while Tweeting; please don’t Tweet and drive, y’all.) But as writers, the majority of our problems — apart from the source of our next paycheck — come from making sure our works are as perfect as possible. Of course we find distractions wherever we can so we’re not solely focused on the perfectionist mode threatening to settle in at any moment. In the fifteen minutes I’ve spent writing this, I’ve probably thought about putting the laptop away and driving off to Starbucks for a caramel brulee latte maybe six times. The anti-distraction struggle is real. And those lattes are hella good.
While it definitely is important to keep things into perspective — that, yes, every single author goes through these periods of self-doubt — this craft is so much harder than people give it credit for. There are so many possible things that could go wrong that of course it feels, sometimes, that other writers have it easier. But that’s when, once we’ve reached our word goal for the day, we can feel free to hop on Twitter and bitch about how hard it is with other writers.