Writing: Does it Ever Get Any Easier?

Does writing ever get any easier? Sounds like the question of a beginner, doesn’t it? It isn’t. It’s a question that has tormented every writer at one time or another. I’m asking the question today as a writer of over 25 years who freelanced full-time for 10 years, has had several articles published, won several awards, have one novel finished, and another underway. Yet, I still pose the question:  Does writing, good writing, ever get easier?

Logic says it should get easier with time and practice, right? After all, doesn’t everything get easier with time and practice? In most cases this is true, but I’m not sure that writing novels is one of them? Sure, we can improve the “writing process” and learn new writing techniques, grammar rules, tricks of the trade or sharpen our fundamental writing skills, but does crafting a story, a unique story, ever get any easier?

Think about it. Does it get any easier to develop deep, complex characters, interesting subplots, a captivating page one, intriguing dialogue, a compelling climax, realistic resolution or a memorable ending? Or, is our every attempt at a new story essentially the same no matter how experienced we are? Will we always face a painstaking task of wrestling through this ritual simply because that’s what writing is?

John Steinbeck (pictured above) seemed to think so. Today, I came across a letter written by Steinbeck in 1963. The letter was addressed to writers and in it he made this statement: “I have written a great many stories and I still don’t know how to go about it except to write it and take my chances.”

I consider this quite a revelation from the Pulitzer Prize winner and author of The Grapes of Wrath. Earlier in this letter he states, “If there is a magic in story writing, and I am convinced that there is, no one has ever been able to reduce it to a recipe that can be passed from one person to another.”

Writing and the writing process are undeniably mysterious. We can’t quite put our finger on how to capture the magic that a novel requires. While I’ll admit that elements of the writing process become easier as we become more accomplished, the essence of writing remains grueling work.

Writing a short story or novel that universally resonates with the masses will never be easy. We must labor over every word to craft a distinctive story while hoping to find that elusive magic that makes it memorable. In the meantime, like Steinbeck, we must approach every story the same way; simply write it and take our chances.

Your Turn:  In your opinion, why is writing so difficult?

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9 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Jim,
    Thanks for this article. I was looking for someone to confirm my worst fears: I feel like the more I write, the harder it gets, and I got really scared. I kept asking myself: am I running out of ideas? I was always told that we need to keep on writing, and I do that, but the more I write, the harder it gets for me to finish a story. In rare instances, a story comes to mind and it almost write itself but the last time it happened, it was three years ago!
    Writing a good story is hard, very hard: there are so many things the writer has to juggle with. Creating believable characters in a setting, making them do things that are consistent with their personalities, propelling the story forward with the plot and finishing it with an ending that makes sense and leaves the reader at awe.

  2. To create characters who really feel and situations or conversations that resonate, I have to feel with my characters and live in those situations or take part in those dialogues. When I’ve been doing that, I find myself exhausted afterwards, as if I’ve run a race or dug flower beds.

    • Cynthia,

      Thanks for your comment. By living your characters life you can respond to their experiences just as they would. This makes your characters genuine, believable and compelling. Thanks for stopping by The Writer’s Refuge.

  3. […] Writing: Does it Ever Get Any Easier? (thewritersrefuge.wordpress.com) […]

  4. […] Writing: Does it Ever Get Any Easier? (thewritersrefuge.wordpress.com) […]

  5. Jim,

    Thanks for the blog entry. All writers can relate to this message.

    A craft is always improved with practice, but compared to other crafts, the systematic benefits of writing sometimes elude us. With repetition, a baseball player can improve the technique and “rhythm” of his swing, making him successful hitter. In writing, the benefit of practice isn’t always as clear. You may “burn the midnight oil” for a month before you experience the sudden burst of creativity that’s been percolating in your mind for weeks. I believe that practice markedly helps a writer grammatically and stylistically, but the creative mind must also be jolted by inspiration. Creativity makes the act of writing both a joy and a chore, and keeps the writer coming back for more.

    Writing is special. It is both art and craft, inspiration and perspiration. But the process– the journey–is one of the main reasons writing is so rewarding.

    I commend you for starting a blog on this topic. Hopefully it serves as a community for those of us who both thrive and struggle to cultivate our craft.


    • Jack,

      Thanks for your comment. I appreciate your insights and your perspective.


  6. Jim:

    I think there are times when the writing comes to us “easier” than at other times. The best example I can think of is sports. In baseball, as a hitter, sometimes the ball looks bigger and at other times you swing and miss at everything. In golf, sometimes you just feel like you have your rhythm and can’t hit a bad shot; other times, you just don’t have it. I don’t claim to know the “whys” in writing or sports, but the more we practice in sports, the better prepared we are. The more we write, the better we become at the craft. That is the simple answer.

    I think we can always get better at the process of writing, but what do we need to do to write the great sentence, or great paragraph, or great novel? If we knew the answer, we would all do it. There is no easy answer (or recipe) to writing. In writing and in sports, we seek to achieve perfection; the perfect shot in golf, the home run, the swish in basketball. In writing, it’s putting the period on a sentence and looking back thinking, “Man, that was good stuff!” But how do we replicate that? Ah, the $64,000 question.

    Since there is no easy answer, we are left to just doing. And when we find success, we celebrate and move on, hoping that in the near future we will achieve it again… sooner than later.

    Why is writing so difficult? Because you can never perfect it. Why is golf such a challenging sport? Because you can never perfect it. Success in baseball is getting on base 30% of the time. So what are we left with? The process! The journey!

    Does writing ever get any easier? In my opinion, no! It’s just that we figure out a way to enjoy it more. Does golf get any easier? Not really; we just figure out a way to enjoy that four-and-a-half hour walk. If we figure out a way to enjoy the process and journey, success will be the residual benefit.

    To me, the most important question in writing is, “What do you hope to accomplish with your writing?” Answering that question sets the stage. If you are able to realistically answer that question, writing, in my mind, will be easier and more enjoyable. In many cases, people lose interest in writing because their expectations far exceed their abilities.

    Amen to your final statement: simply write it and take our chances. As someone once told me, “You can’t have someone love you until you first love them.” Find a way to love writing, then sit back and watch how writing will allow us to take chances we never thought possible.

    • tdream20,

      Thanks for your comments. I love your analogy comparing the writing life to sports. There are similarities. Like baseball, we can certainly get in a slump with our writing too.

      Thanks for taking the time to leave a note. There is much wisdom in your comments and great value for my readers. Thank you.

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