Recently I’ve had a rather painful reminder of that while taking some baby steps into a memoir project and participating in an online writing class.
It was HARD, people.
It was HARD dredging up memories and feelings from the past.
It was HARD trying to choose just the right experiences to covey my overall message.
It was HARD convincing myself that any of it mattered in the grand scheme of life.
So I did what any normal human being does when things get hard.
I turned tail and ran. I avoided my computer, avoided the assigned class readings, avoided the discussions. I felt like a fraud. Who was I to think I could write memoir?
But I’m not the sort of person who can live comfortably when things are left undone. It gnawed at me, even when I was busy with a thousand other things that were going on during the time I was taking the class. Why was writing about this particular aspect of my life so difficult for me? My blog posts – which are often about my life – have always come easily, with none of the unease and and uncertainty the memoir assignments created.
It wasn’t until one of the last assignments – which was to incorporate research into our memoir subject – that I felt capable of moving forward. Starting with some facts and figures and having my own ideas validated by others seemed to free me from the sinking sand of doubt and uncertainty. I found a voice, a tone that had seemed to elude me until then.
“Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it,” Stephen King advises in On Writing, “and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing to do is shovel shit from a sitting position.”
Writing IS hard sometimes. And when it gets hard, we get scared – scared that we’ve lost the ability to use words in an effective way, scared that our story isn’t important after all, scared that no one will care.
But if you can keep moving forward, keep going on even when you don’t feel like it, most often the pathway finally becomes clear and the road a bit easier to travel.
How about you? What do you do when the writing gets hard?