What’s Hard To Write

Yeah, I’m stymied. I’m at the bottom of a embankment in my work. It’s a bit of writing I’ve been wrestling with for a week or more. I’ve outlined it, I’ve written a draft or two of it already and proceeded to delete or type over a bunch of it—I’ve surveyed the turf and plotted my course. Still, stymied.

Sometimes, when this happens, I think about the writers and dramatists who say they just “skip the boring parts.” (It might’ve been Elmore Leonard or Alfred Hitchcock who said it most famously.) I do that sometimes—skip ahead and then see if I really need to come back and write the bit that got me stuck. Sometimes it works. Just skipping ahead helps me find a way to convey the beat I skipped without having to chart it precisely. The drive to the place is sometimes less interesting than what happens at the place.

This isn’t one of those times. This is exciting material I’m working with and, honestly, I don’t think that it’s the material being boring that’s holding me up. This material is important.

The problem is it’s just difficult. I keep thinking, “What I wrote today is okay but I’ll be sharper tomorrow and then I’ll revise and hone this stuff until it’s the best it can be.” Every day is some day’s tomorrow. Most days I am only as sharp as I usually am and so all these revisions and preparations and drafts aren’t getting the actual writing finished. So I’ve written this thing six or seven times now and it’s still not where I want it.

Sometimes I try to use the fact that something is hard to write well as an excuse to skip it and come back to it. That’s bending the old advice to “skip the boring parts” out of shape, though. Not every challenge is a fun puzzle to be solved. Some challenges are bent-knee trudges through dirty, weedy mires that leave your feet cold and your knuckles scraped to hell.

These are worthy challenges. Some of these must be overcome to get to the remote valleys and hidden temples. Don’t confuse what’s stymying for what’s boring.

I’m finding it tedious to not be good at this one thing that I’m writing but that just means it’s not fun right now. When I get good—at this scene, at this essay, at this character—things that might otherwise be boring can become intriguing,enticing, thrilling. In the hands of a great actor or storyteller, for example, the conversation in the car can be as captivating as the adventure at the destination.

In other words: sucking at kung-fu sucks but get the moves down and I hear it’s fun to be a master.

Make the boring part a fun part worth reading, right? Even if it’s not easy.

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