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Why the Heck Is Writing So Hard?

Updated on October 29, 2011
                Photo Credit: on Flickr

Writing can be one of those awesome joys in life. (Don’t believe me? Try it out.) Apart from being an essential tool of communication, it’s cathartic, it’s mind-clearing, it’s a fairly sophisticated way to express your thoughts and feelings, and if you’re very good and very lucky, you can make a respectable living out of it.

However, writing can also be a real pain in the...certain part of the body. Here are a few reasons why, in my humble opinion.

  Photo Credit: dearbarbie 
          on Flickr

Maybe because it’s a permanent form of speech

When you speak in real life, you’re talking off the top of your head. (You really should be speaking through your mouth, however. But anyway.) You can easily excuse yourself for saying something that’s not incredibly smart, because you’ve seen everybody else make similar mistakes. Around your friends, some of your quips and comments are only halfway witty—sometimes downright corny—but you’re still accepted. They still laugh or at least crack a grin. And if you make a serious goof while speaking, you can apologize, using the very tongue you used to say whatever silliness you’ve said. And that’s OK; we’ve all done that.

But writing is more permanent. It’s not like you can go back and write, “Oh, sorry about this error...I apologize for that awkward construction...Oh, that word has a horrible connotation? That’s interesting, I didn’t know that...”

Maybe because “you just...don’t...wanna!”

Remember elementary school? Ah, the joys of elementary school. Yeah, some of you are rolling your eyes...but remember how they used to make you write those dastardly three-paragraph essays? You had to have your introduction, thesis statement, form your paragraphs out of the points made in ysour thesis statement, etc. Unless you’re one of those rare souls who revels in the prospect of stringing words together, writing assignments can be a stressful task, whether you’re a 4th-grader or you’re in your 4th year of college.

Especially if you're in your 4th year of college.

Maybe because there are too many rules to remember

Make sure you check out this hub by my friend vrbmft, who has some interesting insights and musings on the concept of perfection. See his other hubs as well!

Grammar. A word devilishly concocted deep in some abyss somewhere, only to strike fear into the heart of brave soul who dares wield a pen. Remember the red-marks you got all throughout school that showed you your grammar was less than perfect ?

               She'll straighten you out real good.  
        (Wait...sorry, I mean really good.) Photo credit

An essential classic (not just for writers, but for everybody):

Grammar can be pretty complicated, and it’s hard to remember all the rules. Even more, most of us have a few personal quirks in writing that fall outside the accepted standards. Like sentence fragments. Or, perhaps beginning sentences with prepositions. Some people have a real bad habit of substituting adverbs for their related adjectives. (I tend to use a lot of parentheses, by the way.) Let’s not forget comma splices, those are really easy to let slip by.

Now, rules are made to be broken, but you should really know your stuff before you try it at home. And that brings me to my next point...

I swear, out of all the
human females I’ve had the 
pleasure of looking at, I’ve 
never once seen a “gurl.” Is
it a “girl” who perpetually
“hurls?” Someone please 
enlighten me. 

Photo credit:

Maybe because it lends itself to judgment

In everything from those pesky writing assignments throughout your schooling, to emails and memos written for your boss or co-workers, to friendly banter online with friends (lol wut r u talkin abt? haha), the way you write seems to say something about your character...or at least, that’s what enough people believe.

If you make too many spelling and grammatical errors in an important letter or email, chances are you’ll be seen as less professional or less educated than average. If you chat in text-speak online with someone who normally uses proper grammar, the other person might wonder if you have the brain of a 12-year old. Sometimes you notice that others use actual English when communicating online, and so you adjust your diction and spelling little by little to match their linguistic sophistication.

Yes, you have done that.

Yeah, I did pretty well on my SAT analogies.
Yeah, I did pretty well on my SAT analogies.

Another classic from a true literary icon:

Maybe because it’s both a delicate art and an exact science

Words are to blank paper as watercolor brushstrokes are to an inviting white canvas. When you can artfully weave a place out of words and take your reader on a journey of the mind and soul, you change that person’s reality. You provide welcome refreshment and a simple escape from the anxieties and pressures of modern living. And to think, such a magical thing is as old as written language itself.

But in some situations, precision is what is called for, and a more scientific sensibility is required. If you need to craft a persuasive argument, give clear instructions, delineate the pros and cons of a thing—or of course, write a scientific research paper or lab report—you need methodical organization, a clear structure, a strong anticipation of the questions that might be fueled by your writing, and sound, logical points.

All these things can make someone’s head spin at the mere mention of the word “writing.”  Some are hungry for the challenge and some avoid it like the plague and run for the hills...

...but ultimately, I can only speak for myself.

I find writing hard because, for me, it’s real work. I’m somewhat of a perfectionist—yeah, I know, I shouldn’t be—but I feel like I must make sure my “voice” shines through, uncluttered and distinct. I’ve been told by a number of people that I express myself in writing clearly and smartly, that I’m somewhat of a “natural” at it. Yet, I always get a little nervous before a writing project, whether it’s a short story, a poem, a screenplay, a paper I’m writing for college, a letter to a stranger, an email to a friend, a hub.

Why the heck is writing so hard? It asks too much of me. It demands that I arrange letters into words that are precise, words into sentences that make sense, sentences into paragraphs that are internally consistent, and paragraphs into a piece that speaks for itself. It wants me to make sure my grammar is on point, and that my style is original and has broad appeal.

It questions my beliefs and forces me to acknowledge viewpoints that I don’t agree with. It makes me reach into the depths of my mind, a place I don’t always want to go, and pull out personal observations, private frustrations, and dearly-held dreams to share them with people I don’t know. Writing makes me broadcast those things to the world for others to judge, to approve or reject.

Why is writing so damn hard? It makes me doubt myself. It chastises me when I misspell and misuse common words, take forty minutes to write six sentences, and end up confusing a reader when my intent was to clarify something. It makes me wonder whether it’s really OK to break the rules that I intentionally break. I’m afraid that my naivete will show.

It shows me that a lot of people, many of whom will never even call themselves writers, are so much better at it than me. It reminds me constantly that “only 2% of writers are traditionally-published,” and is never kind enough to tell me whether that old saying is accurate or not. It shows me that the vast majority of writers can’t earn a living on writing alone—and I don’t have to wonder whether that’s true.

It’s so frustrating that I sometimes leave it alone. But if I stay away from it long enough, I lose my right to the title of “Writer”...and what am I then?

Writing makes me wonder whether I have anything worthwhile to say, whether I even have a passion for it, whether I should stop now while I’m still young and pursue a more practical, less dreamy line of work. Whether I should bother writing at all.

But why is it so hard?

Maybe because it’s necessary.


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    • Eileen Hughes profile image

      Eileen Hughes 

      9 years ago from Northam Western Australia

      Great hub, I know where you are coming from for sure. I used to love writing fiction,BUT, criticised all the time for wrong sentence structure. And then gave up but then started writing at a few writing sites.

      Sure I still do not write correct english, use too many words. I no longer worry about it I just write what I think and feel about something. We can only do our best and if that is not good enough then people do not have to read it. I know that I have tried and that is the best I can do.

      So yes, as long as you love writing then just write to the best of your ability. And have fun in the process. Thankds for sharing that

    • BennyTheWriter profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Northeastern U.S.A.

      Thanks dallas93444. Writing can be a difficult and poignant, yet sublime experience, as many of us have discovered!

    • dallas93444 profile image

      Dallas W Thompson 

      9 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

      Maybe it is all of the above.. Great hug. Thanks for sharing.

    • BennyTheWriter profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Northeastern U.S.A.

      Thanks for the comment heymcs. Hang in there! There are many ups and downs in the writing life, but I'm convinced there's nothing else like it. All you need is the passion, the compassion, and the heart--keep at it and trust that the words will follow!

    • heymcs profile image


      9 years ago from Utah and DC

      Writing is hard for me too - I want to say everything eloquently and succinctly but it's always a bit of a struggle. I'll use 100 words when 10 would do. Now that I'm blogging, etc. I also find my word box is often just empty. That's why I appreciate and so admire all the wonderful writers and styles of writing 'out there' - yours included. Nice hub.

    • BennyTheWriter profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Northeastern U.S.A.

      Thanks for the read Wife Who Saves! It's great that you were able to overcome that fear and found helping others to be your inspiration. Having a useful, helpful message to share really makes a difference.

    • profile image

      Wife Who Saves 

      10 years ago

      Writing does put you out there for other people to judge you, but if you are helping others along the way, who cares about the critics? This was my biggest stumbling block when I first started writing on Hubpages - worrying about what other people would think. Once I overcame that fear, writing became much more enjoyable.

    • BennyTheWriter profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Northeastern U.S.A.

      Thanks a lot Tankadin. That it is!

    • Tankadin profile image


      10 years ago

      I liked your hub. I agree writing is work, but it is also a good way to organize your ideas and express them.

    • BennyTheWriter profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Northeastern U.S.A.

      Ron: Thanks for your comment. Writing is definitely work! Nonetheless, I've personally found the "don't try" method to be useful for overcoming my fear of failure.

    • Ron Keely profile image

      Ron Keely 

      10 years ago from West Michigan


      I happen to be a leftover from the C. Bukowski school of "Don't Try". Still I find myself searching for better words. Writing is work. Thanks for your insight.

    • BennyTheWriter profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Northeastern U.S.A.

      SilentReed: Thanks for stopping by. I can certainly relate to you on that point!

    • SilentReed profile image


      10 years ago from Philippines

      Writing for some is easy, but for me it's hard work. I have a thought dancing inside my mind, it's spinning around in circles and I'm trying to caught it..... only to set it free out into the world :-)

    • Wayne Brown profile image

      Wayne Brown 

      10 years ago from Texas

      Being a writer is a lot like going to Nashville to be a country-western singer. You would love to do it for a million dollars but the fact of the matter is that you will do it for nothing because somewhere in that struggle you describe comes a release, an exhilaration, a sense of accomplishment, a development of a 'can do' attitude, and possibly, even some acclaim from ones peers. Even if there is no money there, there is a sense of ownership, of creation, of uniqueness that you possess through the writing. Those things make it worthwhile and cause it to be a labor of love rather than a lodestone around your neck. Rules and guidelines are good things and they do have their place but not when they drain the personality and character right out of a piece of writing. It's one thing to say that something meets all the rules yet it is boring as hell and everything about it is so 'mechanically' obvious that it can only be compared to bad acting. Good writers are like good stories, what they create overrides much of what they left out. What's the difference between a good story and a bad one....a talented writer! Thanks for sharing. WB

    • BennyTheWriter profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Northeastern U.S.A.

      Ms Dee: It's interesting how, once you write and publish something, it's out there forever. You can't go back and revise it or polish it up, even though sometimes you wish it were possible! I don't know my personality type exactly--I guess it's time to test myself again!

      Senor Kilo: I agree, part of the adventure in writing sometimes can be that sense of discovery when you don't know a story's end. I'm not very skilled at writing stories without a predetermined structure, at least not yet (even for hubs I have to have a very simple outline to work from), but I'm getting there hopefully, slowly but surely!

    • Ms Dee profile image

      Deidre Shelden 

      10 years ago from Texas, USA

      I think for me it is your first thought...writing my thoughts makes them so permanent, like recorded history. I can relate to a lot of your thoughts here. Ha! Makes me wonder what personality type you are! :-)

    • Senor Kilo profile image

      Senor Kilo 

      10 years ago from The Land Of Awesome

      As long as I am writing fiction, I never feel like writing is hard. When I write non-fiction I really struggle sometimes, mainly because I already know where the story goes!

    • BennyTheWriter profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Northeastern U.S.A.

      crazybeanrider: Thanks for commenting. In some ways, I'm like that too. For me, I'm usually always thinking about writing and music unless other things distract me, which happens a lot. In fact, that might be another reason why the heck writing is so hard. :)

      Mentalist acer: Yes, that is one of the hard parts, and one of the things I agonize over. I guess what's working for me now is just pushing myself to write as much as possible, knowing that my voice will develop naturally over time (as long as I pay attention to it here and there, of course). I suppose it's one of those things we can't force.

      Daniel: Thanks for your exceptionally kind words, my friend. (They're doubly appreciated, because I happen to be an aspiring jazz musician as well.) You're an extremely talented writer yourself, and I recognized elements of my own musings and thought processes in your pieces here on HubPages. The encouragement is invaluable and it's what all of us "writers" need to hear from time to time--so thanks again!

    • Daniel J. Neumann profile image

      Daniel J. Neumann 

      10 years ago from Harrisburg, Pa

      You crafted an excellent piece here. I'd recommend this to college professors.

      You must keep writing. Your blues can inspire jazz. Write more of this Jazz.

      The world deserves it. We need real people with real talent like you to be confused on paper so we can learn without having to go to college like you.

      I mean, I'm going to college—but reading this—I feel like we're writing brothers. I empathize with you and so I must say to you what I needed to hear:

      You are a beautiful writer. You can make money from this. It'll take work, but you will learn more along the way. This is who you are. Choose yes.

    • Mentalist acer profile image

      Mentalist acer 

      10 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

      The hardest part of writing is development of a unique technique on page and developing an idea without simple definition;)

    • crazybeanrider profile image

      Boo McCourt 

      10 years ago from Washington MI

      I sometimes think writing is hard, but other times not so much. I do know one thing. It is all I ever think about it. When I am doing nothing, I think about writing, when I am doing something else I am thinking of writing. I am thinking of writing or taking pictures all the time. I do wish it was easier, but it isn't. I just know the thought consumes me. Enjoyed your hub greatly! Like breakfastpop says: Writing rocks!

    • BennyTheWriter profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Northeastern U.S.A.

      Baileybear: Thanks for your comment! We're quite similar in that we need to satisfy our artistic and scientific curiosities in equal amounts. Also, I find that perfectionism is truly detrimental to things that require a free-flowing thought process, like writing and music. And I agree that the rules aren't what matter most--rather, it's the heart of the writer/artist/creative person. On HubPages I'm not such a stickler for grammar; that would truly drive me insane. HP is a place for one to enjoy oneself :)

      Jai Warren: Thanks for sharing your experience! I've had similar things happen to me; sometimes the anxiety mysteriously disappears once the ideas start flowing and a structure miraculously comes together. It's not usually that way for me, but it's a nice surprise on occasion.

    • Jai Warren profile image

      Jai Warren 

      10 years ago from Dallas, Deep Ellum, Texas

      Even though I love writing, there's always a certain anxious feeling in the pit of my stomach before I write a piece. But, once you start those anxieties change to excitement, and I'm in the zone. Forget the rules...write like you talk, you'll be more authentic. Good Hub Benny, Ciao!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Art and science both appeal to me - I need them both in nearly equal proportions, so writing, playing music etc appeal. There is a conflict in me in creating (art) and analysing (science) and if I let perfectionism rule, then things become work and I don't enjoy it. I doubt I will have a book published, as all the order and checking etc will drive me nuts and sucks out all the joy. With hubs, I check for spelling errors etc, but not over and over - things will "come out in the wash" and I might change my mind have the option of making adjustments. Not having that option with printed work scares me a bit. There are probably lots of grammatical errors in what I just said, but I'm going to let it go (too much perfectionism makes one miserable). Writing is a hobby for me, not my job and with HP I like that I can write about what I want. It would be hard if it were my "job". I taught music for some years, and it did suck a lot of the joy out of it for me. I tend to notice spelling errors etc in other people's writing, but I've been learning to let it go - I'm not the grammar/spelling police. And some rules are just meant to be broken. I feel like I am connecting with my audience (judging by supportive comments left) and I have not been beating myself up about whether I have broken this grammar rule or that. Let it go and it will flow.

    • BennyTheWriter profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Northeastern U.S.A.

      Thanks breakfastpop. For as long as I've been writing, I haven't reached that "free flowing" stage yet--writing's still a rather difficult thing for me--but I hope to eventually.

    • breakfastpop profile image


      10 years ago

      The answer to this joy of joys is that you have to write every single day whether you want to or not. Eventually, the words and ideas flow freely. Writing rocks!


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