It's Too Hard!

This post, by Kathleen Damp Wright, originally appeared as a guest post on the Routines For Writers site on 8/5/09.

That sentence has come out of my mouth too many times over the summer. Probably beginning before summer, if I’m honest. It’s time to deal with it. Guest blogging for Kitty provides an opportunity to explore what I’m actually saying, why I say it, and so what anyway?

The premise: writing is hard  

    • I don’t finish ______ (insert “scene,” “book,” “rewrite,”) because it’s hard.
    • Getting the scene to run free but not too free is hard.
    • Taking the critique is hard.
    • Dealing with the “no thanks” from an editor is hard.
    • Getting some buzz about my ms without a contract is hard.
    • Making myself sit down consistently when I’d rather ride my bike, learn to make vinegar, or play with my friends, is hard.  

          Hmmm…okay.

          What if it IS hard?

          Huh?

          And what if it simultaneously means being hard isn’t bad, evil, miserable, or impossible?

“Precise language,” if you please

          With a nod to The Sound of Music, I started “at the very beginning; a very good place to start.” I reviewed the definition of “hard,” all the while thinking of The Giver by Lois Lowry and the community rule to use “precise language.”

HARD: as listed on Dictionary.com :

    • difficult to do or accomplish; fatiguing; troublesome: a hard task.
    • difficult or troublesome with respect to an action, situation, person, etc.: hard to please; a hard time.
    • difficult to deal with, manage, control, overcome, or understand: a hard problem.
    • involving a great deal of effort, energy, or persistence: hard labor; hard study.  

          That definition sounds like writing, doesn’t it? Synopses may be difficult to deal with, characters are hard to manage. It’s fatiguing to spend hours at the computer. It takes a great deal of effort, energy, or persistence to stay in my chair (whether inside, outside, by a lake, etc.) or to decide which of the myriad of techniques to use to solve the problem with my work in progress (wip.)

          What if, however, I have replaced what the word means (denotation: simply what the word means) with my feelings associated with my experience of the word (connotation)? Relax, no English lesson follows. Keep reading.

“Pain is inevitable, misery is optional.”

          No matter how hard (there’s that word again) I try, I can’t make the denotation of “hard” say “impossible,” “evil,” “miserable.” It isn’t there. So, as I continue to ruminate, “hard” does not have to be “bad.” Or miserable. That part is the connotation I’ve been applying to it. Hard/difficult/troublesome is what it is. Reaction—emotional loads to the word—is my choice. My habit.

          In his book, The Feeling Good Handbook David Burns presents thought-provoking information and illustrations about why we keep doing what we’re doing. He states we keep habits because they work for us on some level, whether healthy or toxic. I think his ideas can be applied to calling writing “hard.” See if what’s written below resonates with you.

Read the rest of the post on Routines For Writers.

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