Reader Friday: Horrible and Exhausting?

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist or understand.” – George Orwell

Agree or disagree?

17 thoughts on “Reader Friday: Horrible and Exhausting?

  1. I would agree it’s an exhausting struggle, especially if you try to do it well… but certainly not horrible.
    In Orwell’s case, if you think about his works, (Animal Farm, Nineteen Eighty-Four, etc.,) I’m guessing it’s the subject matter he found exhausting, not the writing, per se. He would have seen a lot of crap in his life, from Lenin, to Stalin, to Hitler, and probably felt very strongly about man’s inhumanity to man. The poor guy checked out soon after writing Nineteen Eighty-Four, and had no idea how much his thoughts presaged the modern day world we’re living in.

    • I don’t know anything about him but wonder if he would be considered what we now identify as an HSP (highly sensitive person)? That would definitely drain him based on the plausible explanation you describe.

  2. Writing a book is a really hard slog but not horrible. There’s a definite distinction. I abhor chores because I have to waste so much of my life doing them, and at times writing feels like a chore. The only difference is writing has its fun periods. I may wash dishes 3 billion times over my lifetime, but THEY never get fun.

  3. At times it can feel exhausting, I suppose (if you’ve been at the computer for too many hours), but I wouldn’t call it “horrible” or compare writing to a long, painful illness. This quote makes him sound like a drama queen.

  4. Truman Capote said that writing was–not his exact quotes–a horrible, horrid practice that he must endure.

    I tried to tell him that it was much better with Pepsi and cookies, but he never answered me.

  5. Writing media in Orwell’s day were pencil-and-paper or typewriter-and-paper. You deleted with eraser or white-out or xxxxx, messy and distracting. You accumulated mounds of wadded or torn paper that needed disposing and added to office clutter. An exhausting struggle just to get five pages out.
    I could never go back to either method. If I did, I’m sure I would feel exhausted and/or ill, too.
    Sometimes that happens with computer writing anyway.

    • I wrote my first three novels with a pen and yellow legal sheets, typed each badly with a IBM Selectric, rewrote from that copy, typed it out again, etc. Each book took about 9 months from start to finish. I used enough White Out with each book to spackle the Hoover Dam.

      Then I got a Mac IIc, and the magic of Heaven spilled its golden light on me, and I was a much more productive person.

      • For me, it was the Kaypro. How I loved that machine, the first portable, as big as a storm window salesman’s valise. But it had 64kb of RAM! I was the envy of my law office.

  6. In my limited experience, I have found writing a book to be exhausting, exhilarating, frustrating, thrilling, frightening, uplifting, fun, confidence-destroying, euphoric, disappointing, humbling, intimidating, peaceful, agitating, vulnerable, satisfying, terrifying, valuable, instructive, moving, obsessive, and delightful. (I think that about covers it.) But I never found it horrible.

    On the other hand, I never aspired to write a book like Animal Farm or 1984.

  7. Drama queen or mentally ill, definitely. Very few of us earn enough money to make it worth it if it’s all suffering. Stop writing and figure out a new avocation or career where you are modertately happy. Also, find a good therapist.

    The writing is mainly fun with some hard work thrown in to get it right. The business of writing, however, is the not very fun part.

  8. Horrible, exhausting, not so much.
    The Rolling Stones’ song
    One Hit to the Body
    Is the best description
    To describe how I
    Feel about writing

    Oh your love is a sweet addiction 
    I can’t clean you out of my veins 
    It’s a life long addiction 
    That has damaged my brain
    Jager and Richardson

  9. I realize this is a very late comment, and it’s likely no one will see it, but I wanted to add it to the conversation.
    This morning in Torah study, the Rabbi talked about prophets. He said, “There’s no job application to be a prophet. They are chosen, and they don’t get to turn down the job.” He went on to refer to the awful (should we say “horrible, exhausting”) lives the prophets lived.

    In his book “The Prophets”, Avraham Heschel wrote, “The mission he performs is distasteful to him and repugnant to others; no reward is promised him and no reward could temper its bitterness. The prophet bears scorn and reproach (Jer 15:15). He is stigmatized as a madman by his contemporaries, and, by some modern scholars, as abnormal.”

    I wondered if Orwell saw himself in this role as he penned his great dystopian novel “1984.” It might partially explain his quote at the beginning of this post.

    It’s hard enough to write a good story. I can’t imagine trying to look into the future to write about the failures of mankind.

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