Reader Friday: Should Writing Be Easy?

“For God’s sake, don’t write unless you have to….It’s not easy. It shouldn’t be easy, but it shouldn’t be impossible, and it’s damn near impossible.” – Frank Conroy 


27 thoughts on “Reader Friday: Should Writing Be Easy?

  1. Writing is easy (and fun!) for those who are able to trust their creative subconscious and not allow the conscious, critical mind to second-guess them and shut them down. My mantra has seen me through over 65 novels and over 200 short stories: Just Write the Next Sentence.

  2. My opinion: Writing should be easy. If you want to write. If you enjoy writing. If you have something to say. If you can just open your writer’s brain and let it pour out, without worrying about a hundred other things.

    Now editing, publishing, and especially marketing, that is not easy. Should it be easy? I don’t know.

  3. Agree with Harvey–writing is fun and easy. The more I do, the easier it gets…at least so far!

    But Steve nailed it–the real slog is editing, publishing, marketing.

  4. Hate to be the outlier here, but structuring, planning, creating, and writing the first draft is work. Rewriting is work, adding emotional resonance is work, editing is work, tightening the prose is work. We may find immense joy in our work, but if it was easy every book would shoot to the top of the NYT bestseller list.

    • Remember, the NYT has submitted testimony in court that their putative “best seller list” is editorial commentary, not a list of the US-published books that have sold more than any others in a given time-frame.

  5. I think I’m with Sue on this question.

    Anything worth doing is worth doing well, and to get there I have to work at it.

    The thing is, work isn’t bad. It isn’t evil. It’s what gives joy and meaning to life. What would we do all day if we didn’t have work to do? The key is to settle on work that gives joy and meaning, and then work at it with all the creative gusto the good Lord gives us.

    Some days, the writing part is easy. Some days not so much. But, it is getting easier the longer I persevere. Marketing? That may never be easy, but it’s part of the package deal, so I’d best get on with the learning of it.

    My two cents for this philosophical Friday . . .

    • In the 70s, I attended a gathering at a rather woo-woo “Alternative University.” Our speaker told us she had been to heaven and back and still went there every night. “I have a wonderful home there; it’s right near the Factory!” she said. There was a collective gasp; “Factory” was a dirty word to these people. She was unable to express what was made at the Factory, but she was enthusiastic about it. She obviously wasn’t trying to impress the audience, so I’d tag her as honest. Perhaps delusional, but honest. She thought a heavenly factory was a good thing.

  6. I thought it was going to be easy. I was wrong. (I’d say VERY wrong but we don’t use that kind of adjective ?)

    In your lecture on Great Courses, you mentioned a saying about this being “an apprenticeship of years.” That sums it for me. It’s like learning and practicing the way a welder, lawyer, or chef would. The difference is that you’re on your own most of the way.

  7. Yes and No. Sometimes the words flow and the characters present themselves fully formed on the page.

    But more often for me, writing is hard work. (Fortunately, I love hard work.) Deciding on the premise and drafting the arc of the plot among an infinity of possibilities is like playing three-dimensional chess. After months developing the first draft, I begin more months of reworking the structure and revising the prose, trying to find that perfect path between not enough and too much.

    But rather than question whether writing is easy or hard.,I’d want to know if it’s satisfying. That it is.

  8. My late father said there were two kinds of jobs. One, the money was so good you tolerated the miserable conditions. The other, you loved it so much you didn’t care about the money. There are times writing falls into either of these.
    And I totally agree that if you look at “writing” as the whole package which includes the marketing side, the ‘fun’ can disappear in a hurry.

  9. This is the question, isn’t it? When I’m in the flow, it’s easy. But like Sue said, the planning, outlining, creation, drafting is work, as is the editing, etc. The other question to ask is–are you having fun? It won’t be fun all the time, but for me, it better be fun at least part of the time 🙂

  10. What’s the old saw? If you love your job you never work a day in your life. I think if it were *easy* the process would bore me. But the fact that I have to concentrate and the results are occasionally frustrating doesn’t make it *hard* by my definition.

  11. Obviously it’s not impossible, as millions of published books prove. But I don’t consider writing easy. That would be awesome though!

    I imagine that the more at ease and comfortable you are with just shutting up and letting your creativity flow (i.e. no perfectionism) then perhaps it’s quite a bit easier. But even then, when it comes time to edit, market etc, even the most laid back soul is bound to find some difficulties.

    It’s not easy if for no other reason than finding time to write. Then there is arguing with yourself over the best way to write a scene, have you done enough research, will this work or should it be that, etc. etc. etc.

    What makes writing easy-er is that unlike the day job, which we don’t often have a lot of choice in but just have to do it to keep a roof over our head & food on the table, with writing, you can at least choose the genre/subject matter and that is a HUGE plus.

    Easy or not, writing is a lure I just can’t get away from.

  12. When all is said and dumb,* a primary consideration is, “Am I wasting time?” Possibly, I am, but at least I’m not watching television, which provides minimal intelligent story fodder. TV may be inspirational, as in, “I could not write worse felgercarb than this if I tried; hand me a pen!” I watch streaming videos, e.g., Queen’s Gambit, etc.

    Is writing work? Yes and no. It is majorly its own reward. Money is a factor, but it so rarely flows as a result of writing, I don’t think most of us are motivated by money in the long run. Self-expression is a driving force by itself, though that need may fade in time, once you’ve been heard. Having thoughts that need to be said, now that can last as long as your imagination. I love puzzles (two patented, so far!). Novels, especially mysteries and their ilk, are puzzles for both me and the reader, so that’s a potential factor in my writing–Whodunit? Will Tenirax ever meet Donna Paloma again? How will Tenirax get out of this debacle? How long before he’s in trouble again? What kind of trouble will it be? Can he get any stupider? Is this book autobiographical?

    Writing is easy, but I find myself begrudging the time to think. Pondering under a tree at the botanic gardens is necessary. No, it’s not hard to do, just hard to get to. I love editing. I like uploading the final product to Dammazon and getting copies.

    But what I love most of all, is having written.

    * See yesterday’s thread on clichés.

  13. Writing is work. Long hours at the computer. Longer hours watching the movie play out in your head and try to get it down. Marketing. But like others have said, if you love doing it it doesn’t matter whether it’s easy or not–you’re driven to do it.

  14. Heh, storytelling is easy. Writing is hard. Writing = wordsmithing, pacing, structure, editing, revisions, publishing, marketing, etc. etc. If only it was just the super fun storytelling part. :-p

  15. I should clarify. Of course, I would never advocate not learning. By all means, read and study and take classes and learn the craft of writing. I certainly have. And use the conscious, critical mind to do that. The conscious mind exists specifically to enable us to learn and to protect us.

    But after we learn it’s up to the writer to either trust (or not) that what s/he’s learned has seeped into the creative subconscious. And whether to trust that is a choice.

    So for me, the “work” is in reading and listening and watching and thereby learning the craft. The writing itself, because I choose to trust, is strictly easy, fun, and even freeing.

    For anyone who’s interested, I’ll write more on this today over at

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