Why We Struggle with Writing: A Natural Law at Work??

Most writers agree: writing is challenging. What one imagines will be easy, simple, fluid, is not. That’s because more than communication goes into writing. It’s not just putting down thoughts and dialogue. It’s crafting, selecting, choosing, being intentional in how one orders and structures a story to give it a desired effect.

Writing requires work. Effort. Putting time in. Not just at the keyboard, but in thought. First drafts may fly on to the page, but after that it’s all rewriting, digging deeper, finding the hidden essence of the stories and characters. Wrestling with fear, doubt, choices, selections and your own writer’s instincts. (Characters won’t tell you everything the first or even the fifth time around. You have to get to know them, spend time with them, listen and listen some more.) Writing is a multidimensional process.

Because most of us who do it for a living (or aspire to) understand that writing is indeed a challenge, I found the following quote particularly intriguing. It’s from an interview with thisiscolossal.com’s founder, Christopher Jobson, on Lifehacker.com. The quote is attributed to Ira Glass of radio show ‘This American Life’:

“It’s like a law of nature… anything that’s written or anything that’s created wants to be mediocre. The natural state of all writing is mediocrity. It’s all tending toward mediocrity in the same way that all atoms are sort of dissipating out toward the expanse of the universe. Everything wants to be mediocre, so what it takes to make anything more than mediocre is such a f***ing act of will.…You just have to exert so much will into something for it to be good. That feels exactly the same now as it did the first week of the show. That hasn’t changed at all. That’s the premise of what it takes to make something.”

I don’t have the original material to pull the quote from, but the concept that writing naturally tends toward mediocrity and requires will, effort and exertion to become something incredible, fluid and beautiful – that caught my attention.

If this concept were true, could it account for some of the challenge and struggle associated with writing?

And, if this were true, how would it change how we approach our work?

Would we fight the process less and give more of ourselves to it?

Change our expectations?

What do you think? Comment. Let’s explore.


About Britta Reque-Dragicevic

Inspiring, nurturing, and giving voice to the human spirit.

Posted on Sunday, in Internal, Obstacles, Process. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Your post is thought provoking and timely for me. I’ve come to separate writing into two parts: the creation, the editing. I’ve always loved the creation part – who doesn’t, right? As I’ve delved into editing, I’ve come to recognize the power of intentionality. Each sentence, written in haste, can be transformed into greatness through the process of editing. I used to dread editing. Now, I cherish the extended time with my characters.
    The best thing I did was keep a hard copy of my early manuscripts – what a joy to see how far the stories have come!

    • In my experience, it’s multiple edits and revisions that allow the true essence of the work to reveal itself. Some of the sacred stuff shows up in the first draft, and has to be protected, but I find that the story and the characters evolve as I work on it start-to-finish, over and over. How to know when it’s done? The story feels complete – nothing more to add, nothing more to take away. And the characters affirm it.

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