When You Hate What You Love

Art is hard. Creativity is painful. At times there are glimmering moments of clarity, sweet seconds of purity, fragile and powerful rushes of inspiration. You know the ones. If you didn’t have these moments, you might not bother with the whole jig at all.

These are my thoughts, at least. I’ll speak of writing today, because that’s the thing I do, but artists in any form may relate to the universal art of hating the thing you love.

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I think I hate writing. I didn’t realize this until this year, when I started paying attention to how consciously I avoided the act of sitting down in front of a screen or a notebook. How I would happily complete chores I’d put off for days if it gave me an excuse to just Not Write. How resentfully I punched in the words when I finally did make the effort. With this realization that I don’t enjoy writing comes a fear that perhaps I just shouldn’t do it. Every other writer I knew enjoyed writing, from what I could tell, and wrote faithfully in some kind of habitual way. Sure, they struggled with it at times, but often they spoke of writing like a refuge—somewhere to go to feel sane, or happy, or alive. I often feel like a traitor in my own hobby/dream career. After all, what kind of author hates writing?

If you are that kind of author, take heart—we are far from alone.

“Writing in English is the most ingenious torture ever devised for sins committed in previous lives.” —James Joyce

“Writing makes no noise, except groans, and it can be done everywhere, and it is done alone.” —Ursula K. LeGuin

“Writing [a novel] is a terrible experience, during which the hair often falls out and the teeth decay.” —Flannery O’Connor

“When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth.” —Kurt Vonnegut

Turns out, having a habit of writing and successfully publishing novels or stories does not mean you actually like writing. As you can see, even successful authors, who do this kind of thing for a living, often find writing to be a special sort of torture. I don’t know if this is helpful to you, but for me, seeing that other writers have hated writing and gone on to be successful in their career gives me a good deal of hope for myself. Because the fact is that while I may hate the act of writing, I love it too. Once I stop putting it off as much as possible and actually let myself enjoy that spark of creativity, that is.

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If you hate writing but still want to be a writer—-well, good luck to us both. And here are some tips that might help convince you that the dishes can wait—you’ve got writing to do:

-Make sure you care about what you’re writing. If you don’t care about it, it’s going to be boring. Who wants to write a boring story? And who would want to read it? Caring about your subject will come through your words and make it a more enjoyable experience for all.

-Remember that Thing—that character, that theme, that cool little detail—that made you want to write this story in the first place. Whenever you start to get bogged down in the thick of it, think back on that Thing and try to experience that thrill of excitement. It might spark a new plot twist or make you think of a scene that would be fun to skip to. Listen to those little side voices and see what becomes of them.

-Find the things you love about it. In writing, I love moments of inspiration that feel like they came from someone else’s brain. I love rereading a scene I wrote weeks ago and finding that I actually like it. I love the process of rewriting (as opposed to writing the first draft) because fixing words is so much easier than making them up. If there are parts of the process that you love, you’ll remember why you keep doing the parts you don’t.

-Relax. If it feels like every word you write is utter garbage, lean into it. Let yourself laugh at your awful word choice and the terrible structure of your sentences. Find the humor in it and remember that a bit of bad writing doesn’t define you as an author. Everything can be erased, burned, or maybe just rewritten. In the wise words of Virginia Woolf:

“Be silly, be sentimental, imitate Shelley… give the rein to every impulse; commit every fault of style, grammar, taste, and syntax; pour out; tumble over; loose anger, love, satire, in whatever words you can catch, coerce or create, in whatever metre, prose, poetry, or gibberish that comes to hand. Thus you will learn to write.”

This concept of letting yourself be silly, committing faults of writing, letting loose—that’s what this blog is all about. So whatever your creative frustration may be, have no fear. Let yourself stop worrying about the nonsense you might create, and you’ll be amazed at the brilliance that comes from it.

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If you hate what you do—it’s cool. You can love it and hate it at the same time; so so many of us do. Now get out there and do what you love (and hate).

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