Why Writing Hurts, But NOT Writing Hurts More

by E.V. Jacob on May 8, 2014

You see it sometimes—a little kid who wants to do something the big kids do.  They have an older brother or sister who rides their bike fast and far, over ramps and down hills.

The little one wants to do it, too.  But they have training wheels and their parents won’t let them, and if they manage to try, they either hurt themselves or they flat-out can’t.

You feel for the little kid; it’s incredibly exasperating to watch someone else do something that looks so fun, to imagine yourself doing it, too…but to have zero to capacity to actually accomplish the feat yourself.

This is usually where tantrums come in.  Tantrums born of pure, undiluted frustration.  With yourself, with your abilities, with the world around you.

I am that little kid.  You probably are, too, sometimes.

For me, it comes from my writing.  I know what I want my book to be.  I know how I want it to feel, how the characters should be expressed, how the story should flow.  I can feel the rise and fall, the emotion, the excitement…

…But when I sit down to write it…I can’t do it.  I can kind of do it.  I can occasionally get some words on the page that almost touch on what I’m trying to achieve, but it’s nowhere near what I want it to be.

More often than not, I’m the little kid with training wheels who can’t even work up the speed to pedal to the top of the ramp, let alone jump it with any pizazz.

And that makes me frustrated.  It makes me throw the adult version of a tantrum.  Sometimes, I get so angry—at myself, at my book, at how clearly I can see the gap between my goals and my actual abilities—that I can’t even look at my manuscript.  I can’t stand to read it because it hurts.

But you know what hurts more?

Not writing.

Sometimes, I don’t write for days on end.  I hold off until the pain of not writing becomes greater than the pain of facing my manuscript, and then I give in and I write and I work and I try my damnedest to make it resemble the story it’s supposed to be.

I can feel the story inside me, but I can’t make the words go right.

But what am I to do—give up?  That’s never been an option.  I may take forever to finish, but god dammit, I’m going to finish this.

The little kid will eventually grow bigger.  She’ll get some scrapes and bruises—maybe worse—over time, but eventually, she’ll be able to make the jump, too.

And with enough effort, so will I.

At least, that’s what I tell myself.


The title of this is wrong.  Writing doesn’t actually hurt–thinking about writing and not doing it hurts.  Once I’m writing, all wounds are healed, all ills are repaired, all faults forgiven, and I am finally home.

  • Jason Cantrell

    This. So much this.

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