I’ve started this post four times, now. I’ve even finished it once, but five minutes later I deleted it.
What’s my biggest difficulty as a writer?
It might just be answering that question.
There are dozens of difficulties I face as a writer. If you’ve written more than three creative pieces in your life, you’ve probably encountered most of them to some degree. But which one is the biggest?
Not only are there countless possible answers to that question, there are even several ways to interpret the question. Is that, what’s my biggest difficulty right now, or over my entire career? Is it the one that pops up the most frequently so that I’ve developed a way to handle it (sort of)? Or is is the hurdle that comes along only once in a while, but when it does it’s like slamming into a brick wall?
It’s tempting to roll them all into one, and say that my biggest hurdle is buying into excuses to not write. Rob Diaz covered this rather eloquently a couple of weeks ago. And while I’m certainly guilty of this, for me, I am able to face these on a case-by-case basis and either deal with it or jump the hurdle.
So let’s cross that one out:
Seeing Things Through?
This actually encompasses a wide variety of smaller topics. Icy Sedgwick gave us her own spin on why this is such a problem for her—and I can’t disagree with any of her reasons. I often struggle coming up with a topic. And the nagging voice that tells me that what I’m writing isn’t worth reading—that is a frequent writing partner of mine. But I don’t think that I’d be honest with myself if I said this was my biggest issue?
That’s not quite it:
Seeing Things Through?
I am a writer. I know this in my head. But when I hit a bump in the road, if I look around I’ll see this little troll wringing it’s hands and laughing. Paul Anderson talked about this earlier this month. Everyone struggles with this one. Read that again: EVERYONE struggles with this one. I struggle with this one often. For some people it’s their biggest obstacle.
But not for me:
And there are so many more.
I could pick any of these, and at least half a dozen more, as my biggest difficulty. But I’d be lying to you. In this, my fifth iteration of this post, I think I may have stumbled across the crux of it. When you strip away all of the excuses, the double-talk and the legitimate reasons that get in the way of my writing, the biggest problem—for me—is accepting the premise of this question.
I don’t think there is a biggest obstacle. Or even two or three biggest. But I think for far too long I’ve allowed myself to buy into that idea. The thought that there is one big problem and if I can figure out how to get around it, then suddenly the words will flow, the editing will breeze along, and suddenly there will be an editor standing at my door, begging to publish my prose. That’s an awfully attractive premise. But how often in your life does something as complex as writing have one big problem to overcome? In my experience, it’s not very common.
So what’s the harm in buying into the premise? If I accept that there is a biggest difficulty and I make changes to get around it, then when the next biggest difficulty came crashing down, it would be crushing—like jumping a ten-foot brick wall in an obstacle course, only to be confronted with a nine-and-a-half foot brick wall.