Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Empathizing with Writer Problems

Whenever I hit a wall in my writing or the inevitable wave of self-doubt washes over me, I have to remember that I'm not alone. Writers have been suffering for their art for centuries, staring at blank pages in despair and/or staring at written pages with loathing.

Friends and acquaintances who aren't writers, though wonderfully supportive and well-meaning, don't always understand the struggle. "If you have the story, just write it down," they offer. Whenever someone says that, I think of this joke from Louis CK --

Oh, if only the writer's journey was as logical and simple as 'Have an idea, write it down.' Creating story can be a frustratingly inconsistent process. For me, there are days when ideas spill forth and the words flow like wine, but plenty of others when every single character typed on a keyboard makes me want to stab myself in the eye.

So it's always comforting to hear other writers talk about their ups and downs. It teaches me to have empathy for myself and move past my blocks.

One of my favorite stories that gives me faith is Kathryn Stockett's story of getting rejected by 60 agents before finding one who helped her sell The Help. One of those rejecting agents told her, "There is no market for this kind of tiring writing." Boy, did she prove that person wrong.

I recently found this article that interviewed screenwriters who adapted works into this year's Oscar hopefuls - "Rethinking Those Words for Screen." Writing an original screenplay is difficult enough - these writers had to figure out how to create a compelling film script while staying true to source material. Reading about them pulling out their hair and wanting to quit was refreshing and relieving for me.

So whether you're a writer or not, you should read this article and tap into that empathy. Writing is hard. Yes, we do it by choice and ultimately we love it, but it is hard.

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