Peggy Bechko: The Problems With Writers

tiredby Peggy Bechko

While many people believe writers merrily create stories, kick back, have a good time and collect checks, writers know differently. Every profession has its draw-backs and the creative writer is no exception.

I’ve experienced bumps in the road more than once along the way and no doubt nearly every writer has. So let’s haul these little demons out of the shadows and have a look, cuz if your muse is swamped by these little guys (as opposed to being surrounded by helpful minions) you just aren’t going to get anywhere.

So, you’re saying you have no physical energy, no motivation to press on because you just want to go take a nap. Well, maybe you should. It could be that simple. If you haven’t gotten enough rest it might be time to grab a nap and come back refreshed.

If that’s not it you may be recovering from a summer cold or suffering allergies. That might need your doctor to help solve. On the other hand most of the country is vitamin D deficient. You might be among them. Or, it is summer after all, you might need to drink more water or get some coconut water and replenish those electrolytes. I’m no doctor, but I can tell you exhaustion is an issue you’ll need to tinker with, figure out the cause and take steps to resolve it or you’re going to stay stuck and miserable (and I don’t mean just blast yourself with caffeine.

Then there’s the problem of no ideas. I’ve had people ask me where I get ideas. I’ve written in my blog about where to find ideas. I’ve had people tell me they can’t find a new idea, that it’s so HARD.

What, are you living under a rock? I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat myself. Ideas are everywhere. They’re in your family, your community, in space, in history, in the news…. Come on people! I mean really, if you can’t come up with any idea perhaps (and I say this kindly) you don’t really want to write. Perhaps you’re a reader and you think you want to write because you enjoy that so much. That’s cool. Sort that one out for yourself.

That’s for the big picture. But if you’re talking about the smaller picture, the more like, “I have a big idea, but I’m not sure where to go with it” problem, then I’d say you need to start asking yourself questions. Like “what if the character did this or that or what if the story was set in a different location”. Or “why would this or that happen?” Is what I’m asking a character to do ‘in character’? Would he or she really do that? Ask yourself lots of questions, write down lots of answers – sift through it all after. It’ll get better – really.

Another stumbling block for writers is really bad writing. Yes, admit it, we all put out some really bad writing at one time or another. The real drawback here is not really the really bad writing, which you can cure over time, but not accepting you’re doing it and thus receive rejection after rejection and become more and more frustrated and depressed when someone (friend, editor, whoever) gives you negative feedback.

Look, you have to learn. There are very few natural-born storytellers. Even when you’ve learned you have to accept there are days when you’ll crank out really bad writing. Days when you’ll swear and chuck it. Pull your head out of the sand (or wherever else you put it) and grow a thick skin.

This is one profession where you’re going to catch criticism from every direction at one time or another so you’re going to have to learn to sift through what might actually be helpful from what is just hurtful.

Got it? Okay, that’s it for this little lecture. No doubt I’ll come up with more. Meantime write, read, do what makes you happy.

6 thoughts on “Peggy Bechko: The Problems With Writers

  1. It’s as simple as this: “You write for the same reason you eat: “IT KEEPS YOU ALIVE.” Live with it. Enjoy it. Even the darkness and the pain.” gs

  2. Peggy Bechko says:

    and that’s the long and the short of it Gerald – thanks for the comment!

  3. tyroneslothrop says:

    When I started writing it was in longhand (you remember pens and those hard erasers that erased by destroying paper, dontcha? You don’t?) and my first drafts were slow but roughly 95%. When I began typing with the same paper-destroying erasers they went faster and sank to about 80-85%. When I discovered Mike Nesmith’s mom’s product (look it up, young ‘un) they went down to 75% and when I bought a super-electric with correcting ribbon and auto-correct they plummeted to about 60%. It was very annoying, exchanging quality for convenience. Like the food we eat. But worse was yet too come: with the introduction of word processors of greater editorial/correctional facility than seemed possible, they’re doing good to crawl along at 40% or less. I’ve gotten used to writing garbage at first, comforted by the knowledge it can all be fixed in the succeeding drafts. Hopefully not too many of them. But there’s still that damned blank white page ….

  4. Peggy Bechko says:

    Write, rewrite, write, rewrite – yep, that’s how it goes. Thanks for the comment Tyrone – much success on your ‘succeeding drafts’ – and yes I remember the pencils – but I learned touch typing waaaaay back and went straight for the typewriter myself.

  5. Don’t just “WRITE”, but “WRITE DANGEROUSLY”! Write words that slice the page, thoughts that catch fire. Make enemies of the characters you like, spare not the ones you love. Leave none untouched. Your story awaits on the dark streets of night. gs

  6. Peggy Bechko says:

    Excellent! Great advice.

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