Monday, October 15, 2012

Writing is Hard

I use the idea of pushing through pain a lot when I’m teaching.  Maybe it’s because so many of my students claim to experience physical pain while taking my class.  Their brain hurts when they read Julius Caesar.  Their hands hurt when they’re writing their essays.  They claim the research papers deaden their souls, which sounds pretty painful to me. But my response is always the same.  Difficult things hurt but are the most rewarding when accomplished.

I’ve run six marathons. They hurt every single time. The first time I ran twenty miles was the most painful experience I’d ever had – even more so than my knee surgery. I remember the last couple of miles feeling like there were needles embedded in my quads. I’m really not exaggerating. It was the lactic acid building up, but I didn’t care what the hell was actually causing it. I just wanted it to stop.

But I didn’t stop. So when I stepped up to the starting line of that first marathon, I was ready. Of course, I was only beginning to learn about pain. 26.2 miles is somehow infinitely more painful than 20.  It wasn’t pretty.  It hurt.  I made rookie mistakes that made it hurt worse.  At around mile twenty-three or so, I totally understood why people curled up in the snow and died. I was that tired.  I wanted to collapse on the side of the rode and sleep. But I didn’t.

I cursed myself and the distance and even the sunshine the last few miles. I vowed to never, ever run a marathon again. I made deals with God.  And I cried.  I cried even harder when I crossed the finish line.  I couldn’t walk very well and my husband was there to make sure I didn’t fall over (it was actually highly probable at that point) but once I’d wiped the tears away, before I’d even made it very far from the finish line, I was ready to sign up for another one. Because the exhilaration and pride that comes with finishing a marathon is like nothing else.  So I’ve done several more, and they’ve hurt less, but not much. And it’s worth it every single time.

Writing is painful. Maybe that’s just me. Maybe you sit down and your Muse is a unicorn who whinnies softly in your ear while the words flow like a swift stream. Not me.  If I have a Muse, she’s more the type to beat the hell out of me and leave me in some back alley, bleeding and cursing the day I was born. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I love writing more than anything.  I love taking words and creating something where there once was nothing.  I love revising too.  I love cutting and pruning until the story is what I'd envisioned.  But along the way there is doubt.  There is fear that I can’t do this story justice.  There is certainty that I’m not good enough to do this.  Sometimes it hurts like hell and I wonder why I ever thought I could do it.

So writing is like running a marathon. It hurts. Sometimes you want to quit. But if you’re lucky, there are people there to keep you from falling. And when you cross that finish line, it’s worth every painful moment. And I’m not talking about the finish line of being published. My book won’t be on shelves for another year. I’m talking about that sense of accomplishment when your own words make your heart race, when someone else loves those words and lets you know just how much, when someone else completely gets your characters.

Writing is hard. Writing is painful. But it’s so worth it.

After the finish of the 2011 RocknRoll New Orleans Marathon.
I look as rough as I felt.


  1. Great post, Sarah!

    I agree with you that getting art out of our heads is like extracting a tooth or something.

    Maybe it's lodged so deeply in your brains that removing it by force makes it ache all the more. :)

    Following now, BTW. Look forward to reading. :)

  2. Thanks! Sometimes it's the challenge that I love so much, but I do have to remind myself this when it gets rough.