There are days when writing is very much a case of just typing one word after another. Those are the days when you have to drag the words out of their hole and make them stay. There are better days too and I like how Neil Gaiman expresses it:
The process of writing can be magical — there times when you step out of an upper-floor window and you just walk across thin air, and it’s absolute and utter happiness. Mostly, it’s a process of putting one word after another.
On a related note, there is also the challenge of finding your voice when you write. My writing feels much easier when I use my voice (whatever that is – I tend to still stumble into it). Gaiman has great advice here too:
Tell your story. Don’t try and tell the stories that other people can tell. Because [as a] starting writer, you always start out with other people’s voices — you’ve been reading other people for years… But, as quickly as you can, start telling the stories that only you can tell — because there will always be better writers than you, there will always be smarter writers than you … but you are the only you.
And, yes, I am still on a writing-about-writing and Neil-Gaiman’s-advice-about writing kick …
She expresses how I have felt when I was not writing as much as I would have liked to or when I wasn’t writing the stuff that I needed to write.
I went through a phase last year when the work I was doing was pretty repetitive and not in the least bit challenging. It felt a lot like this:
I’m a writer who doesn’t have the time to write anymore.It makes me miserable, and frustrated and a bit lost. My North Star has winked out.
One of my conclusions about that time turned out to be one of the reasons I started writing much more for myself here and is nicely expressed by Stacey’s advice to herself:
You’re miserable because you’re not writing anymore, Stacey. Write more, dammit.
When I feel adrift, I usually turn to writing because it unblocks the dam of emotion that has built up. It’s a lot like unblocking a drain that you’ve neglected for too long.
At first it is a struggle just to dig out enough muck to reach the blockage itself. Then, when you dig some more, you see all the gunk ooze through and it isn’t pretty. Soon enough, though, that all gives way to a wonderful flow that you don’t want to stop so you keep writing to keep the pipes clear and fresh water flowing.
A side note about “content marketing”
Writing isn’t just mechanically putting some text on a page, at least not for me. It is very much a creative process. I sometimes encounter an attitude about content marketing that disturbs me. It is this idea that you can just pick a topic, throw some words on a page and give it a list-based title and call that “content”.
Well, sure, you can do that and many “content marketers” do that all the time but the result is hollow and formulaic text that may as well be created by a machine (and, one day soon, will be).
As important as it is to write with a voice appropriate to what you are trying to achieve, I don’t think you can write well if you don’t infuse that writing with a little of your voice, your perspective on the world and your passion for writing.
This is how I see the difference between boilerplate marketing “content” and writing that adds something meaningful to whatever I am reading or for and, perhaps, a response to this question: