The Hardest Thing About Writing

“Writing the first sentence. Writing the last sentence. Keeping a good flow going while writing.” ~4th Year Salem College Writing Student

Writing is a complex endeavor; to engage a reader we must first engage ourselves—our imagination, feelings, thinking, and ultimately our will. A beginning writer may find the task of writing more daunting than the seasoned writer, yet to hear the seasoned and prolific writer Joyce Carol Oates speak about it, writing is never easy: Each day is like an enormous rock that I’m trying to push up this hill. I get it up a fair distance, it rolls back a little bit, and I keep pushing it, hoping I’ll get it to the top of the hill and that it will go on its own momentum.

The Hardest Thing About Writing: A Survey

Lots of professional writers have lots to say about writing. However, we wanted to hear from writers starting out. What, for them, is the hardest thing about writing? And to find out we conducted a brief survey with a group of creative writing students at Salem College in North Carolina. We asked that they:

  1. Identify three things they find particularly challenging (not just the hardest) about writing;
  2. What they find easy about writing, and
  3. Why they write.

What Student Writers had to Say:

A third year student wrote that she often gets hung up on mechanics, whether or not she is “using the proper spelling, punctuation, or grammar.” Then there is finding the time to write. With an undergrad course load “between work and family, dishes and friends, there seems to be little time.” However, what she considers the hardest things is taking the image/story in my head and transmitting it to the written word . . .Something is always lost or misconstrued between my brain, the page and the reader’s eyes.” Still, she loves the way her “pen or pencil moves across paper. If (she) has the right pen and right paper.”

A 4th year student put the challenges this way: “Writing the first sentence. Writing the last sentence. Keeping a good flow going while writing.” But she is never short of an idea, that’s the easy part for her. Another student who prefers to write poetry identified her biggest challenges as, title, plot, and characters. For her, poetry is easy.

Why Do We Still Write?

All of these students write to express themselves. For one it is a way to express things she can’t ordinarily vocalize and for another it is a way to reveal the “funny moments in life”. And what would writing be without the surprises, as one student put it, I write to uncover. I want to know what is floating around inside of me. I want to know what I think about certain kinds of things. I want to get to know the people in my head that I didn’t even know existed and to uncover the world that they live in.”

Photography by Andrey Popov

Photography by Andrey Popov

About the Author: Neina Gordon

NeinaBiopicNeina Gordon, Contributor, is a graduate of the MFA Program at UNC Greensboro where she was the Fred Chappell Fellow and fiction editor for The Greensboro Review.  She teaches creative writing at Salem College in Winston-Salem and at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro. She has work forthcoming in Big Fiction.

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