Writing: If it Doesn’t Hurt …

In the past year, I have met many other authors and love it.  Only an author truly knows and empathizes with another author.  In this way I can only compare it to how people suffering migraines can relate to others with migraines, but those who have never had a migraine don’t have so much as a clue.

Many of my closest friends and acquaintances are non-writers.  In fact, everybody in my family are artists, not writers, so I work through it alone.  One question I am often asked when people discover I have written books is, “Is it hard?” To answer that question isn’t easy, and I have to ask them to be more specific: the actual writing, the publishing, the thought process …

One nurse I work with asked, “how do you come up with a story?” My answer: I don’t, my characters do.

This is where writers will relate, but for those non-writers here is some insight.

voicesI hear and see everything around me.  Somethings try to materialize into stories but never do.  Other times there is constant noise in my head, like being in a crowded train station.  The noises don’t make much sense, sometimes I get to eaves drop on conversations of the noises, but they are benign and again go nowhere.  But occasionally, two voices will come to the forefront and if I listen effectively I can hear their story.

The story isn’t always the beginning or the middle, sometimes it is the end and I’m left to ask them some pertinent questions.  When they respond with answers that make me smile and get all giddy, that’s when I know I have a story.

Once I have a story a new problem emerges: getting the characters to shut up.  These voices can talk all day and well into the long hours of the night.  They talk when I walk into the bathroom at 3 a.m. They talk while I’m driving. Worse of all, they talk when I’m trying to communicate with the living.  I’m sure I’ve had a blank stare a time or two while engaged in actual real people conversation.  The voices are loud and clear.  They have personalities, dialects, catch phrases and stories, and if I don’t write them down they unleash a relentless attack and sneak into my sleep.

It isn’t always easy to write these characters.  They have attitudes sometimes and want to go in a direction different than the one I had planned out on paper.  There in lies the problem: an author can not plan a character, because the character has their own agenda.  A good author will follow the character’s agenda and sometimes doing that hurts my ego.

So much goes into writing.  It is a thought that stays with me from conception to end, and sometimes even after the book is printed, I feel like it could have been better.  There comes a point during the process when I feel like this is going nowhere and want to give-up.  There are times the characters stop talking– usually when I try and move the story along in my own direction.  But when I stop and listen and agree to their demands, the story picks up again.

My favorite part is when I finally hit that climatic point.  It’s like fireworks in the sky.  Then the downhill part comes and it feels very surreal and bitter sweet.  Some writers have lived with these characters for years, some for months, but we have  lived with them.  They are our bestfriends, and sometimes the meanest most vile characters are the ones we love the most.  When a story starts wrapping up, this means it is time to say goodbye to people who have been with us in the foxhole.

These characters have been with us through thick and thin, sickness and health, the good times and the bad.  They have cried with us and we have cried with them.  We have felt their pain, shared in their darkest secrets, and celebrated their victories.  When a story ends, so does our relationship and we must say goodbye.  Those are the quiet days, the lonely days.

The question remains: Is writing hard?

The answer: It is the hardest, most challenging, grueling, and best job I have ever had.  I love it so much that when I’m not doing it, I’m lost in limbo.  One thing I know for certain, that when I’m writing, if it doesn’t hurt and tug at my soul, then I’m doing something wrong.

Tania L Ramos

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Tania L Ramos author of  When I thought I Was Tough, Be Stilland Surviving the Writing Apocalypse.  Also runs the website Writing Apocalypse which displays quality indie books.  She speaks to other authors about the top content errors new authors make.

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9 responses to “Writing: If it Doesn’t Hurt …

  1. For some reason, this caught my attention. Still trying to suss it out. But I love your post dearly. 🙂

    • Thank you. I wrote this after a two week writer’s block and it really felt like a part of me was missing. Once I was able to start again last night, I wrote for five hours straight and woke up with a writer hangover: burning eyes and headache. I love being back in the game

    • LOL. Maybe it caught your attention because the title is “Writing: If it Doesn’t Hurt,” and your site heading states, “Writing is hard, but it doesn’t have to hurt.” A thought 😉

      • 😉 One never knows when our thoughts will coalescence with all of the input and associations over the years. This subject is near and dear to my heart. There is a quote falsely attributed to Hemingway about how to write:”You just sit in front of a typewriter and bleed.” I can’t remember who actually said that although I’m sure you will see plenty of references to Papa. But iI love/live through every sentence of this post.

      • I don’t believe we bleed, but I do feel like we give our energy into the life of our characters and that does take from of us. Writing into the emotion, having to feel it in order to write it, well its plain exhausting. I often times wonder how giving so much of my soul can actually make it feel whole. I love being a writer.

      • Absolutely. I don’t agree we bleed either but there is a post on my site (Why We Must Believe) that pretty much sums up my obsession with writing. To use an apt cliche, we’re on the same page 😉

  2. (“How do you come up with a story?” My answer: I don’t, my characters do.)
    Exactly! Great post! I wish a lot of readers would realize that we don’t always have control over our characters. We can try to put a leash on them or change the dialogue, but, in our minds, they are real people who do and say what they please. A lot of times when we do try to censor them, they shut down and stop talking. I try to keep in mind that everything they do is for a reason (even things I hate) and, if I just go along with them, they will eventually reveal their secrets for why they did and said certain things.

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