February 17, 2014

@Jason_A_Murdock - Writing is hard, Ctd

Editor of Northern Ireland's digital journal Off The Record, Jason Alan Murdock (@Jason_A_Murdock) guest writes on The Ideas Workshop. He joins the 'Writing is Hard' series and shares his thoughts.

Writing Is Hard

​Starting off a 'writing is hard' segment with the proclamation that the literal process itself isn't actually that difficult seems like a bit of a cop out. But bear with me. Writing is a process many learn at a young age. At its most basic it is letter after letter, word after word. But before I start to sound like the world's worst substitute teacher I will say that using these familiar words and letters in a constructive, meaningful and emotive way can be a very difficult task indeed. Many have grappled with turning words into 'art' or something resembling a legacy. Orwell, Hitchens, Salinger, Yeats, Frost – men all recognised by their surnames alone – live beyond the ashes because of their ability to craft powerful sentences. The human body can rot, but the written word lives on. It must be said however, that whether you find writing hard or not will depend on your intentions. After all, there exist many crafts that use words as a tool and some will be harder to master than others. It could be journalism, poetry, short stories, blogging, comic sketches or writing a book or novel – all demand different skills, techniques and various blood/alcohol levels.

The format shapes the difficulty
In my personal experience with journalism and blogging (poetry is forever reserved to whiskey soaked nostalgia sessions, and one form that will never be shared with anyone but the paint on the walls or the ink on the paper) I have encountered articles that write themselves, and others I have slaved over for days, only to scrap. For example, first hand reporting doesn't demand an artistic flair or for the author to be the next Salman Rushdie, the reader simply won't care. When it comes to reporting the news, facts are all that matter. A news report needs to be well timed, accurate and as unbiased as possible. However, blogging and opinion pieces are a completely different breed of animal in comparison. Looser, more authoritative, perhaps even funny. It's knowing your audience and hitting the right notes.

The human problem

Part of the psyche of a 'writer' will be a crippling fear of critiques of their work. (Hopefully not just me, right...RIGHT?) Writers, at least those in the horrible stereotypical sense are perceived to be shy, reserved and artsy. Of course there are exceptions to this rule – pick any hard-nosed right wing commentator or any journo from Fox News Network – but what every writer or journalist has in common is human emotions and fragilities. They can be well hidden, but remain in a shallow grave. Just under the surface exist the many problem areas, including procrastination, time keeping, jobs, cleaning, maintaining friendships, feeding the kids, petting the cats, updating the social networks. Basically, anything that distracts you from the desk and the computer – which is a lot. This is the human problem, no matter how good your intentions are, it takes a lot of motivation to be a full time composer of words and also retain your sanity.

So why write?

The delete button is always begging for attention, sleep is something you do in between thinking of the perfect headline or the final end to the paragraph and your Facebook profile will become less a social area and more another medium of flogging your articles or books. But it doesn't matter, none of the downsides will matter once you complete a piece of writing you are happy with. The final copy, the printed book or the blog that goes viral. The format – at this point – doesn't even matter. 'The Fear' subsides. In my experience with Off The Record and publishing in general, the final product or copy has always outweighed the pressure of anything that comes before it. The genesis of any good written copy is passion, motivation and the desire to work. The revelation is that you write because you love it, not because it pays the rent.

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