I am a fairly new writer to the online content world, but I’ve been writing all my life whether it be an academic, professional, creative, or therapeutic setting. And while I have always enjoyed putting my words on paper, there is definitely a love-hate relationship going on with this muse of mine. So when Jaipi Sixbear wrote this article about the dark side of writing and challenged us to vent our own frustrations, I couldn’t resist. So here we go:
The Top 10 Things I Hate About Writing #1: Writers Block
I get article ideas all the time, both from my own observations and others telling me, “You should write about this”. I keep lists of all the articles I need to write, inspired by daily life with outlines, notes, etc.
Then I actually sit down to write, fingers poised elegantly above the keyboard as my twelve years of piano lessons taught me, and out comes… nothing. I draw a blank, like staring a blank canvas with paint colors that I know go together but don’t know how to mix. My brain has completely betrayed me, mocking me with an acute sense of sudden inarticulateness. Quite frankly, it sucks.
The Top 10 Things I Hate About Writing #2: Article ADD
When I actually do start writing, my brain starts intruding with other ideas. These ideas are not just distracting – they’re noisy and needy and demand to be heard. My brain has internal arguments during every article writing session that goes something like this: “Oooh, I’m writing an article about what you hate about writing. I should write an article about what I love about writing, and what I find difficult about writing, and what I find easy about writing… FOCUS!”
To make matters worse, I’ve been trained to jot down every idea I come across in a notebook. If I don’t write it down right away, I lose it. This is the reason why I find myself with pages of article ideas with only half of them coming to fruition. It’s like a never-ending pile of laundry; for every piece that I complete another one materializes.
The Top 10 Things I Hate About Writing #3: Researchitis
I am a fact-checker. I rarely take someone’s opinion as my own, and I have been known to research things with mind-boggling, anal-retentive thoroughness just to prove a point. It’s a blessing and a curse. Having good research skills means I find credible resources and my findings are usually spot-on. However, I sometimes suffer from researchitis, where I keep researching and don’t know when to stop. As an online content writer, this is a deadly trait to have, and I’m still learning to overcome it.
For example, in point #1 above, I was going to write something along the lines of “Writer’s block leads to frustration, frustration leads to anger, anger leads to the dark side.” Yes, I really was going to quote Yoda. Except the researchitis kicked in. I had to know what the exact quote was. I searched online and looked at three sites (which all said the same exact thing) before I caught myself and went with the very first one I pulled up. Hello, my name is Gwen, and I’m addicted to researchitis.
The Top 10 Things I Hate About Writing #4: Perfectionist Proofreading
What goes hand in hand with researchitis is perfectionist proofreading. So far since I started writing this article, I have gone and reread the beginning parts of this piece at least three times and edited content before getting to this very sentence. It didn’t take me very long, but I did it just the same. I’ll also proofread this article again when I finish, and one more time when I post it to AC just to make sure it looks right.
And I’ve come to the conclusion that Microsoft Word is my enabler in this vicious cycle. If those evil little red and green squiggly lines didn’t pop up after every tiny mistake I make, I wouldn’t spend so much time proofreading and would actually get on with writing. But if they weren’t there, I would have errors and therefore poor quality work. It’s both a writer’s best friend and worst nightmare come to life.
The Top 10 Things I Hate About Writing #5: Inconsistent Editors and Varying Style Guides
For those of you frustrated by the inconsistency found among different editors who pick at different things for content sites (one site in particular comes to mind), know that this happens everywhere. In my previous place of employment, I was responsible for writing training communication memos that were distributed to hundreds of employees. This meant that it was reviewed by no less than five to ten pairs of eyes. Usually, it wasn’t a problem but sometimes there were requests for conflicting revisions. You can imagine how frustrating that could be.
Now that I’m writing online content, one thing I have learned to hate the most is the different style guides I need to learn for each site. I understand that each site is unique and has its own requirements. But it’s a little much for me to remember whether I should use the AP style or Chicago Manual style, or whether I’m allowed to use the first person or not. And I’ve found that editors can be extremely nitpicky about formatting and adhering to the standard guidelines. I mean, really, you’re going to delay my article because I didn’t use the proper font or the proper capitalization in one of my titles? Why don’t you just, oh I don’t know, edit it yourself since it has nothing to do with content and just publish it? (I have never come across this at AC, by the way, and no, I am not trying to kiss someone’s you-know-what.)
The Top 10 Things I Hate About Writing #6: Fear of Rejection and Criticism
I have many articles, stories, and memoirs that are written, printed, and stored in boxes. I have never submitted them for publication, nor have I posted them online. All because they are each so personal to me that I fear rejection and harsh criticism of something that reflects such a deep part of my psyche. (I also have issues with criticism because of childhood issues, but that’s another story.) My uncle, himself a published author of several books, keeps chiding me: “Gwen, that’s like doing your homework but never turning it in.”
Yeah, well, if I don’t turn it in I won’t get an F, will I? I’ll just get an Incomplete.
The Top 10 Things I Hate About Writing #7: Mean People
This goes along with my point above. When you are an online writer, you subject yourself to public opinion on a daily basis. Behind the anonymity of their screen names, people who may not necessarily act this way in public feel free to unleash any criticism on your article, your work, and/or your character without decorum or civility.
This point was driven home for me when Pam Gaulin’s piece on an FCC ruling was featured on Yahoo. My elation for her accomplishment was dampened by some of the truly nasty comments left by Yahoo users, which in turn detracted from my excitement about this new purple adventure we are on. It was a well-written piece, and even if you didn’t agree with Pam, there is a way to express that without calling her names. It’s an ugly look at human nature, and frankly, I could live without it.
The Top 10 Things I Hate About Writing #8: Pity Looks
“So, Gwen, what do you do?”
“I’m a freelance writer for online web content. I also do freelance projects in the training & development field for various clients.”
“Oh.” (Accompanied by looks of pity that really mean, “Oh, you poor dear. You’re a victim of the economy and can’t find a real job.”)
The Top 10 Things I Hate About Writing #9: Analysis of “The Process”
I get that writing is both creative and methodical, free flowing yet structured, and rewarding yet tortuous. If I didn’t understand that, I wouldn’t have answered this challenge. But if I hear one more reporter ask a famous writer or literary giant about “the writing process”, I will scream.
Yes, it’s a process. But for years literature classes have been sucking the fun out of reading by asking their students to analyze every character, symbolism, style, and “process” of the author. Now before I get any angry comments from English teachers and literary experts, please know that I mean no disrespect. One of my all-time favorite teachers was my High School English teacher. It’s because of Mrs. Betty Lies that I found my creative voice as a writer.
But please be mindful of the fact that we writers do not write our stories so that it can be dissected like frogs on a biology table. We write them so that people will read them and love them. Which they will not do if you ask them to analyze our “process”. Don’t believe me? Then consider this: several years ago I was fortunate enough to attend a speech given by Amy Tan at our local library. During her presentation, Ms. Tan told us an extremely funny story about how she found a Cliffnotes booklet dissecting her best-selling novel The Joy Luck Club. It went into a great amount of detail analyzing her process, to which Ms. Tan said, “Huh. Is that what I was doing when I wrote that part of the story? I had no idea!”
The Top 10 Things I Hate About Writing #10: Promotion and Querying
I hate promoting my work. I love promoting others, but my own? It takes up a lot of time, time I would rather spend writing. It’s too much work. But I do it anyway because I have to get paid, even if it’s not very much.
The same goes for querying. One of the biggest reasons why I have yet to publish in a print magazine is because I dislike the querying process (mostly because of the fear of rejection). Writing online content means I don’t have to pitch an idea, I just get to write. For every query letter I write, I submit about 10 articles online. It’s that simple.
The Top 10 Things I Hate About Writing: Final Thoughts
OK, I’m done with my rant. Thanks, Jaipi, this was very therapeutic. I thank you all for reading.
Jaipi Sixbear, A Bunch of Crap I Hate About Writing and a Challenge, Associated Content from Yahoo!
Yoda Quotes, ThinkExist.com
Gwen Navarrete, My Two Dads, Associated Content from Yahoo!
Pam Gaulin, First Person: Mass. mom mixed on FCC indecency ruling, Yahoo! News
Gwen Navarrete, Purple Blue Goodness, Associated Content from Yahoo!
Gwen Navarrete, Las Vegas Libraries a great place to find art and culture, Examiner.com