Pain & Struggle: A Fundamental Part of Writing

Nearly one year ago, I came across the following passage on Galleycat:

Reflect on this philosophical dispute submitted by one poetry-devoted reader:

“The book was a collection of love poems by William Carlos Williams. The poem was ‘Asphodel, that Greeny Flower.’ And the specific line of the poem over which we disagreed was: ‘I cannot say that I have gone to hell for your love but often found myself there in your pursuit.’

“Although my boyfriend and I had been dating seriously for about a year, we disagreed so vehemently about whether pain and struggle constitute a fundamental part of love that we decided to break up then and there after reading and discussing the poem.”

It struck such a chord with me that I clipped it and saved it in my Google Notebook.

At first I only considered it in relation to romantic relationships (yes, absolutely pain and struggle constitute a fundamental part of love), but now I’ve started thinking of it in relation to writing and publishing too.

It applies in a multitude of situations, e.g.,

  • Hating writer’s block and loving the eventual (hopeful) breakthrough
  • Loving to have written (but hating the writing itself)
  • Loving the end results of criticism/editing, but being wounded in the process

Makes it seem like the painful means or process justify the glorious end?

But the end can be painful too. The finished book: not quite good enough, there are things you can still improve, right? (I love that saying about poems/stories never being finished, only abandoned.)

And the agent or publisher: how you felt such jubilation upon getting that deal, getting their attention. Then … the sad end … maybe when the book doesn’t sell as hoped. Maybe you can’t get a second book deal. Maybe you lose the agent’s or editor’s attention. Maybe you have regrets.

The point?

To know that you’re living it, experiencing it, because you can do no other thing. Because you must write. Because that’s who you are.

Note: This applies to colleagues/editors too. I know few, if any, in this business who do it for anything but love. (Writers, take note. There is passion there too, even if it is a passion that seems to disagree with you … again and again and again.)


Housekeeping note: I’m about to depart on a one-week vacation to Alaska. I may appear here, I may appear only on Twitter or Facebook, but look for a rather delayed Best Tweets on the week ending August 28.

Photo credit: SheWatchedtheSky

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0 thoughts on “Pain & Struggle: A Fundamental Part of Writing

  1. Lindsay Price

    Oh man, the end of the writing process can be so painful! There’s a stupid sense of loss when all this forward momentum you’ve gathered just comes to a halt. Sigh. I love getting to the end, and I hate it too…

  2. Julie Isaac

    Ahh… the human condition… the emotional paradox.

    Most would certainly prefer to skip the painful parts of life, yet it’s the contrast between pain and joy that makes the joy so sweet.

    Every journey, including the book writing journey, has it’s ups and downs. The good news is that the more you can accept that, the less the downswing hurts. There will be disappointments, but they don’t have to be devastating.

    As you’ve said, the book business is built on love. That makes writing and publishing books a spiritual journey. On a spiritual journey what matters most is not what happens, or what we feel about it, but how we perceive, relate to, work through, learn and grow from all that we experience.

    Looked at as a spiritual journey, writer’s block becomes an opportunity to learn more about ourselves, and the writing process.

    Having a book proposal be rejected becomes a lesson in perseverance, an opportunity to sharpen our power of discrimination as we learn how to recognize when it’s time to keep moving forward, and when it’s time to reevaluate and regroup.

    Dealing with these things isn’t easy, but growing through them brings a certain sweetness, and sense of healing, to the pain.

    Peace and blessings,
    Julie Isaac

    @WritingSpirit on Twitter


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