I’m Rich Leder, screenwriter, novelist, publisher, and founder of Laugh Riot Press. For more than a decade, in addition to the rest of my madness, I have been a private writing coach, helping authors build stories, create characters, stylize dialogue, establish rhythm, and hold tone in every genre you can think of. I have coached in excess of 100 writers, all of whom finished first drafts that were solid, professionally crafted, and sweet to read.
However, the road to The End is often filled with potholes the size of Houston. Here’s a typical email I get from writers all across the country:
“Every damn sentence or idea I write down is accompanied by a cringe of how stupid, unlikely, unsupported, incongruous, dumb is that?! I’m stuck, unsure of how to begin to resolve this story. Frustrated!”
I thought so.
Throughout my career, I have battled this sentiment and others much worse. And yet I have written 56 screenplays and four novels (number five on the way). I have fought through frustration and fear and doubt and panic and terror and disappointment and anger with a two-word battle cry that has sustained me for decades: Write Anyway.
No one’s going to give a shit about this. I know, I tell myself, write anyway.
This is an idiotic story, and my characters are thin and moronic. Yes, I tell myself, write anyway.
My dialogue is mundane and foolish and sounds like garbage. I hear that, I tell myself, write anyway.
Writing is hard. Your brain doesn’t want to do it. It wants you to stop and do something easier, like drink beer or watch TV (or both at the same time). It will say anything to make you metaphorically put the pen down...or maybe literally put the pen down.
Sometimes your brain will sweet talk you, tell you how brilliant you are, how you nailed it first time so go ahead and watch cartoons.
But a lot of the time your brain will berate you into quitting, make you feel like a fraud, like a hack, like an amateur.
Rather than fight the feeling, try admitting that the words on the page don’t work the way you want them to just yet, that they are overwritten or clunky or out of focus or disengaging or pretentious...and that you are going to write anyway.
Try saying to yourself, “I know this sucks and writing’s hard and no one’s going to care. Screw it, I’m going to write anyway.”
I’m feeling that way about this blog post right now, it just so happens.
Write anyway, write anyway, write anyway.
I have those two words taped to the front of my printer, which sits across from me in my office.
I’ve completed a lot of stories over the years in spite of the voice in the back of my head telling me to give it up and get a life by replying to the voice that I was, I will, and I am going to write anyway.
If these two words don’t work for you, that’s fine. Choose other words that keep you going.
Just don’t stop because it’s hard. Or because you think you suck. You don’t suck. And even if you suck right now this minute, so what? In ten minutes or tomorrow afternoon or next Tuesday you won’t suck. Keep writing. Write anyway.
It’s hard for every writer sometimes. You’re not special in that regard.
You’re special because you have a story to tell or an idea that resonates or a point to make or a feeling to share. You’re special because you’re a writer.