Writing fiction is the hardest thing I try to do. I’ve struggled with it all my life, and it defeats me every time. There’s one story I’ve been trying to write since I was in grade school. I’ve lived with these people in my head for going on forty years. I know everything about them. But somehow they can’t get from my head to the paper — or the screen, as it is now; I haven’t written on paper in years, but I’m old enough to think in terms of paper and ink anyway. Trying to put the story — any story — into words is maddening. I’m Sisyphus, pushing the same boulder up the hill over and over again, only to have it roll back down to the bottom every time. I hate that damned boulder, and I don’t even have the gods to blame. Nobody set me to do this but me.
One thing I’ve learned, though, is that I write better if I write in my own voice. When I try to write in a literary style, that’s when my writing really sucks. The clever turns of phrase, the poetic imagery, and the powerful metaphors — those are the things that make me cringe in disgust and throw my stories out. When I go back and re-read, I see they’re not so clever, not so poetic, and not at all powerful. They just sound contrived. (Because they are). I write best when I don’t try to write. If I can just tell the story, and not worry about “Writing,” I write better. Trying too hard destroys everything. I can’t Write Like A Writer. I can only write like me.
I’ve known that for twenty-five years, so you’d think it would get easier. It’s a strange thing about writing and about life, that being yourself it the hardest thing in the world to do.