When the Words Don’t Come Easily

When the words don't come easily, I end up with a lot of trashed drafts.When the words don’t come easily, when I have to fight for every one of them, I take solace in Richard Hugo’s thoughts. He says the hard work put into one piece of writing makes for the sudden ease of a future – not subsequent but future – piece of writing. I keep writing in hopes of finding that “sudden ease,” however brief it may be. A brief moment of ease is like the first drink of water after running a race. Nothing tastes quite as good as that water. Nothing is quite as refreshing.


When the words don’t come easily, when I have to fight for them, I fight. I come to the paper or the screen and make my offense. I write, even if the words are the worst words. I write, even if it’s a poor imitation of the real thing. I put in the work. I go through the motions. I trust in the training and know that it will get me to the next point, perhaps a point where the words come easily, perhaps only another point where I have to make a stand and fight yet again.


When the words don’t come easily, when they turn traitor and abandon me, I abandon them. I retreat. I wait for a more opportune time. I try to rest. I read the words of others. I follow their stories, their hits and misses, their difficulties. Even though I’m not writing, I feel an air of defiance: these traitorous words will not win. They will come back to me.


When the words don’t come easily, when the opportune time never seems to make an appearance, I make the opportune time. I attack and attack again. I will not be defeated. I am a writer. Writers write.


When the words don’t come easily, when life itself doesn’t come easily, I stumble under the weight of all. I crawl into bed. I curl as far into myself as I can go. I listen to music and watch Netflix and waste time as best I can. I can do no more at this moment, in this time and place. I have no words. I have nothing.


When the words don’t come easily, when the darkness seems all-encompassing, I rouse myself from my stupor. I write the words I do find, even if they are harmful, ugly, angry. I write them. I write them all, then I write some more. A glimmer of light appears. It’s faint, but I recognize its presence. It’s visited in the past. It was there all along. I just forgot it was there. I nod to it, keep writing because the hard work eventually leads to easier – if only briefly – work, because the words will stop playing traitor, because I am a writer, and writers write even when the words don’t come easily.

Image: Sebastien Wiertz (CC BY 2.0)


  1. Sometimes you just have to get the crud out of your system and onto paper. You can always throw it away, but if you don’t get started…

  2. I think it is like exercising and muscle memory. When I first get back into tennis or golf it takes a while to find my form, but eventually I return to hitting the ball like I did in the past.
    Having written every day for so long I’ve learned that if I simply start with the first sentence others will follow. Sometimes it takes fifteen minutes to get going, but once my brain realizes “Oh, it’s writing time”, a switch goes off and I find something to say.

  3. Right now trying to come up with a business name that allows me to keep my alien theme but also reflect vermont and can be taken seriously. Been trying for 7 days now. 
    And while I have some brilliant ones…unlike prose….the www url and trademark office kee shooting them down.
    When Business Names don’t come easily…..I think if only opium was still legal it could come to me in a dream….

    • HowieG I find short form – which includes business names and titles and headlines – often to be more challenging than long form. Then there’s the added pressure of the whole thing. I struggled for two or three weeks with my tagline. It didn’t help that people had made suggestions. It was like having an earworm.
      You can bounce ideas off me if you like, but it sounds like some of the problem is the webby world.

  4. You have to write horrible miserable crap when that happens. Sometimes I delete it the next day, but it’s worth the exercise. THe exception to the rule is exhaustion. Then rest and sleep is the only recourse…

    • geoffliving I agree. I tend to save most of my drafts except for the really terrible ones. There’s terrible, and there’s really, really terrible. 
      I’m really bad about resting when I’m exhausted, so I guess I probably don’t follow that exception very well…
      Are you familiar with Lorca’s concept of the duende? My brain just made an associative leap.

    • geoffliving Sometimes the crap turns into gold later on. Every now and then I find I can repurpose what I flung at the wall and turn it into something meaningful.


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