Why Writers Don’t Write

Over the years, I developed a theory about why writers are such procrastinators,” writes Megan McArdle in The Atantic, and it’s not the reason you’d think, though she’s almost certainly right, judging from my own experience.

We were too good in English class. This sounds crazy, but hear me out.

Writers were the kids who read easily and had no problem writing well when their classmates struggled. This, McArdle continues,

teaches a very bad, very false lesson: that success in work mostly depends on natural talent. Unfortunately, when you are a professional writer, you are competing with all the other kids who were at the top of their English classes. Your stuff may not — indeed, probably won’t — be the best anymore.

If you’ve spent most of your life cruising ahead on natural ability, doing what came easily and quickly, every word you write becomes a test of just how much ability you have, every article a referendum on how good a writer you are. As long as you have not written that article, that speech, that novel, it could still be good. Before you take to the keys, you are Proust and Oscar Wilde and George Orwell all rolled up into one delicious package. By the time you’re finished, you’re more like one of those 1940’s pulp hacks who strung hundred-page paragraphs together with semicolons because it was too much effort to figure out where the sentence should end.

It’s not laziness, it’s fear. Reading this article helped me kill a few minutes before I could knock off for lunch.

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