Writing Should be Uncomfortable

21 June, 2024

Writing shouldn’t be easy.

Writing shouldn’t be free of stress.

Writing shouldn’t start with a smile.

Writing should be uncomfortable. Always.

Why do I believe that? If you’re comfortable, you’re not pushing yourself.

If you’re comfortable, you’re not trying as hard as you should be trying.

If you’re comfortable, you’re not learning or improving.

If you’re comfortable, you’re not pushing the limits of your ability.

If you are comfortable, your writing risks becoming mechanical. It risks becoming repetitive. It risks becoming a bit too easy. When that happens, you’re doing yourself and your readers a disservice.

It’s discomfort that pushes you to improve, to do your best work. It’s discomfort that drives you to write something that’s worth reading.

Many writers, myself included, take the comfortable route because it’s easy. Because we don’t want to reach deeply into ourselves to find that story or turn of phrase or characterization that will make something that’s just OK or pretty good into something better. We take the comfortable route because it’s worked for us.

How to Make Yourself Uncomfortable When Writing

First off, you need to be willing to face the discomfort. You need to be willing to fall flat on your face, to fail — sometimes, miserably.

Once you’re willing to face the discomfort, it’s time to manufacture it. How? Here are a few suggestions:

Write short — If you’re used to writing longer pieces, try writing shorter. In the range of 400 to 600 words. As you do that, try not to lose the colour or the important detail of what you’re writing.

Write long — On the other hand, if you’re used to writing shorter pieces, try writing longer. Start off by writing in the range of 1,000 to 1,200 words. Then build up to 1,500 to 2,000 words. Go longer if you want. Don’t, however, add sentences and paragraphs to what you’re writing to make it seem longer. Every word and every sentence and every paragraph that you write should add to your work. It shouldn’t be padding.

Write in a different style — If you’re non-fiction writer, try writing a short story or a short-short story. If you write fiction, try penning a personal essay. Write a poem. Step away from what you’re used to, but try to apply your skills to the style of writing you’re attempting.

Write in a different format — That could be writing a portion of a script for a play or a movie. That could be writing a radio report or a short hard news article. Tackle something that follows a different pattern from what you’re used to writing.

As you try these exercises, you’ll find that what you’re producing probably isn’t great. You might get frustrated or demoralized. You might question yourself and your ability as a writer.

That’s the point of those kinds of exercises. They’re not meant to show you that you’re a bad writer. They’re meant to rekindle that spark in you. The spark that makes you strive to improve and take chances and push your boundaries, even just a bit.

Maybe the wider world will never see those uncomfortable bits. Maybe you’re writing them for an audience of one. But being uncomfortable while writing is worthwhile because that writing is challenging you, prodding you, encouraging you to produce the best work that you can. Doing that should be the goal of every writer.

Scott Nesbitt