17 Ways Writing Is Exactly Like Sex*

Betsy never knew you could dangle a participle like that.

1. Fun by yourself, fun with a partner. The right partner, obviously. Or partners. No one likes those selfish collaborators who never reciprocate critiques.

2. There are a million and one products that claim to help you do it better. Who doesn’t know the shame of the midnight clicking through pages and pages of glossy ads? New software? Workshop? Ooh, yes. And all I have to do is give you my credit card number? Sold.

3. Most of those products are bullshit. Put the Special Snowflake Writing Method with Extra Specialness in the bathroom cabinet with the Spanish Fly and never look at either of them again. They’ll only come up when someone else is going through your stuff and says, “Um…what exactly is this?” Have an excuse ready.

4. It’s awkward to talk about in public. Except for that one guy. You know the one. Way too many details, dude. Now I have to spend the rest of the night with images of your bacon-themed space opera popping into my head.

5. It’s all building toward a climax. Ooh, yes, right there. Give me that foreshadowing, baby. Ratchet up the tension, you know I like it like that.

6. But you should still have fun along the way. No prizes for speed in this race, hoss.

7. You can spend ages thinking about it. In bed at night, on the bus, waiting in lines…it’s never far from your mind. You imagine every detail, placing things just so. God, is it hot in here?

8. But it’s never quite the same in real life. Sometimes it’s better, sometimes it’s worse. But whatever it is, it’s always more real, with stuff that you never thought about.

9. You should try to finish what you start. No one wants to be left hanging. It’s frustrating as hell.

10. Rejection hurts. Does it ever.

11. But you can always try again. Put on your lipstick and get out there, sweetheart. Just because the last one didn’t work out is no reason to quit.

12. There is no one right way to do it. Everyone likes it a little differently, and that’s okay.

13. But people will try to tell you there is, and get pissed off when you disagree. You like multi-genre crossover fiction that combines traditional science fiction tropes with western elements? What are you, some kind of fucking deviant? And you’re into subtle character pieces with nuanced family dynamics? God, you’re so close-minded.

14. There are people out there into the same stuff that you are. And most of them are on the internet. Be careful of their Tumblr pages, though. Some things can’t be unseen.

15. There tends to be a lot of awkward fumbling around, especially at the beginning. Hang on, let me just put this scene—wait, what if it went like this? No? All right, how about here, I think I can bend this—oh, god, sorry! Do you want an ice pack?

16. But you get better with experience. And some day those initial attempts will make great stories to tell. With maybe a couple of cautionary tales thrown in.

17. That cozy glow when you’re finished—and you know what you did was good—is fucking great. Hoo. That was really something. Now someone give me a cigarette.

*Today’s post brought to you by Questionable Thoughts I Have After Donating Blood.

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Your Comfort Zone Sucks.

Black Patent Leather Fetish Shoes 1973 - 1977 ...

Put these on. We’re going for a walk. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And so does mine. That’s why we’re abandoning it.

Every writer has a comfort zone. It’s that place where you know what you’re doing and can be reasonably sure of doing it with a certain amount of skill and grace. Of not embarrassing yourself. Nothing ever upsets you there. It’s a comfy place. Hence the very obvious name.

But it’s boring as shit there. And that’s exactly the word I mean. Because how much do you remember about your last trip to the toilet?*

There are things about writing that will make you uncomfortable. It’ll be different for everyone. Some people might not like depicting violence, others might be uneasy about writing about a divorce. Or sex. Drug use. Religion. Nudity. Racism. Depression. Or, I don’t know, a plague of weasels.** There is something out there that makes you cringe a little inside when you think about writing it. And, because of me, you’re thinking about it right now. What is it?

Got it in mind? Okay.

Now go write it.

Hang on, hang on. Put down that big hammer and hear me out. Whatever came to mind is something that provokes a very visceral reaction from you. It makes you angry, or sick, or sad, or embarrassed. It upsets you. (Sorry about that.)

But you can use that.

Try writing a scene with that thing in it. Yeah, it’ll be weird and awkward and uncomfortable. I know. Go check out my experience writing a sex scene for the first time. But you can do it if you try, and put all that weirdness on the page.

And, once you get it done, you might like the scene. Or you might hate it. Either one is okay. You don’t have to let anyone else see it, ever. You don’t have to do anything with it, though I’d encourage you not to delete it. But once you know you can access that sort of feeling, and make it come out onto the page, you can use it. You want to make your audience upset? Use something that upsets you, and pass it on to them like an especially itchy STD. Make them feel it the way you do.

Funny thing is, the same applies to writing happy things. It’s hard to make an audience feel happy about something unless you can somehow connect it to your own happiness and share that with them. But you rarely have to push to write that stuff. It’s the dirty parts, the bloody parts, the parts that make you cringe that you have to make yourself write. But once you do, you’ll open up a whole new set of tools for your writing. And in this job, you need all the tools you can get.

*Krys, you’re excused from this question. I read the post.

**Sneaky little bastards.