Why you suck at writing

it's not your fault

“Write a 5-page essay, Times New Roman 12-point font, double spaced, about one element of symbolism James Joyce used in his novel, “The Portrait of…”

Did you throw up in your mouth a little?

Many of us have light trauma associated with writing because of how it was introduced to us:

“Read this book. Read these research papers. Study this topic. Now prove you learned something. You must do it like this. No, not like that. Obey my list of arbitrary constraints. The font. The form. The length. The grammar. No, there’s no right answer. But you will be judged on everything. Due Friday. It’s 20% of your final grade. Don’t forget spelling.”

Your blood runs cold. Stress. Anxiety. Worry.

You fill pages with words, then touch up the lighter spots like painting a wall.

It’s handed back to you. Days or weeks later.

Your social status and intellectual identity revealed in red ink.

Each time repeated, the whispered message is etched more deeply into the back of your hand:

“Writing is hard.”

“I am not good at writing.”

“I hate to write.”

Did I strike a chord?

It’s truly sad.

Because communication through the written word is the bedrock of civilization.

The only reliable way to stack our achievements on top of those that came before.

What’s to be done?

Can you retrain your brain?

To write easily?

To write well?

And love it?


Interesting, no?

But what’s the context?

She sent me an email last week. A lament.

Here’s a peek:

“Email is, by far, the biggest source of paralysis for me.”

“…I just feel stuck.... so I don't do anything.”

“So my million dollar question: Where do I even start?

I wrote a reply. 334 words. Fewer than than the email you’re reading.

The “Thank you” shown above arrived 2 days later.

What did I tell her?

That’s tomorrow’s email.

See you then,


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