1. Education
Richard Nordquist

For You, What's the Hardest Part of Writing?

By September 5, 2012

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Writing is hard work. A clear sentence is no accident. Very few sentences come out right the first time, or even the third time. Remember this in moments of despair. If you find that writing is hard, it's because it is hard.
(William K. Zinsser, On Writing Well, 7th ed. Collins, 2006)

It's a question I ask my composition students at the start of every term: For each of you, what's the hardest part of writing?

Their answers provoke a discussion about the writing process--or rather, the many different activities that writers engage in when composing. Their answers also give me an excuse to outline key topics we'll be covering in the course.

Here are some typical responses.

  • finding something to write about

  • just getting started

  • doing the research--and then deciding when I've done enough research

  • the loneliness of being stuck in a room by myself and feeling I have nothing to say

  • deciding what to leave out

  • rewriting--draft after draft after draft

  • catching all the mistakes

  • figuring out where and how to end

Now, if it's not too difficult, why don't you try completing this sentence: "For me, the hardest part of writing is . . .." And then click on "comments" to pass along your response.

More About the Writing Process:


September 10, 2012 at 11:29 am
(1) Magna says:

For me, the hardest part of writing is the time between writing a next book. Writing is like coming home after a holiday. Your own bed is best.

September 10, 2012 at 11:49 am
(2) Umberta says:

First. I am not an English writer, but I suppose the question is good for everyone.

For me, the hardest part of writing is finding a way to stimulate people to ask questions – not to me, I mean “to ask” in general, i.e. to cope with the idea that what you read is not like the canned beans you buy at supermarkets: you have a responsibility in trying to understand what words are for your life.
(Well, you have some responsibility in cooking beans, too… but they remain canned beans, whichever imagination you pour on them.)

I only write non-fiction and I am always amazed at the drive my people have to communicate through slogans. Slogan is a very good way to not thinking and asking. I do not simply want that they think, I want that they learn to ask and search for truth, whatever it can be.

Unfortunately, I often am a bit too directive and I do not think I am very successfull in working on my hardest part!


September 10, 2012 at 12:03 pm
(3) Beth says:

… is pinning down just 1 subject when given a list to chose from.

September 10, 2012 at 1:03 pm
(4) JC says:

The hardest parts of writing is grammar, punctuation, and spelling.

September 10, 2012 at 1:04 pm
(5) JC says:

The hardest parts of writing are grammar, punctuation, and spelling.

September 10, 2012 at 1:07 pm
(6) JC says:

Oops! The hardest parts of writing are grammar, punctuation, and spelling.

September 10, 2012 at 1:26 pm
(7) nooshin says:

For me the hardest part of writing is organizing all the things i want to say. I mean most of the time i have lots of ideas but i do not know how to make them written!

September 10, 2012 at 2:34 pm
(8) L Rose says:

The hardest part of writing is staying focused and connected to my thesis.

September 10, 2012 at 4:05 pm
(9) Anne says:

If staying focused means sticking to the point, that’s my biggest problem too,

September 10, 2012 at 8:14 pm
(10) Oba A. La'aro says:

The most hardest part of writing for me is how to approach issue and be interesting and,logical about it.

September 10, 2012 at 10:25 pm
(11) Be says:

The hardest part of writing for me is knowing how to find the right punch line to express what i want to say.

September 11, 2012 at 3:59 am
(12) plumage says:

the hardest parts for me are
1. Getting started, I’m a terrible procrastinator
2. Hitting the wall about 1/3 of the way through when the fast, easy parts have been written and it starts to require more work and planning. inconsistencies start appearing in the plot and usually a big rethink is required.
3. Trying to maintain a consistent tone over a period of many months

September 11, 2012 at 6:49 am
(13) K. C. says:

The hardest part of writing for me is to stay on track, which means the actual sitting down and writing once I have started something. Character development is a breeze, but figuring out the plot is another thing.

September 11, 2012 at 9:57 am
(14) Lorna says:

“For me, the hardest part of writing is developing ideas that are relevant to the context and presenting them clearly and concisely, to pique and maintain the readerís interest.”

September 11, 2012 at 12:04 pm
(15) Kataann says:

The hardest part of writing is getting my fanny to sit in the chair when so many other things, many of which are important and most of which look like more fun, are calling.

September 11, 2012 at 12:05 pm
(16) JR says:

“………….keeping it to a reasonable length.” I am an engineer. People do not want long explainations, but my nature as an engineer is to educate. So packing the most info into the smallest space is the goal.

September 11, 2012 at 2:05 pm
(17) ayati dahbia says:

I find it hard to classify what I have to say in relation to a given topic from the least important to the most important . And there is also the problem of punctuation.

September 11, 2012 at 11:19 pm
(18) Prof. M.Rais Alvi says:

The hardest part of writing ,I think is the feeling of satisfaction that I provide some kind of quality text to my reader. If it does not have the worth, it might be deleted .
It consistently hoovers critically around the tip of my pen from the first sentence to the last.

September 12, 2012 at 9:59 am
(19) John Abakam says:

The hardest part in writting is knowing what to do, and when you do how you are going to put iyt in sentence and organizing them.

September 12, 2012 at 3:27 pm
(20) Joen says:

Getting started!

September 16, 2012 at 12:39 pm
(21) mark 25624 says:

The hardest part of writing is: writing too much! or too little!

September 20, 2012 at 10:19 pm
(22) Don Camp says:

The hardest part to get right is proofreading my own writing.

September 24, 2012 at 1:58 pm
(23) Karan Kamble says:

For me, the hardest part of writing is composing a coherent essay. I tend to have much to say, leading me to write too many things down in a very short space.

I have found that rewriting the essay a number of times moulds it well.

December 31, 2012 at 6:09 pm
(24) andrew macarthur says:

“For me, the hardest part of writing is finding a sharp pencil! – life is too short to be too serious too much of the time….

March 16, 2014 at 8:24 pm
(25) brianna says:

For me, the hardest part of writing is writing. I get so caught up in what I want my audience to feel and what I want to happen next that writing the very important but very bland part of a story seems like pure torture that I rush through, only to find it waiting for me when I finish the part I’d been excited for that seemed to flow so much more naturally.

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