Sometimes I hate writing. That's not to say I hate the writing of others, though I occasionally do, and that's not to say I hate my own writing, though I often do, but rather that I sometimes hate the commission of the act of writing. I hate it when I have nothing to say, which is most of the time, or when I think I have stuff to say but the words are clogged at the nib, or when the ink flows freely but lands on the page in impotent smears, or when the words ring like bells but the sentences flop like flagstones in the mud, or when the paragraphs flare but the chapters fizzle.
I also hate writing when I have better things to do. Doze, eat cheese and crackers, solve easy Sudoku puzzles, shop for books on the Internet, doze some more. I've concluded that even some unpleasant chores are less hateable than writing. Cat box cleaning, evacuating the hard drive of viruses, defeating drain clogs. Sometimes I feel like I would trade a writing obligation for a trip to the emergency room for stitches. More than once I've promised the gods in their pantheon a year of my life if they would get me out of a writing commitment.
I am not alone in my dark feelings, of course. Most writers, if not all, whether professional, recreational, or scholastic, hate writing at one point, or, in some cases, every point, in their careers, and their attestations to this can entertain, nonplus, horrify, and occasionally provide comfort to the writing-hating writer. For fun, I've provided below a small selection of quotations by well-known writers at odds with their business, which I hope the reader will find profitable, instructive, and cautionary.
"When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth." --Kurt Vonnegut (quoted in "Kurt Vonnegut: In His Own Words," London Times Online, 12 April 2007)
"An incurable itch for scribbling takes possession of many, and grows inveterate in their insane breasts." --Juvenal (quoted in Satires)
"Writing [a novel] is a terrible experience, during which the hair often falls out and the teeth decay." --Flannery O'Connor (quoted in Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose)
"Every stink that fights the ventilator thinks it is Don Quixote." --Stanislaw Jerzy Lec (quoted in Unkempt Thoughts)
"For once the disease of reading has laid upon the system it weakens so that it falls an easy prey to that other scourge which dwells in the ink pot and festers in the quill. The wretch takes to writing." --Virginia Woolf (quoted in Orlando)
"We die in proportion to the words we fling around us." --Emil Cioran (quoted in A Short History of Decay)
"Writing makes no noise, except groans, and it can be done everywhere, and it is done alone."
--Ursula K. LeGuin (source unknown)
"Writing in English is the most ingenious torture ever devised for sins committed in previous lives." --James Joyce (quoted in a letter to Fanny Guillermet, 5 September 1918)
"An author is a fool who, not content with boring those he lives with, insists on boring future generations." --Charles de Montesquieu (quoted in Persian Letters)
"If there is a special Hell for writers it would be in the forced contemplation of their own works." --John Dos Passos (quoted in The New York Times, 25 October 1959)
Bill Cotter is the author of the new book The Parallel Apartments.
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