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Why does writing feel like such a battle?

Welcome to the impact zone

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Hi there, 

My surfboard’s leash is tangled around my leg and pulls me deeper into the warm, salty water. I fight the current, managing to emerge for a sip of air, only for another wave to submerge me. 

Welcome to the Impact Zone: The one area you need to avoid while surfing. This is where the waves crash and when the ocean is at its most powerful. To get caught here is to be in what surfers call the “washing machine.” The body is tossed and tumbled mercilessly. 

I’m in Costa Rica to surf. The locals told me that Nosara is the best place to learn. But as my oxygen supplies dwindle, I can’t help but think: “There is no f*cking way this is beginner friendly.” 

“Are you okay?” shouts Andres, my surf instructor, once I reunite with him in the lineup. “Oh yeah,” I wheeze. “Holy shit how is this anyone’s idea of fun this is terrifying” is what I actually want to say. 

It’s not long until I spot the next set. Andres orders me to start paddling and I comply, glancing over my shoulder. The wave threatens to swallow me whole as its lips curl above me in a dramatic arch. “Get up!” Andres yells. 

The ocean, who was just trying to murder me, is now a friend. Her waves are gentle. They hoist my board from underneath and I glide home in style.  

The wave eventually crashes, its fizzy, whirlwind beauty evaporating. I wade onto the sand, surfboard under my shoulder, the sun now dipping below the horizon. Under the cream orange sky dragonflies emerge from the jungle. There are hundreds of them. They slice through the humidity, hunting for noseeums, those tiny, invisible insects. 

“Did you see that?!” I yell to Andres. I don’t stop smiling until I turn my night light off many hours later. 

The Impact Zone exists in the writing process, too. When you sit down to write, you have to fight to get to the good stuff. But instead of water, you’re wrestling imposter syndrome, fear, doubt, and all the glum shit in between. 

However, there comes a moment when you paddle through. Suddenly you catch a wave and the words come flowing through you. This force majeure, which earlier pinned you down, well…you’re now riding it. This is what a true conqueror feels like. 

Of course, the wave crashes. 

Of course, the writing flow sputters. 

Of course, nothing lasts forever. 

But that’s where the satisfaction lies. In knowing that you had to earn the ride — and that there will always be another one around the corner, as long as you’re willing to put up the fight. 

Sunset in Costa Rica 🌞

✍️ Quick Writing Tip

Short words are (almost) always preferable to long ones. Or as John R. Trimble puts it in Writing with Style

“The fewer syllables the better, and monosyllables, beautiful and pure like ‘bread’ and ‘sun’ and ‘grass’ are the best of all.” 

Reserve the long words for the fun and eccentric. A few examples: 

  • Lollygag 

  • Balderdash 

  • Persnickety 

  • Coquettish 

🥒 Content Diet

📚 The Creative Act by Rick Rubin — I was wary of this book and thought it might just be all hype. But 40 pages in, and I’m thoroughly enjoying Rubin’s prose and message. Not only is it pure poetry, but I promise it’ll gust wind into your creative sails. 

🖊 Amazon Basics Felt Tip Pen, Assorted Colors — My best friend showed me her journal the other day, and it was full of colors. Aquamarine. Taupe. Sky blue. And I thought…why the hell am I journaling exclusively in a black pen?! Since then, I’ve bought this 24 pack of felt pens and have been loving how colorful my notes are.

🎙 How I Write by David Perell with Ali Abdaal — Every writer should be listening to this podcast. I loved this episode especially with Ali Abdaal, who shares how he navigated crippling imposter syndrome while writing (sound familiar?). Ali’s secret weapon is to imagine you’re writing to a friend, and cut the posturing. Trust me, you’ll get something out of this episode. 

Thanks for being here! 

I’ve taken a really long newsletter hiatus, and if you’re still here, I appreciate you. To be transparent, life has been…tumultuous. I’ll spare you the details, but these are the types of life changes where you have to write to process the chaos happening around you. 

With that being said, I’ll be in your inbox more often. 

Have a beautiful holiday, and I’ll see you soon. 

Stay Creative, 

Alice 💌

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