June 5, 2024

People don’t hate writing, they hate the way they write


If you have already decided that you hate something, then you have stopped looking at it objectively.

You are only searching for confirmation bias. Looking for more evidence to prove your own theory about your preferences.

It’s admitting that there’s nothing that will change your opinion, and therefore, nothing that will change your behavior.

Here’s one a case I’ve come across at every stage of my career.

Whether I was working as a freelancer, ad agency cog, startup employee, or somewhere in between, there have always been colleagues of mine who have fervently announced, I hate writing. It almost seems like a point of pride for them. They have a natural revulsion to the act, where intense feelings of anger, contempt and disgust block them from putting words on paper.

Ironically enough, there are entire message boards dedicated to this very topic. You can read thousands of eloquent threads and poetic comments on how much people hate writing.

But all paradoxes aside, my response to the sentiment has evolved over time.

The youthful, innocent version of me used to say, bah, you wouldn’t hate writing if you did it regularly.

Later, when the compassion settled in, I might have told others, yeah writing is tough, I totally understand.

But recently, I have been wondering. Do people really hate writing, or do they simply hate the way they write? Are they disgusted by the sentences, or is it the system used to make them? Could the real issue be the struggle with creative process itself?

Let me share an example that’s humiliating but helpful.

Since a very young age, I have always had chicken scratch handwriting. It’s so bad, it would make a doctor blush. My father and grandfather have this gorgeous, all capital letter, architecturally sound penmanship. But my mother passed down the scribble gene to me. Thanks mom.

Anyway, my high school teacher used to shame me in front of the whole class for my illegible penmanship. She referred to my words as little spiders.

Later, when I landed my first job out of college as a bartender, the meth addict chefs would constantly berate me because my order tickets were impossible to read.

After getting fired from that job, I worked as a salesman at a used furniture store. And the guys in the warehouse would often have to walkie talkie me just to get clarification the sku for the couch on my invoices.

Point being, writing by hand is not my thing. Never has been. My brain moves too fast for my fingers to keep up. It inflames my tendonitis. Honestly, I should never hold a job in which product and service quality is dependent on my ability to string letters together on paper.

Thankfully, almost all of my creative work, with the exception of my handwritten song lyrics, is executed digitally. I love to type. It’s fast, easy, accurate, clean, and I can do it for hours and hours at a time without getting tired. That creative process enables me to be highly prolific.

Meanwhile, if I was forced to write everything longhand, then I’d probably hate writing too. I would have quit years ago. Because all day, every day, my childhood shame would be triggered every time pen hit paper.

Writing would make me feel sloppy, stupid and scatterbrained. My hands would ache, and at some point, I would simply give up and do something else.

What’s your version of that? Is there some behavior you can’t change because you’ve already decided you dislike the way you do it?

My recommendation to people is simple.

Notice every time you use the word hate. Particularly in reference to your own preferences and behavior.

Now, I’m not talking about hate speech on the internet towards certain groups of people. Or using the label hater to insult anyone who disagrees with your opinion on the latest comic book movie.

In my experience, when people say the word hate, it’s typically an explosion of frustrated emotion they are using to punish themselves. There’s a lack of kindness there. No healthy respect for limitations. They’re not speaking any life into their situation.

My friend has a teenage son who recently gave up on his homework and yelled at the breakfast table, I hate math! And his response to the child was, wow, you seem frustrated when you do your math homework, can you tell me about that?

Turns out, the kid was struggling because he’s a right brained thinker, trying to solve left brain problems. He doesn’t naturally do well with data, details and sequence. He’s more about rhythm and emotions and patterns.

And so, his father helped him learn number facts using colored flashcards. This made it easier for the kid to imagine the problem in his mind’s eye. Now there was a sense of color and story and emotion layered over the learning method.

He didn’t hate math. He just hated the way he was doing it. That child was, as my therapist likes to say, using a program that was designed for someone else.

The thing about this pivot is, it requires equal measure of modesty and motion.

First, we have to be willing to accept who we are, limitations and all. Maybe there are certain tasks, which come naturally others, that simply aren’t our jam.

That’s okay. Because the other piece, movement, is about finding ways to enlist our natural preferences, resources and abilities in the service of our goals. It’s possible there’s another way to do that same work that’s less frustrating, but equally effective.

I’ve collaborated with many sales professionals in my career, and most of them don’t consider themselves to be writers. But ask them to share a story about a happy client who used our product, and they’ll never shut up. Send them a chat message with question about overcoming a prospect’s objection, and they’ll compose you a goddamn novella.

Ultimately, most of us don’t hate anything. We may dislike things. They may disgust us. But hate? Really?

It’s time to accept that word as one of the many grammatical casualties of our culture, and move onto something more life giving. Establishing all of these boundaries for ourselves about what we like and what we don’t like, and then continuing to act on them without even considering new opportunities, that stifles growth.

Besides, what do we know about what we like? Who knows what our preferences will be year or ten years from now. Why restrict ourselves?

Remember, in the same vein that you can’t love anyone until you love yourself first, you can’t hate anyone until you hate yourself first.

What explosion of frustrated emotion are you using to punish yourself?