Many writers like to claim that writing is hard. For example, in an oft-quoted statement, William Zinsser declared: "If you find that writing is hard, it's because it is hard. It's one of the hardest things that people do."

The statement has flair. That's why people like to quote it. I've quoted it in writing classes. The statement is dramatic. It makes students take notice. Maybe it helps them take the class seriously, if they've had trouble with that. The statement helps us feel good about the work we writers have to do. It gives us a way to protect our professional territory from people who might want to try their hand at writing. And it's partly true. But only partly.

Sometimes writing is easy. Try writing down one thing you did this morning.

See, it wasn't that hard.

Write down one thing you like to do.

Easy, wasn't it?

The degree of writing difficulty depends on what you're writing and when you're writing and to whom you are writing it.

Writing notes in class can be easy. (Passing them successfully, on the other hand, can be hard.) Writing a love note can be easy. Or hard. It just depends on the situation and whether you think the other person loves you back. Writing a letter of apology can be hard. Writing a letter of thanks can be easy. Sometimes it can be hard.

The degree of difficulty in writing also depends on your personal circumstances. If you feel strongly about a subject, your strong feelings can make the task of writing about it more difficult. Your passion can get in the way of your effort to say what you mean in a clear and understandable way. Your enthusiasm can cause you to forget what your audience may not know.

But feeling strongly about the subject can make the task easy too. In that case, you more readily find the energy and focus to devote to your task until you complete it to your own satisfaction. And you work and work and work until you get it right and you communicate just what you feel or discover just what you think.

It's often hard to write about a subject your teacher assigns to you (which you might not care about). It can be easier to write about a subject that interests you—unless you know that your teacher is going to read it to the class.

Writing can be hard sometimes, but in my experience it has never been as hard as facing a gunman who is shooting to kill innocent bystanders and it's your job to protect them. Writing is not nearly as hard as defending those bystanders even though you have a child at home and you have already been shot yourself (which is what happened to Officer Kimberly Munly when she successfully stopped Major Nidal Malik Hasan as he killed and wounded other soldiers at Ford Hood in Texas this week). Writing for me has never been as hard as leaving my wife and children to go into combat to protect someone else's freedoms, as several of my neighbors have had to do, and, as a result, missing forever such things as birthdays, the first crawl of an infant, a first word, a child's smile.

Writing has also never been as hard as figuring out intersecting angles in stick-framing a roof with several different slopes. (Compared to that, writing my dissertation in graduate school was a piece of cake.) The difference is that if you make a mistake in framing the roof, it might cave in. Or if you catch the mistake before the roof caves in, you might have to pay extra because you cut a rafter too short or at the wrong angle.

Making a mistake in writing can be costly too. Depending on what you're writing, there can be a lot at stake. Effective writing can change the course of a nation or a civilization or a family relationship. Ineffective writing can too, but just not in the way you want. If you revise carefully to make sure you are saying what you mean, though, not as much is at stake. It's relatively easy to go back and fix where you went wrong. And if you write with a computer, you won't even lose a sheet of paper because of your mistake. You're only out a little bit of time. Writing and revising is a lot easier than talking, where it's much more difficult to change a word once you've said it and the person you've said it to has already heard.

Sometimes writing is made harder than it needs to be because we build it up in our minds to seem like some difficult thing, and the seeming difficulty of the task shuts down all our confidence.

If you take your writing one piece at a time, it can be easy. Just make your plan. Buy your lumber. Cut it to length. Drive the nail. Drive another one. Keep at it until the process is done. All during the process consult a good manual. Ask an experienced framer or the city inspector his advice. Keep at it. One rafter, one angle at a time.