Hello, everyone. Pull up a chair and settle down with a beverage of your choosing.
Because today, I’m going to enter into some real talk. Talk of what most every writer thinks or feels at some point during their journey, and what I personally have been thinking about a great deal as of late.
So, I’ve probably attempted to write this blog half a dozen times in the past week, and each time, I couldn’t quite decide how to broach the subject. Even now, I’m not sure I’ve got it right–and that’s the thing, isn’t it? In faltering, I’m revealing precisely the kind of psychological response inherent to the writing process as a whole: The lack of certainty that I’m doing things “right”, the fear that the amount of people who dislike my work will outweigh those who do. The fear that I will either earn infamy as a trash writer, or equally as worrisome, that my work will fade into obscurity–provided it has its fifteen minutes of fame to begin with.
There are three things pushing me onward in spite of this fear:
- That others have been expressing much the same doubts in their own work and writing prowess of late (which is partly where I draw courage enough to admit to my own fears).
- That my need to write outweighs my fear of failure.
- That being the borderline perfectionist I am, I know I will do everything in my power to ensure my work is as polished as I am capable of making it. Thus, as long as I am satisfied with my work in the end, whatever approval I do or don’t gain cannot and will not impact whether I remain a writer, or not.
And that’s really the heart of it. It’s easy to lose sight of why we start this journey in the first place. Those feelings of euphoria we had when first starting the project dwindle in the face of all the overwhelming technical obstacles still ahead of us. What started out as an enthusiastic frolic through fantastical lands becomes a darkened void of niggling self-doubt. The characters we grew to love the more we wrote them we begin to question whether others will find them as endearing. Even the characters the readers are meant to hate, we fear that they will be hated too much; perhaps to the point that the reader cannot sympathize or relate to them in the slightest.
Basically, every facet of our work falls under scrutiny–our own, and that of our peers. The fact is, we can’t avoid it. Once you develop your inner editor (that voice in your head that, while absolutely pivotal in ensuring your work is up to par, can also be your worst enemy), it’s hard to shut it off. Moreover, it’s important that you utilize it, because without it, your work won’t benefit. And truth be told, negative as that voice can sometimes be, it prepares you for the worst critics you’ll face.
And there’s no sense kidding ourselves–you will find those critics. Or rather, they’ll find you. They will tear your entire story down, brick by literary brick; from your characters, to your world-building, to the very foundation of your prose. So you might be asking yourself (as I have from time to time) “Why do this at all? Why pour my entire heart and soul into this, why spend the hours, weeks, months–years–writing, just to have people shit all over it?”
The answer is this: Because you need to. If you love writing, if there’s a story you’ve been carrying around, or maybe bits and pieces that have begun fitting together over the years, and you feel the drive to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard–you need to do it. If the drive to put that story together, to breathe life into your characters becomes so consuming that you can scarcely eat, sleep, or do anything else without thinking about it on a daily (or even hourly) basis, then you know it’s something worth doing.
You are never going to win the approval of everyone. Life doesn’t work like that, and people have diverse tastes. It’s why the world is so full of different art forms to begin with; because to each their own. More importantly, you shouldn’t start this journey with the approval of others in mind. If you’re going to start this journey, or already have, it’s because you WANT to write your story. Because you want to release something of yourself into the world, to say, “I am here, and this is the culmination of my thoughts and feelings; my regrets and desires, the lessons I’ve learned and the life I have lived”.
Another thing to keep in mind is, the more you write, the better you will get with time. What starts out as a conscientious effort will become second nature, as will picking up the dos and don’ts of writing. There is a wealth of knowledge to be gained in reading others’ works, and you may find you do most of your learning without meaning to. It’s remarkable how often I’ve found myself struck with a particular turn of phrase or specific term, and couldn’t recall what inspired it until seeing one similar during a re-read of a treasured novel. The subconscious is wonderful like that.
What you need to remember is this: Whatever self-doubts you’ve faced, currently are facing, or will in the future–you are not alone. Whether you have only just finished your first draft and have a ways to go before publication, or if, like me, you can see your publication date just around the corner, and the very thought is enough to make your mouth go dry and your heart race…you’re not alone. Your fear is shared by many; writers, artists, musicians–the list goes on. Everyone suffers through those crippling moments (days, weeks, months) of self-doubt. Everyone wonders if what they’re doing is good enough, if what they’re doing is even worth it, if it even matters.
Well, I’m here to tell you it is. It is good enough, it is worth it, and it does matter. It may not seem that way right now while you’re in the midst of editing; it may not seem that way even after publication, when sales have been sparse at best. But know that someone, somewhere, appreciates what you’re doing; that however many people may fuel your doubts with nay-saying, there are those who cling to your story like a life ring.
What you’re doing matters to someone, and above all, in the act of doing it–you are doing something that matters to YOU. All you need to do is take into consideration the way writing, and the way finishing that project makes you feel, and there’s your proof.
So, keep writing, and keep polishing those skills. Nothing worth doing is easy, but I promise you, hard work and perseverance will pay off in the end.
I wish every one of you the best of luck on your creative journeys, and cannot wait to see what the future holds. Until next time–keep calm and write on.