The Struggle Bus -- Can I Actually Write?
I don't know what I love to do more: discuss writing struggles or read about them. Knowing that well-known, lucrative authors experience the same letdowns and insecurities as I do is comforting. It's also quite cathartic to talk out my issues.
The solidarity in the writing community is so strong, with many who have "made it" eager to tell you that their journey to success was not linear, was in fact full of setbacks, sleepless nights, self-doubt, and the desire to quit all together.
I want to be one of those beacons that writers come online to seek out in the dark, scary, uncertain world of creative expression. That's why I'm introducing this new series on my blog called:
The Struggle Bus
In this series I'll discuss common struggles we all go through as writers. Sometimes I'll provide a solution that has worked for me, but I've found many of these struggles don't have a solution... and that's okay. Just hearing you're not alone is sometimes all the resolve you need.
One thing I think nearly every writer experiences -- both in the beginning stages of pursuing a career and one, ten, or twenty-five years down the line -- is the conflict between believing in your writing vs. hating every word you've just churned out. Deciding to pursue a career in writing is always exciting at first, because all we see of our favorite authors is the end result: their work sitting on bookshelves and New York Times Best Seller lists; the interviews; the film adaptations; their cool, possessed smiles in their headshots that stare at us from the back flaps of their books.
But then when the six-figure publishing contracts don't immediately fall in our laps and the literary agents don't respond to our queries, we start to wonder what we're doing wrong, start questioning our abilities. Every writer has been through it. And I guarantee you some big-time writer out there is currently going through it; success does not mean the erasure of self-doubt.
Since this business is so subjective, I think writers are constantly having their egos checked. This must be especially true with professional writers -- one publisher may like your writing style, while another hates it; one editor might believe your work doesn't need much tweaking, while another sends it back littered with notes. Additionally, we never know where we're going to stand with readers, so we have to be optimistic in order to keep going.
But how does a writer with no platform keep feeling like their writing is good enough? Outside validation is important when you're trying to keep your spirits up -- otherwise, you're in your own head too much and can get down on yourself.
Take this hilarious picture from the Disney/Pixar film Tangled for example. Using stills from a scene where Rapunzel breaks free from her tower prison and proceeds to go back and forth between loving her newfound freedom and wondering what in the world she's gotten herself into, we see an accurate depiction of the average writer's constant inner monologue.
Exhausting, right? You're not alone!
I can write something in a fevered frenzy and think it's fantastic, only to read back over it and wonder what I was thinking. Self-doubt is always right around the corner, trying to trip us up. Think questioning one chapter is bad? What about questioning your entire manuscript? Especially when you feel like you've edited it to death, only to receive negative feedback or crickets in response to your queries.
So, how does one overcome this struggle? Can it be overcome?
I think so.
I have decided I have no choice but to write. I have too much story in me to ignore that desire. In coming to terms with my need to pursue as difficult a profession as this, I must come to terms with the fact that the question "Am I good enough?" will enter my brain from time to time.
What's worked for me is mentally straddling the fine line between confidence and humility. Find the confidence to keep going every day, to believe in what you're writing, to say you're good enough and worthy of calling yourself a writer. But don't get so confident that you forget you can always improve and grow, so confident that you can't take constructive criticism and learn from rejection.
For the record, I know this is certainly not the only trick, nor is it the best one. But this struggle will always be there, but this trick will stop me from spiraling. And adopting a mindset of inner peace certainly can't hurt, right?
I hope you enjoyed the first post in The Struggle Bus series. Let's chat! Feel free to contact me through my website with your personal writing struggles. I'd be happy to commiserate with you. We'll get through this together, one page at a time.