Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) is a monthly blog hop for writers at all levels to share their fears and insecurities in a safe and encouraging place. Please drop by and say hi to Alex Cavanaugh who started this nifty concept in bringing us all together.
I had a bad day last week.
The funny thing was nothing terrible caused it. I didn’t get a bad review or rejection or someone pull me aside and gently suggest I get my shit together and do something else with my life. Nothing like that. And actually, it was a pretty great day. Work was slow. Weather was nice. Absolutely nothing awful triggered the emotional breakdown I had while throwing the ball around with Appa. Each day after work I set aside some time to play with the little guy and that day, for whatever reason at all, the fact that I was releasing my fourth book had me in tears.
So often I focus on the positive, on the optimism and good in every situation that I forget there’s a flip side. Or maybe I just ignore it. Eventually, though, it catches up with me because I figured that if I had three works out there and nothing was changing—nothing was getting better in my writing career, did that mean it never would? Did it mean I lacked the talent/skill/ability? Did it mean writing wasn’t ever going to work for me? From here—today—those questions sound silly. Whiny, even. I’ve wanted to be a writer my entire life. I went to school for it, worked in the evenings after day-jobs and on the weekends for it, and haven’t given up yet. So why wouldn’t I be able to make a successful career?
But I’m thirty. I have three books out. Nothing (that I can see) is changing. And so I cried. I cried because I was disappointed in how things were turning out. I cried because I saw so much success in my friends, in the families they’ve created and the accomplishments they’ve carved into the world. I cried because I’d had other dreams for myself, other goals, that I pushed behind writing, that I sacrificed to be able to focus on the only thing I’ve ever (truly) wanted to do.
And I’m still not there yet.
Any kind of creative pursuit is torment. And most of it, self-inflicted. I’m not good enough. I’m not good enough. I’m not good enough. It chants through each risk we convince ourselves to take when we find the courage to do so. Every blog post for me is both exhilarating and anxiety-ridden. I love it and I hate it. I look forward to it, and dread it. I do my best to focus on the positive, always knowing the negative is a shadow’s length at bay. And sometimes, especially recently, I’ve watched the shadow grow larger. Stronger.
That’s why I find myself flirting with the idea of giving up. It feels good. It feels good in the way it shouldn’t, like I’m committing the crime without having to deal with the repercussions. So I revel in it. Just for a moment. What if I never wrote another blog post? What if I never ignored the torment to focus on the pleasure again? Would that make me happy? Would that fix things? Or would I only make it worse?
It’s a constant battle and one I don’t think will ever really go away. But I’m posting this, so I’ve convinced myself to try at least one more time. And that’s something. Some little win when I wasn’t sure it made sense to keep posting on a site so rarely visited. Like I said—it’s a constant battle, and I’ll probably go through this every month for every post if I (hopefully) continue to blog.
Oh, and someone else in the group must have been experiencing similar questions and feelings because I saw a post about doing other things with your life if writing falls through. One of the commenters suggested watching Elizabeth Gilbert’s (author of Eat, Pray, Love) Ted Talks.
I did, and it helped. It’s definitely worth the watch:
And if you’re the curious type:
26 thoughts on “IWSG – I Guess This Post is a Win”
You’re certainly doing a lot better than I am: I’m forty, and have nothing out there at all. (Though I did, technically, put out one book on LeanPub, for a few months. But then I pulled it, ’cause it was awful and needed a total overhaul. Still haven’t finished that process, though…)
On top of that, I feel like my writing is actively getting worse. I’m not sure it actually *is* getting worse, it just feels that way. Maybe I’m just more aware of the failings I can’t fix, and they’re souring me on the rest of it…
But, like you, I’ve always wanted to write. So I’m going to keep trying when I can find the time and the right story. (Been struggling with that last part lately…) Hopefully I’ll be able to get to where you are someday (I’d really like to be thirty again, too, but I don’t think life works that way) and by that point I’m sure your situation will be just as improved, if not more so.
I highly doubt you’re writing is worsening. I’m sure it’s better than you think. But I guess the only thing we can do is keep going. Keep working. And you’ll find the right story, one you can’t help but write. You’ll stumble upon it out of the blue and think “there is no way I’m not NOT writing that.” The key is to keep at it, I think.
You’re only thirty! I’m forty and feel like, though I have six titles out, I’m still not where I want to be. So I understand the struggle. There’s always another goal, something out in the distance like a mirage that doesn’t seem to be getting any closer no matter how hard you strive to reach it. And I’ve considered what counts as “success” for me, but . . . While others remind me I’ve done more than many, I’m still not satisfied. I have crying days for that reason, too. I have days where I ask myself whether I should find another job (I write full time), whether writing just isn’t for me. So I get it. I totally get it.
That desire to quit is so tempting. And in hindsight, I guess that’s just part of the deal with anything creative. We all have crying days. That one just hit me out of the blue and so hard, it was like a concussion of depressing reality.
Six titles, though. Now THAT’S impressive 🙂
I completely get that. I reevaluate on a weekly, sometimes daily basis. I have a big family and juggling the career and the other responsibilities is often overwhelming for what kind of rewards? I think sometimes considering another route is a good idea, but ultimately, the choice is such an individual thing. Still, they say it’s a 10 year journey to gain name recognition while pushing a thirty-ton car up a hill. Eventually you get to the other side and it starts rolling down on its own, gaining speed as it goes–but not before testing every muscles and ounce of determination we possess.
Ten years? Sheesh. I sure hope the car doesn’t flatten me.
Thank you for sharing your fears. You saw my post about my ‘am I good enough’ quandary, so coming here and seeing how open you are with your darkest fears really touched me. I admire that you’re still fighting for your dream. I’ve been writing for eight years, and if you’d have told me at the beginning that after eight years I still wouldn’t have a book, I probably would have quit. I’m so glad I didn’t, and glad you’re not either! Now I’m off to check out your books! =)
Are you close to finishing something? Or in the middle? Why do you think you haven’t finished your book? And yes, I agree, I’m very happy you haven’t quit either!
I think everyone in every field of The Arts has that same feeling of inadequacy. We torment ourselves with it constantly and compare ourselves to others endlessly. It’s not like we want to, we just DO and it comes with the territory. That’s why we’re continually striving for perfection. Good luck in your endeavors. Me? I got two Arts to worry about, Music and Writing. I already know I kick-ass in the computer department, which is a story for another day, but that’s a science that I choose to practice as an Art! 😉 Your co-host Viola Fury, aka Mary
Writing AND music? What kind of music? Man, I can only imagine you’re even crazier and more-tormented than I am!
It does get discouraging, but you write because you love it. That is all. Just keep doing it. It’s okay to feel down about it sometimes. We all do. That’s just being human. But I gotta say, four books is pretty darn awesome!
Thanks, Gwen. Sometimes I’m really proud of myself that they’re out there, and other times I’m terrified that people are actually going to read them. I’m crazy. But I appreciate you stopping by 🙂
The question is, what is your goal with writing and publishing? Where do you think you are supposed to be? So you want to be a bestseller? Get an agent? Make a living? Win an award? Get some sweet lit groupies? It’s hard to quantify if you’ve made it or not if you don’t know where you’re going. If we don’t know what we want out of an endeavour (even if it’s just the satisfaction of completing it), of course we will feel discouraged. We can’t meet our goals if we don’t have them.
Putting out 3 books is a huge accomplishment worthy of celebration. Don’t undervalue that. And now decide what you want to get out of your next book, and keep moving forward.
Honestly? I just want to be able to write all day. Make enough to pay the bills and eat a little. If it comes with sweet lit groupies, then that’s a plus!
I started writing very late…so imagine my insecurities… 🙁
But I’m having the time of my life on this wonderful journey! 🙂
I’ll eventually publish a book…but I’m not putting too much pressure on myself.
Three books is a HUGE accomplishment, especially when you look at the statistics for those who write but may never finish a first draft…
Writer In Transit
One day I tell myself three books is awesome. The next I think “yeah, but they’re not very good. If they were good, people would be reading them.” I told you – I torment myself. But I appreciate you stopping by 🙂
This creative life we’ve set up for ourselves is one big roller coaster, and I am really afraid of roller coasters. 🙂 I’m learning the life choices we make have pros and cons – a creative life has its cons, absolutely, but its highs? There’s nothing like it. Hold onto the highs as best you can, and remember you’re not alone. 🙂
Thanks. The highs are amazing. I’ll try not to forget that when the lows seems attempt to drown me.
“Constant battle” nails it, also “Any kind of creative pursuit is torment.” My son intends to pursue creative avenues in college and I’ve begun the warnings about the impending struggle. Just want to make sure he knows what he’s in for – and as he ventures forth, I’m 100% behind his choices.
Something in you has chosen to continue on this route despite your doubts. Who knows what will happen, but you’ll be miserable if you give up now. The writing of this post alone is lovely and compelling. You have more than desire – you have true talent.
Thank you! That really means a lot.
I think it’s great you are warning your son about the difficulties that lie ahead. I come from an entire family of artists and they all hinted at the troubles but never focused on it so I never did. In a way I’m happy because had I known all the difficulties coming my way, I might have done something different. I don’t know.
I hear you, girl, and I’m right there, just a bit behind you. You’ve accomplished a lot so far. Have you heard of Jeff Goins? I haven’t pursued any of his services beyond watching his free videos and subscribing to his emails. It’s out of my price range. His primary focus is getting writers to the point where they can write for a living. I’m not that person, since I’m a content programmer. He offers registration twice a year (I think). You can check it out and see if it’s worth it to you.
Thanks, Loni. I’ll check into it 🙂
Some days it does feel like you’re sending all your hard work out into a void where nobody will ever read it. There’s so much competition, how can you ever succeed? I’d love to be able to make a living as a writer, but I doubt I’ll be lucky enough to hit it big. Even so, I’ll never give up writing. It’s what I love to do more than anything. So I’ll just keep putting it out there for my own satisfaction. It’s worth it to me just to hold my own book in my hands. But that’s my personal choice. Only you know what’s right for you. Maybe if you took a break to recharge, it might help you to decide whether or not to continue with your writing. You have three books out and you’re only 30. I’m twenty years older than you and I’m just getting ready to publish my second book, so you’re way ahead of me.
I love writing stories. I’ve thought about other career paths but none of them do anything for me. Nothing makes me happier than writing, so I figure that’s what I’m supposed to do with my life. But it doesn’t put food on the table. It doesn’t support me financially in any way, which means my time for it is limited.
Thank you for stopping by 🙂
I hear you. Aside from the obvious personal differences, I could have written this post myself. (And hey, the fact that you’re about to publish your fourth book puts you ages ahead of me.) I don’t know what to tell you, because how we work through all of this is different for everyone. But I hope you do keep going. You’re the one who keeps telling me I only fail when I give up, so I’m hoping you’ll remember that.
I don’t know; it’s just been harder than usual lately. I will keep going, though! No way I can’t. Thanks, Mason 🙂