When you start publishing your work — whether professionally through a publisher or casually though a free blogging site — things change. Suddenly, it feels like any hour you spend writing, you must spend it writing something your audience will see.
Why? Because writers, though they desperately wish otherwise, have limited time to do what they do. They’re often afraid that if they don’t spend it wisely enough, they’ll miss out on opportunities they feel they can’t afford to lose.
This can be a good thing. It can also be harmful.
Writing is an art. A skill. It’s also a tool that shapes who we are, or sets a mold for who we might eventually become. The ability to communicate things clearly on paper isn’t just a desired job skill. It’s a quality that can change us. Help us. Improve us.
We often forget that our journeys as writers started out with us composing broken sentences on notebook paper (theoretically), seen by no one, judged only by ourselves.
There’s no reason we can’t return to that every once in awhile, whenever we need to use our writing “superpowers” to sort through our private thoughts.
Keeping a private journal has saved me countless hours of anxiety and heartache. Sometimes you go through stuff. In no way are those pages of prose the best that have ever been written. But I’m still writing today because that process reminded me how powerful words are, even if you only keep them for yourself.
Also, it’s especially important, as a writer, to be mindful of other people’s perspectives on issues, and beliefs, and feelings. Sometimes the best way to understand someone else’s situation is to put yourself through it by telling a story. Even if you never share that story with anyone else, that work matters. It’s made you more open to new angles. It’s made you a better person.
Lately, personally, I’ve felt overwhelmed by sudden changes in my life. They’ve made me want to quit. They’re hard to think about, talk about, even write about.
But writing about them, as it always has, forces me not only to face them, but to face the world. You can’t run away from life’s obstacles. But if sitting down and writing through your pain is what gets you out of bed and through another day, well, thank goodness for writing. Where would you be without it?
I don’t know about you. But I’m not a writer because I need people to listen to my stories. I don’t write because I’m good at it. I write because it’s the thing that makes me feel like myself when nothing else can. I’m not me when I’m not writing, and so I keep doing it. Even when it’s hard to. Even when it’s hard to do anything at all.
Your reasons for writing might not run quite so deep. But whatever it is that calls you back to this thing, don’t ever forget you don’t have to always show it off. It can be just for you. You can have the public blog, and also keep your journal close. You’re allowed to separate your writing life into the professional and the personal. In fact, you may even be better off doing so.
Regardless, never stop writing. It’s more a part of you than you might realize. It’s what makes you who you are. Even when the “you” you once were has suddenly become someone new.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.