All writers have dreams. It’s safe to say many of them — but certainly not all of them — want desperately to publish novels of their own creation. They grew up reading books, and WOW, wouldn’t it be SO COOL to hold a book you wrote in your own hands?
I, like many others, started writing books because of this desire. My ambitions have of course evolved and matured, and most days, I like to say I write because of the impact my words might have on other people.
But there are also those days I’m not sure if I’m even remotely reaching that goal. Like this morning, when halfway through my writing session, I stopped dead, took my hands off the keyboard, and realized that, technically, all the work I’d been doing for months on end could be considered pointless.
I actually sat back in my chair and said out loud, “Why am I even doing this? Does it even matter?!”
Because when I really thought about it, I realized I was spending at least 10 hours per week — if not more — working on a book that statistically has a very small chance of getting published. And even if it does get published, there’s even less probability it will sell well.
Would all that time ever be worth it?
I did quickly come to my senses, fix my posture, and continue writing despite my doubts and moment of uncertainty. The way I looked at it, I could either waste my time telling a story that made me feel good, or I could waste it wondering if I should keep wasting time telling a story that made me feel good.
If I’m going to waste time, I might as well waste it actually DOING something, right?
It’s extremely healthy and beneficial to experience moments like these — moments where you yank yourself out of the present and wonder if you’re doing the right thing. Moments that almost send you into a panic because you realize you don’t know if the project you’re working on right now will even lead to something worthwhile.
Do you ever feel like you have absolutely no clue what you’re even doing?
Good. Welcome to the writing life. Take a seat. Fasten your seatbelt. Hold on tight.
The truth is, no one who finds themselves in this mess knows what’s going on. The experts pretend, the veterans like to think they do, but none of us have a clue if we’re even on the right track.
It’s not a lack of confidence or that we’re not proud of our accomplishments or anything like that. As human beings, we’re often plagued with this desire to do something that matters — and we also habitually worry about silly things like whether or not people will remember us when we’re gone. (As John Green likes to say, everyone gets forgotten eventually. But that doesn’t stop us from trying to avoid the inevitable.)
Basically, it’s completely normal to feel this way. Even grown adults on the verge of retirement don’t know what they want to be when they grow up. The best thing you can do for yourself is everything that has a positive impact on your life and the lives of others. (I say ‘positive impact’ and not ‘makes you feel good’ because, like, drugs make you feel good (SO I’VE HEARD), but you probably shouldn’t do those.)
But just because it’s normal doesn’t mean it’s any less lonely or overwhelming. If you’re technically not going down any set path, is there even any point in moving forward at all?
Of course there is. But the good news is, we’re all stumbling down this unpredictable road at the same time. That means that at any point, if you’re ever feeling unsure, someone else probably is, too. You’re not the only one feeling lost, scared, frustrated, or on the outskirts of an existential crisis, either.
We’re all in this. We all understand. We’re all struggling. But we’re all also doing this for a reason.
Never forget your reason for wanting this. That’s the thing that’s going to carry you through all your doubts. Always keep your eyes on the thing you really want. It doesn’t matter if there’s a chance you’ll never get there. Why? Because you are going to learn and grow so much from this experience, whether it turns out in your favor or not.
That is what it means to be a writer. Accepting the journey no matter how it ends. Believing it could lead you into something amazing.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t have it all figured out. What matters is that you’re trying, and doing the best you can, and that you’re not giving up simply because you’re unsure. Some of the best things happen when you take a shot you aren’t sure you can make. You just might make it — and your life just might change for the better because of it.
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.