Writing is a lot harder than many people think. And I don’t mean the process of telling a story — most of us tell stories to our friends, co-workers, and Twitter followers every day. We know how to do that, even though we’re often convinced we don’t.
What most writers struggle with is the process of getting from “I want to be a successful writer” to “I have succeeded as a writer.” There are many action steps that bridge these two points in time, and issues arise when a writer figures out their dream isn’t as easy to achieve — isn’t as easy to begin pursuing, even — as they imagined it would be.
Many successful writers are honest about the fact that it’s a tough business to break into. Agents get dozens of queries, most websites and magazines that accept beginners’ work don’t pay. Everyone and their friend wants to publish a book, and half of them are actively trying at the exact same moment you are.
But not enough of them are talking about the internal struggles aspiring and working writers face. The doubt. The frustration. How mush of our self-worth we invest into our success, and how that affects our ability to bounce back from the dark depths of creative despair.
Here’s more honesty from the heart of someone who’s Been There: You’re going to face plenty of moments during which you are 95 percent convinced you no longer want to be a writer. It’s too hard. It takes too much time. What are your chances of even succeeding anyway? It’s not worth it. Every person who ever told you that you’d never “make it” as a writer was right.
Sometimes you recover from these thought spirals. You snap back into reality, take a deep breath, and keep writing even when it’s an obvious struggle to do so.
Sometimes you don’t, though. Sometimes you’re so sure you’ll never run a successful blog or publish a novel or work full-time as a writer — whatever your goals are, I’m just guessing — that you struggle more and more just to get into a mental state barely suitable for writing.
There are people who just stop trying. They’ll make other excuses, blaming their lack of time, their kids, their schoolwork, their demanding day job. But beneath the surface lies the truth they don’t want to speak aloud: That writing got hard and they gave up.
The good news is that you can always come back from giving up where writing is concerned. That’s because writing is a part of you. You can’t just throw it away or sell it or give it away. It’s not a guitar you finally dragged over to a resale shop after watching it sit in the back of your closet collecting dust for eight years. Creativity is quite literally in your bood, pumping through your veins. To get rid of it would mean, well, destroying a vital part of yourself.
Maybe today you need to hear that all your struggles and worries and fears are normal, and that they’re rites of passage that will allow you to progress through more trials and become the master writer you’ve always wanted to be.
I needed to hear it this morning, so I figured you might too. We’re all the same, you know. Just because I give free writing advice doesn’t mean I’m immune to creative hardship.
All the long nights, the rejections, the temptation to quit — it’s all part of your growth. You learn something new every single time you fail, even if it’s not obvious. You also learn something new every time you seriously consider giving up on your creative dreams: What it takes not to give up.
The reason writing is a challenge isn’t usually the writing itself. It’s getting to a place where you believe writing is possible, and staying there, and returning to it whenever you begin to wander.
The difference between wannabe writers and successful creatives is that writers who “make it” do so because they write through their doubt. They create through their fear. They recognize that worrying about their future success is a part of the journey, and they use that worry to fuel their productivity. They work harder, and smarter, because they don’t want to fail. They don’t give up because they’re afraid of failing.
You’re going to make it.
As long as you keep writing through all the bad feelings, you’re going to be just fine.
Believe it or not, you’re much stronger than you think you are. Your doubt and discouragement want you to believe you aren’t. But they’re wrong. And you can prove they’re wrong by writing.
That’s how powerful creativity is. When you turn it into something amazing and show it off to everyone who said you couldn’t do it — including your past self — it changes everything. It makes you believe in yourself again.
You’re going to make it. Even if no one else believes in you, I still do.
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.