“Nothing I’m doing is making a difference. No one cares about what I’m working on. What’s the point?”
I would be surprised if a string of thoughts similar to this has never woven through your mind.
Here’s the truth: Every writer has bad days. Every writer struggles. Every writer experiences moments of existential dread. These “what am I doing here” moments aren’t fun. They can feel stressful and overwhelming and make it hard to get things done.
But these moments can also allow for times of much-needed self-reflection and honesty about the things we as writers truly want.
If you’re having a rough day, and it feels like everything you have tried to write has fallen flat or you haven’t been proud of it, keep reading. I’m writing this post especially for you.
And if you’re having an OK day and writing doesn’t seem so terrible, you never know — something in here might really resonate with you and help you somewhere down the road.
Being a writer is hard. Especially in the beginning, when it can feel as though you’re competing against everyone else for your work to “be seen.”
Everyone who is writing for the purpose of making a name for themselves wants people to read their work. They want to know it’s making a difference. Knowing this motivates them to keep going even when they’re working as hard as they can and it feels as though nothing is coming of it.
The problem is that there is too much “stuff” out there for everyone’s work to get noticed. Everyone who is publishing is putting their work out there, and people choose what they want to or have time to read and leave the rest behind.
This isn’t easy for a writer.
Writers put A LOT of time and effort into their work. The hours are long and lonely, the stress is exhausting, and often people have to figure out how to fit writing into their schedule because life is hectic and our world isn’t built to accommodate the odd needs of creators.
When you’re putting that much of yourself into what you’re doing — into a dream, into something you really care about — it’s really, really challenging to keep going when there’s no obvious reward. No one’s telling you you’re doing a good job. No one’s encouraging you to keep pushing forward. No one, it seems, hears you.
And that can make it feel as though what you’re doing isn’t worth it at all.
Well I’m here to tell you that it is, in fact, worth it. YOU are worth it.
Your work matters to at least one person in this world. Even if that one person is you.
So in these moments you feel like you’re screaming as loud as you can and no one hears you, remember that it’s OK to be loud. It’s OK to speak your mind. It’s OK to be exactly who you are, always, whether someone else is watching or you’re all on your own.
But it’s also OK to dance in the void. To make a song out of your sorrow. To use your alone time to create something beautiful. To take all the time you need to figure out if you’re doing the work that truly matters to you — and how to change that, if you aren’t.
I used to be afraid of the void. I used to hate it. I was wary of the dark and felt overwhelmed by the silence. But over time I have begun to learn that I am at my most creative when I am on my own. When no one’s watching, you are free to do what you please. You can write what you want. No one can judge you. There’s no one around to judge.
If you truly let yourself thrive in this place, you learn not to be afraid. You come to understand that mistakes happen, things go wrong, and sometimes you end up making things that just aren’t good. But you made them, you tried, you DID something. And the more you do that, the easier it gets to compartmentalize your negative emotions and focus only on what you want to create.
This road is not easy. But you are doing something that counts.
I don’t know if you needed to hear any of this today. But I know I did.
Every writer is different. We write in different genres, in different styles. We create different characters who explore different worlds. But day in and day out we go through very similar ups and downs. Some days we absolutely fall in love with what we’re writing. Other days we can barely stand to look at it.
Some days we are reminded that what we do every day has already begun to make a difference. And plenty of others we collapse into ourselves wondering if every compliment we have ever received was nothing more than a lie born of sympathy.
We are each individuals striving to somehow make our marks on the world. But as a whole we are all celebrating and struggling and winning and losing and thriving and failing all at once.
We are never in this alone. You are not in this alone.
Remember that, the next time you feel like a writer with a solution to a problem no one seems to have. Not only is there someone out there somewhere who will find your words and be changed by them, but there is also someone who feels what you are feeling, who knows the pain you know. This doesn’t make your pain any less severe. It doesn’t downgrade your feelings. It just means what you’re going through is something people go through — and “through” is the key phrase here. You will get through. We will all get through.
Your work matters to someone. They may never tell you. You may never hear someone say it out loud.
But in order to keep going, you have to believe it’s worth it. You have to find a reason to keep going even when going seems very, very hard.
You can do this. I can do this. We can all do this.
Never give up. Keep going. Keep believing it means something.
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.