I made a promise to myself when this blog started taking off.
When I re-launched in 2015 I told myself: “No matter what happens, you’re going to be honest and real about what it’s like to be a writer. You can’t hide how you feel. People need to see what this is like and know they can survive it like you do.”
This is going to be one of those posts where things get real. If that’s not really your thing or you’re in need of something lighter today, feel free to close out and come back for another quick listicle tomorrow. Today, I need to share what I am thinking and feeling in the hope it will inspire and/or speak to someone out there who might need to hear what I have to say.
I’ve been struggling a lot lately with remembering why I get up in the morning and do what I do.
The truth is, it doesn’t matter how many years you spend writing, how many articles or blog posts you publish, how many books you write (even if you have yet to revise any of them extensively enough to feel comfortable sending out queries for them). Sometimes, being a writer just stinks.
There are days you’re really proud of something you worked on and no one reads or responds to it or shares it. There are days people do read and respond to it and their comments are all negative — sometimes even rude. There are days it feels like all the effort you’re putting into helping people with your words isn’t actually making a difference.
There are days you hate everything you write.
There are days you can barely write anything at all because … what’s even the point anymore.
I’m not just having one of these days. I’ve had many of these days in a row. And yet I’ve kept writing, kept posting, kept trying and failing to read the comments, kept pushing myself as hard as I possibly could because … this is just what I do. I go.
How do I go? I tell myself there are people out there who need me. Even if there aren’t.
This is not a mantra born of self-importance — trust me, if I thought even for a second I was important enough to deserve people’s attention, I wouldn’t be able to give out writing advice for free for the sake of helping people grow. I’m not that person. I grew up wishing I were invisible.
I tell myself people need me because I have to believe, at least in the smallest amount, that what I am doing matters to at least one person in the world. Just one. I hold onto that belief, and that is what gets me through.
I don’t need to help a thousand people get their books written, I don’t need to hear people tell me my advice has made a difference. I just need to believe one person, somewhere out there, is still writing because I helped them believe they could.
This mantra only comes around when I am feeling discouraged and overwhelmed by whatever my purpose might be in this world. And that is exactly why, even though I don’t enjoy these moments of emptiness and confusion and disappointment and pain, I am extremely grateful they occur. Every now and then they do, they come back to me, and every time I am reminded what I’m here for.
To help. To help using my words. To help someone. To speak to someone’s heart, to make them feel understood. Appreciated. To remind them they are important even if they don’t believe it.
When I think about quitting — when I begin to wonder why I even bother if I’m just going to keep falling on my face and having to pick myself back up every time — I also think about why I started doing this in the first place. I remember that I didn’t choose writing, writing chose me, and I have known from the beginning that I was supposed to use my privilege as a master of the words for good. To do something good, somehow, somewhere.
You have to have these moments of questioning. You have to have moments of reflection, to check in with yourself, to ask yourself if you are still doing the thing you are supposed to be doing.
Sometimes we don’t create these moments, so life creates them for us. If we don’t take the time to reflect, we are forced to make time to reflect. This seems to be one of those lessons I am going to have to learn and re-learn for the rest of my life — the hard way. But it’s a lesson I’m thankful for all the same.
Why do you write?
More importantly, why do you keep writing even when no one reads/people are mean/the job market is unfair/you are half convinced you don’t want to anymore?
Even though your answer to that question might not necessarily change, if you go too long without spending time with that answer, you run the risk of forgetting it. I know I do. I forget it all the time. That’s why I went to bed last night feeling like I would be one hundred percent satisfied if I never wrote another word. You get tired. You get fed up with the way things are. You just don’t know if anything you’re doing is “right.”
What I want you to take away from all this is that just because many writers feel the way you might be feeling right now does not mean your feelings don’t matter. It hurts to feel like you’re never going to move past this stage of your writing life. It hurts to wonder if there is anything out there better than this. It hurts to be afraid that if you walk away from your words now you will never come back.
Have faith that what you have your heart set on doing is right, and that you will find a way, and that as long as you keep writing, good things will happen for you. Be brave. Journey on.
If I can do it, I hope you can do it, too.
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.