Can I be real for a minute?
I feel as if I’ve lost my way as a writer, particularly when it comes to fiction.
Before continuing, let me say one thing. If you, as a writer, have struggled with doubts, fears, questions, know you’re not alone. I wrote this for myself, but also for you.
To Be a Writer, or Not to Be a Writer
NaNoWriMo (aka National Novel Writing Month) starts today. Shouldn’t I be excited? Shouldn’t I be chomping at the bit with glee, ready to hurl myself headlong into a new story? After all, I’m a writer.
Or am I?
I’m not saying one’s participation (or lack thereof) in NaNo is a measure of one’s writer-ness. The principle is what matters. People doing it are writing, getting words on paper (or screen).
Of course, I write plenty of things—college papers, blog posts, a monthly newsletter—so that counts as being a writer. But that’s not what I’m talking about.
We’re told we should want to write. It should be a passion, a burning desire that when thwarted leaves us feeling empty. Incomplete. Writers not writing are like fish out of water. It doesn’t fit.
As I scroll through Facebook getting notification after notification about my friends who are doing NaNo, I wonder, What’s happened to my writing? Where’s the passion, the need-to-do-this drive?
I participated in NaNo two years ago, as an excuse and motivation to start a new fantasy novel. Since finishing that novel, I’ve written a handful of flash fiction stories and a novella.
Forget about Writer’s Block. This feels more like Writer’s Incapacitation. It’s not a rut, it’s a full-on ravine, complete with dark crevices and grim echoes.
Writers and Fear
If you’re a writer, chances are you’ve struggled with similar problems. Maybe not to the same degree. But we’re a fragile bunch, prone to much fear, anxiety, and self-doubt.
- My book isn’t good enough.
- I don’t have talent.
- I’ll never become a bestseller.
- Compelling scenes are impossible.
- My characters are flat.
- My plots are bland.
- Ideas are hard.
On and on it goes, to infinity and beyond.
We have friends to encourage us. That helps.
We attend conferences, read books, scour writing websites, listen to podcasts, all in the name of bettering our craft, improving our skill. Such efforts bolster our confidence in our abilities. We want to fulfill that dream of getting published, of having a book people read and enjoy.
I used to be that person. Lately, I fear it has become a passing interest. “I don’t have time,” I say. “I just need to finish college. Then I’ll get back to it.”
Yet I wonder. Will I?
Will that spark return, or has the long-smoldering passion finally cooled to nothing but ashes?
There’s certainly something to be said for pushing through. Inspiration isn’t required in order to plop yourself in front of your computer, set fingers to keyboard, and start tapping away. Even if that’s the last thing on earth we want to do.
After a while, as we know, the joy returns. Energy and passion spark our creativity once again. Words flow, ideas explode into our brains, and we’re in a groove.
Problem is, what happens when even the determination to write no matter what, has vanished? I ask myself if I can, even should, climb out of the ravine I find myself in. Is it worthwhile to fight through? Even when the attempts at writing, mainly through blogging, seem to reach a pitifully few number of readers?
“Week after week, year after year, you’ve slogged away,” the doubt whispers. “And what do you have to show for it? Who reads your work? Who cares?”
Some people believe a writer should be happy even if she writes for no one but herself. If no set of eyes but her own glimpse the stories she’s created, the writing process itself should be sufficient reward.
That’s not me. I write because I enjoy it, sure. More than that, though, because I enjoy sharing stories with others.
I think every writer secretly—or not so secretly—covets an audience. People who care enough to take time to read their stories or blog posts.
And when we don’t have that, when we continue to toil up the mountain with no end in sight and precious few readers interested in what we’re doing, the temptation sets in.
To give up. To question why we’re even doing this.
It’s easy to compare ourselves with the successful writers.
- Why does so-and-so have a multi-book deal? My stories are just as interesting.
- That blogger has a following the size of Federation Empire. And here I am over in my corner, blasting out post after post that hardly anyone pays attention to.
Maybe you’re like me—wondering, uncertain where your path will lead.
And if you’re one of the fortunate humans in existence outside the doubting writer category, SHARE YOUR SECRETS AND REVEAL THE MYSTERIOUS OF THE UNIVERSE AND I WILL SEND YOU CHOCOLATE AND COFFEE FOREVER. (I’m joking—mostly.)
I’d love to hear what writing struggles you’ve had, and more importantly, how you’ve overcome them. Leave a comment and let’s talk.