Ain’t that the truth? If writing was easy, everyone would do it. I don’t mean try to do it, I mean do it. The already heavily saturated market would be worse than it is now, but it’s not, because writing isn’t easy. I’m not only talking about the actual writing, though that’s hard as well. I’m talking about the emotional and mental staying power to keep going. To push ourselves from one scene to the next. It’s, simply, not easy to do.
I have found, in my time as a writer, that the people with the talent, skill, and desire to be a writer have two things in common.
1. A tendency to question their ability to write.
This usually revolves around the thought process of “I’m not good enough. I’ll never be good enough or be to the standards of (insert favorite author name here) so why do I keep trying?”
2. A desire to throw in the towel and give up
This usually follows the first one in quick succession. Phrases like: “I’m dreaming too big.” “I can’t do it.” “It’s too hard.” or, a personal one, “I’ve been working at this for (insert number of years here) without any success or results. Maybe it’s a sign.”
Most of the time, the really dedicated ones, let the thoughts and doubts roll over them for a few days then shake it off when inspiration hits them. I also have found that a fair amount of these thoughts happen during the writing hiatus, when there is a writer’s block, or one more rejection landed in their mailbox (digital or physical).
Our self-esteem and our drive takes a hit. It can lead to depression, giving up, or even forcing your family to deal with the case of the grumps. Sometimes it can last for months, for a few people, years. It’s devastating to the morale and often times, our family and friends take the brunt of it. Not because we mean to, but because when writing is so much of who we are and we can’t/won’t do it for whatever reason, it throws the whole system out of whack. We mourn it just like we would for any type of personal tragedy that hits us. We struggle through it, trying to ignore the deep-seated need to put word to paper, voice to character, dreams to reality.
Even harder, in my opinion, is when you see a fellow writer going through it. We scramble to try to boost their morale, to fill in the blank to the questions, and push them when their own motivation won’t do it. We do it because we know and understand, we’ve been there, we can empathize. This, I believe, is the primary reason why writers gather together in groups, physically or online, so that we can have that fall back system. Our families, bless them, they do their best to bolster us, but sadly to many they can’t fathom the full extent of how much work goes into it. Even when you talk their ear off about your newest idea, force them to listen as you read out loud your newest addition. They are understanding in that they realize we need that help, they are there for us. But when we start walking down the path of depression that will come, they can only hold our hand, nod and hope to say the right thing.
We love them for that, but at times like that, we also know that we have to talk to fellow writers because they get it in a completely different way. Instead of saying to us, “Hang in there, your hard work will pay off,” they say, “I know, it’s not easy. Take the break you need, because once you’re done, you’ll pick it back up because you just can’t help yourself.”
At moments like that I recall Sister Act 2 with Sister Mary Clarence (Whoopi Goldberg) talking to Rita Watson (Lauryn Hill) on the street corner. There she says the following after talking about either being a singer or head of the Ice Capades (“don’t roll your eyes, they were very cool”):
“I went to my mother who gave me this book…called Letters To A Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke. He’s a fabulous writer. A fellow used to write to him and say: “I want to be a writer. Please read my stuff.” And Rilke says to this guy: “Don’t ask me about being a writer. lf when you wake up in the morning you can think of nothing but writing…then you’re a writer.” I’m gonna say the same thing to you. If you wake up in the mornin’ and you can’t think of anything but singin’ first…then you’re supposed to be a singer girl.”
Just something to think about.