I don’t know about y’all, but one of the things I love about writers is our optimism. We’re convinced that someone — somewhere out there — will love our stories, and actually pay money to read them. We boost each other with Attagirl! and You’ve got this! We encourage each other in critique groups and writing fellowships and online. We Like and Favorite each other’s blog posts and tweets and books and websites.
It seems there’s nothing we can’t find a way to cheer each other on about.
But there’s a very real chance that we’re also blowing smoke up each other’s asses when we do that, especially when the Attagirls come fast and furious with no sober recognition of a few basic truths.
Writing is hard.
Sometimes we don’t feel like writing.
It is statistically impossible for every aspiring writer to be traditionally published.
It is statistically improbable that everyone will be a raging self-publishing success.
It’s okay to cry about these things.
It’s okay to hate writing.
It’s okay to quit writing for a month, or six months, or forever.
But it is not okay for me to pretend that somehow, some way, everything in my writing life is going to be okay if I just believe. (Somebody bring me a puke bucket, ASAP.) Trying to live in that kind of fantasy beats me down, wears me out, sucks me dry, and then piles a big ole heap of You should be doing better than this on my head. Yeah, you heard me: I “should” all over myself.
Tell me at what point any of this sounds productive and healthy.
It ain’t. What’s productive and healthy is realizing when I’m lying to myself.
If I’m saying, “I want to be a writer” (whatever “being a writer” means), and then never find the time or energy to put anything on the page, then clearly I don’t actually want to “be a writer.” This goes all the way back to my gardening post. I can take classes and read craft books and download novel-writing software all I want, but if I’m finding that any activity in the world is more enjoyable than hammering out a few sentences here and there, then I’m deluding myself about what I want.
I’m in the second half of my life, and I simply don’t have time for those kinds of shenanigans anymore. My particular spiritual path encourages me to encounter my life — my situation, my feelings, my blind spots — as it arises. Not turning away to bingewatch Netflix or hang out all day on Facebook or Tumblr. Not telling myself over and over that I want to write when clearly that’s the last thing I want to do.
Are you having a hard time getting and staying motivated? Hey, I know exactly what you’re saying. This shit is tough, especially if we don’t have critique partners or readers to encourage us (and sometimes even when we do).
Are you ready to throw in the towel on your WIP? I hear ya. I’ve got an abandoned manuscript or two myself because even the thought of rewriting the damn things to make them work defeats me.
Sales in the tank? I wrote action-romance for a major publishing house and it didn’t matter how good those books were: We never came close to making a living.
Marketing and self-publishing getting you down? Yeah, I hate having to do a sales job on myself, too. I suck at it, frankly, and would rather cut off my left arm than run a Facebook campaign.
There. Now that we’ve gotten honest, talked about reality, and faced a few things, we can start talking about remedies and stratagems, and actually have a snowball’s chance of changing something.
I suspect I’ve been able to hit the Write or Consequences challenges partly because I give myself permission to “fail” (again, whatever that means). But that permission is set against a backdrop of what I know to be true about myself and what I want. I’m not clinging like glue to a pipe dream I can’t quite reach, so I don’t turn my “performance” into another way to beat myself up.
My truth is this: I will probably never make a living from my fiction. I write the wrong kind of stories for that. They don’t match “best practice” commercial fiction writing. There’s nothing snappy, quirky, or otherwise catchy about the writing, titles, or characters. Other published authors and aspiring writers judge my work against today’s commercial fiction yardstick and find my stories lacking, and I’m okay with that.
And my truth is also this: I want to write stories that come out of my gut, that tell my emotional truth, and reflect what I hope is the truest, best part of myself. My truth is that I can stop writing at any time I choose, take a break, and write what I want when I want — and I don’t have to feel guilty about it.
What will you give yourself permission to feel today?
Sandra K. Moore has been writing one thing or another since she could scribble on a Big Chief tablet. A former Silhouette Bombshell author, Sandra has given up (temporarily) the kickass heroine and is now writing from her softer side for the self-published Promise House series. This novella quartet explores the journeys of four young women finding their way — and remaining true to themselves — through the social expectations and turmoil of 1950’s Houston.