Recently, a good friend of mine talked about giving up writing. This may not seem as dire to you as it did to me, but my friend has been writing for years and her writing is good, it’s very good. She writes clever stories with lots of humour and great characterisation. What’s more, my friend is a bit of a perfectionist and she’s very detailed-oriented, so her writing is vivid and real and true. Plus, she’s one of the four of us who regularly get together to write together, to read over each other’s drafts, to lament over the obstacles to getting published and to collaborate on writing projects. So you can see why I was so concerned.
It wasn’t that my friend had stopped enjoying the process of writing but that she was questioning why she was writing in the first place…
Past Me got sucked into the evil trap of needing extrinsic motivation. When I figured this out, I was shocked. It came to me while writing a monologue of why I didn’t want to write anymore–HM Waugh
What my friend decided was that she needed to get back to writing for herself; for the intrinsic motivation of why she writes.
What’s crucial is whether your writing attains the standards you’ve set for yourself…Basically a writer has a quiet, inner motivation, and doesn’t seek validation in the outwardly visible. –Haruki Murakami, What I Talk ABout When I Talk ABout Running, (2008).
I’ve faced the exact same crisis. Why write when the chance of being published is so slim? Like my friend, I write because it’s fun. I could play the piano, or golf, or paint, except I’m not very good at those things and I’m not interested in becoming a proficient piano player, golfer or painter. I want to be a proficient writer; someone who brings the worlds inside their head to life on the page. Because sometimes the delight of writing makes me laugh out loud.
If there is any one thing I love about writing more than the rest, it’s that sudden flash of insight when you see how everything connects. –Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, (2000).
Elizabeth Gilbert refers to a creative life as an amplified life. A life that is bigger than your everyday life. A life that lets you dream of many lifetimes. I think of pursuing creativity as food for my soul.
I often need to put on a pair of blinkers, just so I can ignore the horrible reality of social media which seems to knock my self-confidence on a daily basis. With blinkers on, I can concentrate on finding that thing inside me that makes me see the world as bigger, brighter and more beautiful–that thing that makes me want to write.
As creatives who battle self-doubt and rejections on a daily basis, we don’t need to compare ourselves to others and our writing journey to their journeys. What matters is that what we create and how we create it, resonates deeply within ourselves.
I think Anne Lamott puts it best when she wrote:
Try not to feel sorry for yourselves, I say, when you find the going hard and lonely. You seem to want to write, so write. You didn’t have to sign up for this class. I didn’t chase you down and drag you by the hair back to my cave. You are lucky to be one of those people who wishes to build sand castles with words, who is willing to create a place where your imagination can wander. We build this place with the sand of memories; these castles are our memories and inventiveness made tangible. So part of us believes that when the tide starts coming in, we won’t really have lost anything, because actually only a symbol of it was there in the sand. Another part of us thinks we’ll figure out a way to divert the ocean. This is what separates artists from ordinary people: the belief, deep in our hearts, that if we build our castles well enough, somehow the ocean won’t wash them away. I think this is a wonderful kind of person to be. —Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (1994).
I don’t know about you but I’m going to give those sandcastles the best chance that I can, and I will keep on writing until it no longer gives me joy.
Related posts about writing:
- Staying true to your own journey
- Social media and the short story
- What now?
- Why does rejection hurt so bad?
- The debilitating lows and divine highs of a writer’s life
- Do you dream of becoming a published author?
- The four best pieces of advice for writers from Write Out Publishing
Find out more about NL King and her writing by visiting her website.