Why Your Disappointments as a Writer are a Positive Thing
We celebrate our victories. We use the positive feedback we receive for our writing for fuel to keep going. It’s our disappointments, however, that are the true heart of the writer.
They call our society a fast-food culture. We want instant results. We want the subscribers list that exponentially grows, we want revelation and inspiration for our work to arrive on demand, and we want the paychecks for our art to roll in and let us know that we are worthy of being called artists.
We’re hard-wired for success. Success is great. We should be recognized when our work is good and we should absolutely seek to be paid for our art. Feedback and encouragement from our peers can be like water in the desert when the vultures seem to be circling over our creative lives.
No one, however, wants to read anything by anyone whose path to writing success has been easy. Name an artist who hasn’t been cut down from time to time with self-doubt, even self-condemnation. Name a writer whose journey to recognition has been a casual one in the comments section below and we will research it together.
The mind’s tunnel vision closes in on the taunting blankness of the white page and no ideas are coming. I wonder if I have no writing talent to speak of. I wonder if I’m only a hack with delusions of grandeur. The well seems to run dry occasionally and writing can become grim work. It certainly doesn’t feel good. Being bent over a laptop with a steadily folding brow is what it looks like. I feel like I’m the one trying to teach the proverbial pig to sing, and I’m also the pig.
So, how could all this pressure and lack of confidence possibly be a positive thing?
I think there is a vital piece of the puzzle that I and other writers often overlook in our hastiness to produce a desired result — To persevere without fruit is the truly holy season. To walk hand in hand with my doubt and frustration is nourishment subtle and profound. Writing uninspired is my signal to the heavens that I am serious. It is flying the “open for business” sign to the story that seeks to be told through me.
Knowing this is a small part of the battle. Believing this does not necessarily lower the blood pressure as my finger wraps away on the backspace button for its third sequence in under a minute. Breaks from the hesitant pecks on the keyboard to chew my fingernails to the skin are still taken.
Keeping this in mind, however, is a necessary part of my battle.
Is There a Light at the End of the Creatively Stuck Tunnel?
What is actually involved with the creative process? We put the required emphasis on showing up to write and developing a discipline with our art. The seed of our work is planted in our minds. Our fingers take it from there, transcribing the ideas of the spirit into the hard reality of black-and-white type. The fingers do the work with writing.
So, what would we do with our minds while our fingers are busy?
We use a significant amount our mind’s energy to judge and evaluate. “This is good.” “This isn’t good.”
- If we believe in the “this isn’t good” enough, writing can amount to self-prescribed torture.
- Selling ourselves into “this is good” can be a slippery slope to “this isn’t good.” The mind is a powerful thing.
When I’m pounding away on the backspace button, I find that I’m focused on what I don’t want to happen. I find myself believing with certainty that I will waste a day writing absolutely nothing of value. Writing becomes a matter of stubborn will power. There’s no love involved and there’s no smiles.
I Think There is a Way to Use the Mind for Our Benefit
I can tilt the momentum if I use the frustration. I can look at the obsessive nitpicking and self-doubt as the triggering of a navigation system. It’s warning me that the mind is beginning to go off course. I then remind myself of intention.
I can focus on why I write.
- The story wants to be told through me. I recently wrote a piece for another person’s blog. I was not happy with it. I was sure that the grammar was atrocious, the flow too wordy and broken up, and the message of the article itself pointless, dull, and vague. Later in the evening, I was making dinner. I was admiring the uniform distribution of cayenne and garlic powder along the blackened crispiness of the flounder filet when a thought occurred to me — I had never read or heard anything like the article I had written a few hours prior. It was not that it was the best post ever written. It was just so new and unique to me. The ideas contained in the post, accumulated together from different influences and experiences, had coalesced through a view of the world into the flavor and vision of the person now eccentrically examining the scold marks over a piece of fish. I think about that when I’m calling myself a hack.
- Small beginnings are the best beginnings. I recently attended the wedding of a dear friend of mine. I started a chat with the wedding’s photographer at the buffet table. I asked him how photography had started for him. He told me that he had played in a band, that he had taken the band photos, and had always been real into art in general.
“Yeah.” he responded when I asked if photography was his main source of income.
If I were to be so bold as to burden my experience with this man with the English language, I would say it appeared that this guy did something because he enjoyed it, did it more because it became a hobby, did it regularly because he believed in it, and was now being paid for it. The man seemed happy.
I talk about how I started writing in my first post. I’ve always liked to write and always had a knack for it. I made a decision that I would write regularly. I began to devote resources to it — time, effort, money, conversation, networking, classes, etc. I think about this when I feel like a failure. It helps to look at the suffering in a different light. This is a discipline now, and hard work will pay off. I think about how my writing world has expanded in the short amount of time since I began to network with other writers and put myself out there. My sense of wonder comes back, and I am reminded that I can’t fit my calling into the confines of my categorizing and task-oriented mind.
Your calling is who you are, but you don’t have the ability to fit it’s totality into your reasoning mind. It starts with a start. Try to look at the writers block differently. Try to look at the difficulties of the writer differently.
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*First graphic is “Waves of Turbulence” by D.E. Ingram, Boulder, CO artist. See his excellent portfolio at http://daningramblog.wordpress.com
Originally published at donaldhuffman.com.