Writers put immense pressure on themselves to be brilliant and create great art. They try too hard to sound deep, they use words no one understands, and they insert meaning into incomprehensible sentences because that’s what all the greats do, right?
While you shouldn’t half-ass the work you’re going to share with the public, you don’t need to work hard to appear brilliant or create Pulitzer-worthy work.
I don’t know about you, but I just want to have fun when I write. I want to enjoy being a writer in my own way. My way is taking ten minutes to come up with original metaphors, curse words, and never knowing where I’m going when I start.
You’re a writer because you enjoy writing. Don’t ruin that love for yourself by trying to be someone you’re not. Writing with fancy words is like putting on makeup because you hate your acne scars.
But why hide what makes you human? What makes you you?
Tom Kuegler always talks about how he’s not a good writer because he’s too conversationalist-y. He doesn’t know that’s exactly what makes him a good writer. Because it’s him. (His 45,000 followers backs up my claim.)
He’s been on Medium for years now, and he hasn’t left because he hasn’t screwed up the process for himself by chasing greatness. He even said in an article once:
I’m having fun, not trying to be a millionaire.
The writing process gets boring once you start aiming for brilliance — not because wanting greatness is bad, but because people tend to shed their real selves along the way. They become someone they think they need to be to reach goals they don’t genuinely care about.
Greatness is living your life, your writing life — whatever that looks like for you — as yourself. It’s not knowing where you’re going to go, but walking forward anyway. (And you try to have as much fun as you can along the way.)
Right now you’re asking, “What will make me look the best?” But that’s when you start chasing the wrong goal. That’s when, three years down the line, you realize you hate writing because you put pressure on yourself to create something you were never passionate about in the first place.
The question you want to ask is, what do I want to write? What type of articles, essays, poems, or books do you want to write?
If they look like everyone else’s stories for a while until you find your own groove, so be it. If you have to write clickbait titles before people click whatever you write because you’ll have 10,000 followers, so be it.
The writer’s journey is an endless one, and you’re going to be a lot of different people between now and the day you die. Your writing changes with you.
Travel. Productivity. Personal essays about your childhood. Queer girls in space. Write what you want because you want to — even if none of these topics is going to win you awards.
Life’s not about labels and rewards. They’ll feel nice when you receive them — acknowledgment for your hard work always does. But that shouldn’t be the reason we live. The point of being alive is to live, period. Not to live for something.
Writing is a form of living. Writing for something is not living.
All this pressure you put on yourself is because you don’t feel good enough. Because you feel like you’re going to fail if you keep being your “basic, boring” self.
But what defines failure?
Writing your book or your article, no matter what it’s about, and then sharing it with the world to read is the biggest fucking win there is. What happens as a result doesn’t matter.
You got to do something you love. Most people are still wondering how to do that (or what they even love).
Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.” — Barbara Kingsolver
You don’t need to write books you’ll hope will become classics. Classics are boring anyway. They’re hard to understand and so slow sometimes I just want to tear my eyes out. You don’t need to write articles in hopes of virality. You just have to write.
It’s not just about writing what you want, but writing what you feel you need to say.
As Maya Angelou said:
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
What are the stories that are dying to crawl out of you? What are the messages you want to share with your readers? What are some lessons you want to teach? How do you want to make people feel? What do you want to make them feel?
You don’t need to make someone feel inspired or happy. Stephen King likes scaring people, right? Maybe you want to open your readers’ eyes to injustice or make them laugh so hard they forget what’s happening in the world, or even cry.
Whatever it is, write it. Even if you have no idea how people will react to it or that you could never possibly win anything for it. Let the results happen without your immediate involvement.
Even if you don’t understand everything there is to understand about writing, who cares? Even if you suck right now, you should write. You probably won’t get any reads. You might go three months before you receive a comment. Who cares?
You’re writing, and you’re growing. And one day, people will read your work. You might even unknowingly become great.
Don’t bullshit your way through writing, of course. I’m not saying you should suck the whole time and refuse to learn, but why take everything so seriously all the time? We’re meant to love what we do (even if we don’t love it all the time).
Fuck brilliance. Write the story that’s inside of you right now, even if it makes no sense and looks kind of ugly. Those are the ones that, after a while, become your whole damn world. They’re the ones that end up meaning something.
Write your heart out. You’ll love it more than if you try to be great.