That negative self-talk we love to hate
Do you ever hear yourself saying in your head, “I can’t make any serious money from writing!” or “I’m going to end up a starving writer or a drunk or both!” or “What if I write a book and no one wants to publish it?!” or “What if I write a query and the editor thinks I’m an idiot and never opens my emails again?” and so on?
I do. I hear variations on all those questions moving through my head, especially when I’m feeling disheartened by the writing life. We writers delve deeply into the lives and therefore the emotional lives of our characters, or the topics for our articles and posts, often work in seclusion, and have to push ourselves daily to keep at it, to not give up long before anyone “shows us the money” so to speak.
So why do we write anyway?
Well, I’m sure the answer varies for everyone, but a lot of us I think feel it like a calling. If I don’t write regularly I feel as if I’m practically going through what I imagine withdraw symptoms feel like; I have trouble sitting still, my mind starts to jump all over the place, I have trouble following a conversation and I can even shake a bit. And I begin to feel distinctly disconnected from myself. That’s the worst. I literally feel lost.
That negative self-talk is BS though because we all know of SO MANY writers who make lots of money writing books, blogs, articles and on and on. No it’s not that we believe it can’t be done, it just that it’s such an exposing job.
I guess if you’re writing white papers or technical work it’s not as emotional, and that’s still a great way to make money as a writer, if that floats your boat. But when you’re writing something you’ve poured your heart into like a novel or non-fiction book or a magazine query or blog, it’s a pretty lonely feeling once you’re ready to release it to the world. It feels kind of like getting up in front of your elementary school class and showing them your favourite toy. What if they make fun of you or laugh at you or even worse steal your favourite toy (I had my original rubix cube stolen and I’ve never forgotten it!)? A very exposing feeling.
And did any of you ever take your second favourite toy to avoid the risk? To not feel as vulnerable? I bet we all did at one time or another. But when we’re writing, if we’re playing it safe and not giving it our all because we’re afraid of being rejected then we’re setting ourselves up for less than we deserve.
Writing is about being exposed
It’s about being real. And it takes real courage to do it. But it’s like any other skill, any other art, you’ve got to start at the beginning and keep going and practicing and doing it. Just like professional athletes who begin as children and fall and get up and lose and win. It’s the same progression. I think sometimes our egos get in the way and we forget that. We think we should get that first contract or get published immediately or suddenly have a million followers, but it doesn’t work like that, and if we take a step back and look in from the outside, we know it’s about hard work, perseverance, time, dedication, belief in ourselves and drive.
But there is a payoff. If you do keep at it and believe in yourself, and ultimately be who you truly are, and nothing less, then it will all come together for you. Maybe not immediately, but it will. Just ask J. K. Rowling, Christiane Northrup, Kate Norton, Diana Gabaldon, Laurie King, Jenny Lawson, Jacqueline Winspear and so many more!
I say, if they can do it then so can we!
From the series, Write On! by Jacqueline Snider, writer and editor