07 September, 2011

The Sum of A Writer

My writing habits have been atrocious the past couple of months. Since I wrote the last post, I have done nothing well. My novel has received three more rejections, my work in progress is, well, not in progress, and I can't even put the finishing sentence on a simple children's short story. I suck at being a writer.
This is the negative, overly critical side of myself. This is the part of me that loves listing my faults and my utter worthlessness in 'trying' to be a writer. This is the me that makes the rest of me curl up into a ball and cry for three days straight because I'm such a useless wannabe.
Sound familiar?
Because, honestly, these thoughts aren't new. I've heard them before in my own mind but, also, from other writers. It's a poisonous circle that we all know must be squelched as soon as possible but we still engage in when the going gets tough.
The toughness for me right now is my current trials. I've been struggling for the past few days with the knowledge that writing is my passion...but my fear of not being a genius with the first words I put to paper is keeping me from doing it at all. My sporadic writing habits the last few months have given me even more woes since the first words tend to be much less than perfect. I want to give it up rather than see myself stumble around as I get back into practice.
Then I read something by my good friend, Jen. She quoted Sol Stein in his book How to Grow A Novel: “A writer is someone who cannot not write… a nonwriter is someone who can write or not, who does not have the drive and need to put words on paper.” It spoke to me in a very real way about my own problems in this area. I was struck by the thought that writing in and of itself makes a writer. To hang in there, to persevere despite not seeing the fulfillment of your goals, is the very thing that will bring those goals to fruition.
I had lost sight of that. I have been writing with the goal of publishing my first novel now for eight years. I still don't have my first novel published. But I have written and edited several novels. I have written numerous short stories. Several folders are stuffed to bursting with my poetry. Not only have I accomplished these things, which should make me proud, but I have gotten several of these short works, fiction and non-fiction, published. I am currently a freelance ghostwriter for a web content supplier.
And I'm a failure as a writer?
There are times that not "being there" will be the most depressing thing we, as writers, can experience. Other writers will seem so much smarter and happier and more successful. Some days, the prose that flows from our fingertips will...not be flowing. It will be more like sludge. An ugly, messy sludge that you've just tracked all over the carpets. But it doesn't mean it will always be that way. It doesn't mean that we're failures or that, somehow, what we're doing right now in our writing doesn't matter. It does. Hanging in there gets you where you're going. It's progress. Progress isn't worthless or some miniscule achievement that should be ridiculed. It's the thing that makes us what we are.
Today, I didn't add to my work in progress. But I did put words to paper. Sort of. (Words to computer just doesn't have the same ring.) And that's not a failing. It's one more day of being a writer. One step at a time.


  1. Jess, I love this piece. It's so true of so many of us. I'm so glad that you're realizing that those feelings and fears do not make or break you as a writer. You have an incredible gift and I look forward to seeing where it takes you as you continue to grow your craft!

  2. Thank you, my friend. It's a day-by-day process that is sometimes harder than it seems it should be, but we'll get there someday. :)


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