Monday, October 12, 2015

In Which I Don't Ditch Writer's Life

Illegible (crossed-out) ownership inscription
Flickr Credit: POP

I am back! Hooray, hooray. Yes, I am doing wonderfully, thanks for asking. How are you?

Today is Monday, which is Writer’s Life day. I have a schedule, if you hadn’t noticed—and it is CHANGING. Instead of four posts a week I’m cutting it down to three: Mondays will still be Writer’s Life, Wednesdays will now be Reader’s Life, and I’ll alternate between Thursentaries, Blogger’s Life, and WBI at the end of the week. What can I say? Life is life.

But let’s chat about Writer’s Life. For the record, I didn’t take a break because I didn’t have Writer’s Life posts prepared—I did—but I wasn’t feeling the Writer’s Life Groove.

I haven’t written much lately. I can make excuses like homework and work and commuting, but those are all terrible excuses because I care way more about writing than I ever could about school. Not to bash school, of course, school is fine—but it is temporary, and represents a lot of things I am good at but don’t really matter in the long run.

I know I should write but between fatigue and interruptions and procrastination and the mood of deepest contempt that comes when you haven’t had any quality alone time in four months, I do not write.

So it feels like there shouldn’t be a Writer’s Life day. Who am I kidding? I’m not a writer, I’m a noncommittal hobbyist with delusions of creativity and a remora-like attachment to real ones.

The Internet becomes a cruel friend because it’s easy to find other people’s accomplishments. Other writers are like, “I wrote a bajillion words today, go me!” and “Good news, I have plans to write hundreds of books!” and “Yay! Five thousand people ALL LOVE MY BOOK.”

And I am like, “Well, today I booted up my laptop and resented life.”

But the way things are is usually not how things seem. Undoubtedly people will say, “Surprise, surprise: everyone’s life is like that, Heather.” And I know. You get ninety rejections for every one acceptance, you have bad days. People are honest about that online. More than that, my life is pretty good—I recently finished The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie and it reminded me that my life does not suck at all. Not even a little bit.

We aren’t all perfect writers. But it still bothers me, because in the end I’m still comparing myself to that perfect writer, and even if perfect writers don’t exist I still know what it is to be one. The most productive person on earth. The wittiest. The most intelligent, passionate, engaging, entertaining, lasting, symbolic, treacherous, satisfying, capable, successful writer on earth. And even if I know they don’t exit it is easy to find writers who are better than me at those things. It’s easy to compare myself to an ideal.

And so today I think I would like to flip that writer off.

Like, screw that. Writing is a cycle. A process. You don’t suddenly attain this height of writerly amazingness and after that get everything right. We continually return to square one of Ground Zero. It’s a fight. But just because you’re on the sidelines doesn’t mean that you can’t still get back in the game. We don’t write because we’re keeping score, we don’t write to beat the other writers.

We write because we must and we can. And we write because it doesn’t leave us alone.

And so even though I’m still on the same novel I was last November and even though it spends most of the day untouched in its sad little folder and even though it’s disappointing that I sometimes can’t fit everything I’d like in my day, it doesn’t mean I’ve stopped being a writer. I’m just a writer who still has a longer way to go.

That being said, it is either my great pleasure or my deep regret that Mondays are still devoted to Writer’s Life.

Do you ever feel like you aren’t a real writer? How do you overcome that feeling?


27 comments :

  1. *heaps takeout at your door* You are ABSOLUTELY a writer. I mean, some people draft quicker than I think about drafting *cough*Cait*cough*, and some people, wow, they're agented or they're published or they're making a living from writing?!? But I think that no matter whether writing is a hobby or a career or just this thing you blog about now and then and occasionally you take out your manuscript and correct a typo, it's important we don't give up on being a writer.

    So yeah, go you, Heather. Don't stop being a writer. Write that novel about bagel-loving Death because I kind of need that desperately.

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    1. AHEM. I just met someone who wrote half a million words in a month, so I'm gonna shut up and sit quietly in my little corner. XD

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    2. HOW?!?

      Half a million words...in a month...I don't even write that much in a year...Or two years...Maybe even THREE years...

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    3. @Alyssa: Aw, thanks. :) And you're right that some of us are faster than others (you know we love you, Cait, okay?) but you're right: being a writer isn't defined by productivity or anything more.

      *waggles eyebrows suspiciously*

      @Cait and Ana: BUT THAT IS OVER 16000 WORDS A DAY?! Dude. They're intense. Like camping.

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  2. *sigh* I know those feelings all too well. I compare myself to other writers a lot...and it discourages me. Then procrastination kicks in. Heather, I understand...but keep writing as much as you can and try not to compare yourself! I think you are a fantastic writer...your blog is awesome!

    Keep writing!!!

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    1. Yeah, it can be tough to get past it all, eh? But thanks for your support, Alea—one of the best things about times like these is we can always rely on each other. And so, I return the same the same wish to you: keep writing!

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  3. "Like, screw that. Writing is a cycle. A process. You don’t suddenly attain this height of writerly amazingness and after that get everything right. We continually return to square one of Ground Zero." Amen to that. :) I struggle a lot with feeling that if I were really a writer, I would spend all my free time writing because I couldn't help it, or I would always have the desire to write, or whatever, but instead I'm always dragging my feet...but there's no one kind of writer and no one way to write. It's a process and we all have to work through it in different ways and if it just doesn't happen every available hour or every day or even every week hey, that's cool. Keep it up!

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    1. Right? I've always been taught to make use of your time, but sometimes it's like, "I would just feel better watching Youtube for an hour." And sometimes you have to accept that. Either way, we it doesn't mean we stop being that thing just because we aren't doing that thing 24/7.

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  4. (Yes I'm commenting twice but FORGIVE ME.) Omg I relate to this post so much. sometimes I don't feel like a real writer. I KNOW, RIGHT!? Seems stupid. I have an agent and I can write a book in a really short amount of time. Buuuut, there are days when I can't even do words. And I read incredible books by published authors and know my writing is like crayon dribble next to that. Then there are the rejections which people say "don't take personally" but pfft. Does that ever work?! A rejection sucks and makes you feel inept. The end. And some days writing is so hard I hate it fiercely and I refuse to even think about it and I think of a million other things I'd like to do instead of trying to make a career in, like, one of the hardest creative fields ever.

    BUT WRITING IS A JOURNEY. Just like you said. And every writer is different and I think we do get too caught up comparing ourselves sometimes. So this post = wonderful. That is all. *nods*

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    1. (Ey, comment as many times as you want. Unless you are spam, then get thee back in thy can.)

      And I feel like it's kind of interesting you say that, just because I'd guess so many people tell themselves things like "as soon as I get an agent, then I know I'm a REAL writer." But you yourself have just proved that doesn't even the case! But I have to agree—writing is hard. Hard hard hard. Nobody said the journey was easy, right?

      Thanks for reading, Cait!

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  5. I never feel like a real writer, and I try to remind myself that writing is more about, you know, actually writing than feeling like a real author, and that helps...sometimes. I'm not the world's fastest drafter, either, so whenever I hear stories about people who can I tend to get discouraged. But in the end I think writing is about learning to enjoy your own process, however slow or fast it might be, and writing stories you love. If you're not doing that, what's the point?

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    1. This is especially hard for me, too. I mean, I don't like drafting long—if I draft long I get super super bored. And if I just think about how I can't handle ridiculously long first drafts I'll never feel accomplished. Instead, I must agree, you have to just love your stories and your process! Thanks for your thoughts, Alex!

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  6. I feel like an impostor all the time as well. Since school started, I have been overwhelmed with school work, and it doesn't help that I probably care too much about school than is healthy for me. I know I could make time to write. I know there are people like working parents who are way busier than me. And yet at the same time, I can't make more time to write because honestly, writing is just not a big priority right now-school is. I feel kind of fake sometimes because I talk so much about writing and books on my blog but I just haven't been doing a ton of reading and writing. We're still writers and readers, though. Just like with so many other things, everyone goes at their own pace. As long as we're enjoying ourselves, it's all good.

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    1. I know exactly what you mean; especially now that I'm in college and I'm paying for my education I can't bear the thought of wasting such an opportunity or failing a class or anything like that. But I guess, as you say, sometimes other things need to take priority. On that note, though, if a doctor who can't get work as a doctor as a doctor can only be a 7/11 employee he doesn't really stop being a doctor. Likewise, if we're writers who need to "make a living" with school, I don't think there's any shame in such a thing because sometimes you just have to get the necessities out of the way. :)

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  7. THANK YOU for this post!!! This is pretty much where I've been at lately...feeling that, in spite of my blog, in spite of writing fairly regularly, I'm not good enough. I'm not real. That I need something more to be a real writer. Thank you! It's really nice to know I'm not alone out there in that aspect.

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    1. Well, you're not alone, and I shall be the first to say that WE ARE REAL. I wrote a post about it, you know, so I would know. XD But yeah, it's easy to feel that way. As I said to Cait, no one said the journey would be easy...

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  8. I totally agree. We are writers whether or not we're going through rough patches and the important thing is to keep swimming. (Cue Dory.) As long as you don't give up, you're still a writer, and that's all that counts.

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    1. Just keep writing, just keep writing, just keep writing, writing writing... On what you said, I think it's important to remember that "taking a break" or "having other priorities" is not the same as "giving up."

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  9. Ha, 'today I booted up my laptop and resented everyone' is my life. 100% my life. (And I'm not in the slightest bit ashamed of that. YAY SOCIAL RECLUSE!!!!).

    Ahem. I do get what you're saying, though. (I mean, I think I do, but I can't be sure because it's 9pm on a Friday night and I may have broken open the mulled wine already...) I think... writing is 10% writing, and 90% everything else - predominantly worrying that your writing isn't good enough. As a perfectionist - and someone's who's trained as a proofreader/copyeditor - I think that's the thing that's prevented me writing up until now-ish. I want my writing to be perfect. I want my characters to be loved and adored. I want (even though it kind of shames me to admit it) for my writing to become a reflection of ME; for people to view me as favourably as they do my words.

    But writing is one of those things that can't be perfect. There's no right or wrong, because for writing to have any meaning it must be interpreted by a reader, and all readers interpret things differently. So yeah... I vote we get rid of the aspirations of perfection and just enjoy it all.

    Beth x
    www.thequietpeople.com

    (Also, reading this back I think I sound much more intelligent when I'm sleepy and mildly intoxicated... DON'T JUDGE ME, OKAY???)

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    1. XD *hives for social reclusion*

      Haha, the end of the week, right? Perfectionism is one of my curses as well, and I think you're right—it's not just that we want our books to be perfect, but we want the culture of our books to be perfect and our author-ness to be perfect, too. Let us just be writers and let everything else just go away. *nods wisely*

      (And you're good. I've written less-intelligible comments when I was completely sober but groggy because I had just woken up. You have far greater skills than I.)

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  10. I got it. When I read "and even though it’s disappointing that I sometimes can’t fit everything I’d like in my day, it doesn’t mean I’ve stopped being a writer. I’m just a writer who still has a longer way to go" I really, really got it. And I got it hard, Heather. I read almost everywhere that you have to write every. single. day. Because you have to produce, even if it's rubbish. And I can't do that! So I get stressed out because people agree and promote it and it's too hard for me. Some days I can't write a thing. Some days I can do nothing but write. And I don't like feeling like I'm less of anything just because of that. Just because I write to my feelings.
    I connected with this in a really deep way, and I'm so glad for that. Because it made me realise that even if some people write more than me or better than me or differently to me, it doesn't matter. Because I write. And I'm passionate about it. And I'm unique in that passion. We all are. And the important thing is that I realise I have absolutely nothing to prove. I just have to be happy.
    xx

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    1. :) I'm glad you got it. And no way do you have to write every single day! I never write every single day. Even in the times where I'm like, "Okay, I'm gonna write a novel in 45 days or something" I still never write every day. You can write as you need to write, especially right now—explore!

      But you're absolutely right! We have nothing to prove—our only responsibility is to keep on keeping on.

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  11. Oh dearest me, I feel this post so much. And I think I've been going through a similar face of booting up laptop and feeling resentment. I struggled just to finish the next to last draft of my current WIP, because I couldn't stop loathing what I was reading and questioning myself and grr. And I've been so busy, it's been difficult to find time to read. I definitely wouldn't want to ever write to bash people over the head or be better or anything. More and more I'm finding that the longer I stay away from writing, the battier I get, and even if I don't get published or anything, I will always have to write for my sanity. And I love this post so much because it's a great way to point out, at least in my mind, that there isn't a list of standards you must meet in order to be considered a writer. Thanks so much for sharing!

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    1. Aw, I hate when that happens. When that has happened sometimes I just have to put it down. :/ But I think that it's important to remember that your connection to writing isn't severed just because it isn't working out the way you want it at this precise instant in time. Let us be standardless and free writers! *rides into the sunset on galloping dinosaur*

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  12. "Today I booted up my laptop and resented life." Yes. So much yes.
    Those days (or weeks or months or years) definitely happen. But, like you said, we write because we must and we're writers because we write. The end. Perfection, as much as it may seem to be, is not a thing for us humans, lol
    This post is amazing. Thank you so much for it. :D


    Alexa
    thessalexa.blogspot.com
    verbositybookreviews.wordpress.com

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    1. Oh yes, those days or weeks or months or years are so fun. XD And it definitely helps to remember we're not perfect. We don't need to be! Thanks for reading, Alexa!

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