A Writer’s Vulnerability and Discouragement

How often do you unmask? Bare your soul in public? (This is me as an introverted writer asking.)

If you happen to follow the writings of Steven Pressfield you will know that he and his community are currently responding to a writer from Finland. “Katie”, at 4 a.m. after staring at the ceiling for some time, wrote him a raw message expressing her discouragement and saying that writing is a bad idea. “Failing is really hard, particularly when you are too tired to get up anymore.” She concluded with, “I hope I am the only loser. I really do. I want everybody to succeed. Maybe I am just a sad exception.”

No, Katie, you are not an exception! At least not as a discouraged writer. Perhaps an exception in your honesty.

Writers spew out words onto the page all the time, but they are most often words belonging to their fictional characters. We rarely “bleed onto the page” from within our own hearts. Admitting our uncertainties is too painful.

But at 4 a.m. Katie had hit rock bottom. In facing the reality that she could not make a living from her writing and at 60 she was too old to find another job, she concluded she was a failure. When Steven asked permission to reprint her letter he had no idea the number of people who would respond. In his next post he admitted, “Sometimes when I’m writing these posts, I wonder if I’m crazy to keep doing them. Some posts will get three Comments, or four, or six. I find myself asking, Is anybody out there? Is any of this doing any good?” Nearly one hundred fifty responses provided his answer.

So, what am I taking away from the discussion?

The writing community is awesome.
Discouragement is universal.
We’re more resilient than we realize.
We haven’t failed unless we’ve quit.
We can always start again tomorrow.
Success means different things to different people.
Age is a relative thing and I’m not the only “old” woman
still writing.

We’ve often heard that writing is a solitary activity. It is indeed. Some writers get together occasionally for a shared time of putting words on the page, but the majority of our creative time is spent squirrelled away in our office or some quiet corner in a library or coffee shop, oblivious to the presence of others. We focus on writing our stories. We don’t compare notes about our feelings of success or failure.

Katie from Finland did us all a favour in sharing her pain-filled yet very brave message. In doing so, she also reminded us it’s okay to reach out to others for encouragement. Knowing how many successful authors admit to the same need is in itself empowering.

We don’t have to make a living with our words. We just have to find joy and satisfaction in getting them out. Publication of them isn’t always something within our control. If it’s something we hope for, doing so should be seen as a bonus. Not doing so shouldn’t be seen as failure, but as motivation to find alternative ways of making our writing feel purposeful.

~

Where do you look for encouragement when writing begins to seem pointless?

~ ~ ~

 

 

4 thoughts on “A Writer’s Vulnerability and Discouragement

  1. Thank you for sharing this, Carol. My heart goes out to Katie. Here’s hoping, she’s feeling the collective hug from all of us who heard her. I believe she is. And now I find myself saying out loud, “You matter, Katie,” while I’m marvelling that she was wise enough to listen to that inner voice urging her to cry out. Because only after doing so will she be aware of the power of love. And love’s empowerment.

    I’ve been teaching a writer’s workshop once a month since November. It’s so simple and easy for me to do, and I forget that for others it’s not so easy to be a writer. These lovely people are expressing gratitude for what I’ve done. And I feel slightly embarrassed because really, I’m not doing much. I’m just encouraging. They’re doing the work. They see me as a guide and a helper because they feel lost and need a guide. But the answers are inside each of them. I’m reminding them of that. And by doing so, I feel found. I feel gratitude and appreciation and peace.

    • Carol says:

      I’m sure the writers taking your workshop feel privileged to have you sharing your knowledge and talent with them. You may not feel you’re doing much, but you’re “giving back” in a place where they apparently don’t get that kind of opportunity very often, and I think that’s wonderful. ❤

  2. pastordt says:

    Well said, friend. WELL SAID. Thank you.

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