Some days, being a writer is hard.
You sit in a room, by yourself, pouring words out onto a screen through a keyboard. (Or a typewriter/pen onto paper, if you’re old school.)
You create worlds. They could be beautiful, or horrible, depending on what’s going on in your life. Your heroes could have wonderful adventures, or face Sisyphean struggles – or both within the span of a single story.
You have entire conversations in your head. There could be whole days when you don’t interact with another human being – you’re just alone with the people who have sprung from your mind.
When you start putting your work out into the world, you have no idea whether it’s good or bad. You think it’s good – or good enough, anyway – or you wouldn’t put it out at all. But it’s rare that readers go out of their way to say anything to you – good or bad. For all you know, your work could be falling into a void.
When you don’t hear much, you don’t know whether it’s because it was ‘good enough’ that people don’t have anything bad to say, or whether it sucks but people are subscribing to the: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” school of thought. But if you’re like me, the little Demons of Doubt like to sit on your shoulder and whisper into your ears, and you’ve constantly got to work to push them away.
But, if you’re really a writer, you can’t help yourself. Even though the Demons of Doubt are whispering away, and you rarely hear much about your work, and make only a modest living – you can’t stop writing even if you feel like giving up. Because writing isn’t something you do to make money, or to gain followers, or to become famous.
It’s just something you do because it’s part of who you are. You could no more give up writing than you could breathing.
So even if you go away, for a bit – try to wander off because you just don’t know if you’re accomplishing anything – you always find yourself back there, typing away, staring into the void as it stares back at you.
If you’re like me, and you’re having a tough day, just remember: we delve deeply into the stuff of life so that other people don’t have to.
We write about sadness, and heartache, and loss, because we’ve experienced it. The reader who shares your experience will find comfort in the threads that bind humanity together. And the reader who doesn’t will learn empathy for people who bear these burdens.
We write about struggle, and triumph, and joy – because other people need it. We write for the reader who is struggling, so he can believe he will overcome. We write about joy to bring light in the darkness, when the reader is daunted and sad. We write about love, for the reader who feels her life is lacking it. We write about family, for the reader who feels alone.
It is through this storytelling tradition that we as a species learn about things we have never experienced, discover that other people feel as sad or happy or lonely as we do, that none of us are as different as some may seem. It is this storytelling tradition that inspires us to dream, and strive, and dare to improve our lives – because someone has. At the root of every dream, every Herculean struggle, is a story of someone who achieved something.
We are the storytellers.
So if you write, and you’re having a hard day, just remind yourself of the story that inspired you. And think about the people who need to read the stories you have yet to write.
We write – because we can’t help ourselves. And we write – to help whomever might read it.