It’s a question all writers come to, at a certain point in life. It doesn’t matter whether or not you’re published, or from where you’re coming, or what your day job is or how positive the people around you are. At some point, a writer starts questioning himself or herself. Why do I write? What’s the point? Stories that seemed incredibly brilliant at the start begin dragging on the more you write. Characters start feeling two-dimensional, as if your writing does not give them any justice – or even a semblance of. Events go downhill, plot twists start feeling contrived, and you’re just stuck in a bog and you don’t know what to do with your seemingly unsalvageable piece. Put down and distracted by your thoughts, you decide to stop what you’re doing and pay attention to other things.
The problem is that it’s really easy to give up. It’s much, much less time consuming to give up, than to try to write – or rewrite – something you’re not completely satisfied with. Add to that the fact that writing is not exactly something that can make you rich or net you tons of money in the first go, and it’s easy to get discouraged. Giving up is the fastest way out. But what most people – most writers, would-be-writers – tend to forget is that giving up will never satisfy you. Every now and then, you’ll find yourself crawling back to your pen and paper, or your word processor, getting a blank sheet because you feel the urge to write. If you keep giving up, the vicious cycle will continue: start writing, but never finish it. It’s much more time consuming than anything else, and you will never finish anything at all.
The problems stem from expectations you pile up on your piece, and on your skill as a writer. No one starts out a genius. No one is born an athlete and runs off with a hundred gold medals on the first try. Likewise, your first draft will, most likely, stink. It will be upsetting, it will be insipid, it will offend you as a writer, and put you down because it does not appear as amazing as you first thought it was. But it also does a few important things: humble you, challenge you, and hopefully inspire you – if disappointment doesn’t eat you alive first, of course. But before tackling the actual problems and getting up from your disappointment, you have to acknowledge a number of things, first: you’re not the greatest writer on earth, don’t get that into your head. You’re not going to get off with a runaway masterpiece on your first draft. At the rate publishers and writers are going today, your piece probably won’t be studied in the decades to come as a classic – there are a lot of contenders out there, there are a lot of other brilliant writers, and they’re going to eat the weakest ones alive.
What Can You Do?
The simplest, easiest answer – despite what you’ve been told in the previous paragraph – is to write. Just write, plain and simple. If the going gets tough, write. Here is a quote by Paulo Coelho:
Writing means sharing. It’s part of the human condition to want to share things – thoughts, ideas, opinions.
It’s important to remind yourself of the first sentence: writing is sharing. Certainly, a lot of bestselling authors make money from their writing, but it’s only because they pursued and worked hard to get their thoughts and ideas out there for the public to read and understand them. The willingness to share is an important aspect, because it will eliminate any selfish vision you might be harbouring, if you want to become a writer. If people like J.K. Rowling are enjoying success today as a writer, it’s because they started out with small steps and ran when they could, slowing down when things got tough, and maybe resting every now and then. But they go on, anyway.
Establish A Sense of Purpose
Just think of why you want to write. Think of the ideas you want to share, the worlds you want to set your stories in, and let all of these sink in and take you away. Don’t write for the money, or for visions of grandeur, or anything that’s not the ideal purpose, anything that’s not going to get you anchored firmly to your writing (or your chair). Write, first, for yourself. Write because there is an excess of creative energy welling up inside you that you can’t diffuse anywhere. Write because you’re in touch with your emotions, and want them to be known. Write because you’re imaginative, you’re creative, and you firmly believe that there will be something meaningful and valuable in what you’re going to write. It all sounds painfully ideal, and maybe it is, but the beautiful thing is that you will be able to build your writing with the right foundations.
Writing is actually an interesting activity. It’s cheap – priceless, even – and your knack for wordplay will come in handy when you converse with people (or attempt to impress them). It also affords a period of examination for the writer, not only as a writer but also as a person. It can help in establishing identity, or rearranging thoughts, or re-evaluating oneself and one’s choices.
In other words, with the right purpose – and free of a false sense of grandeur from the very beginning – writing, though hard (and nothing can be done about that), will be all the more fulfilling, especially when you finally type in that last sentence.
That’s where all people start.
To end this, I’ll leave another quote on writing. Knowing that established authors before you never really knew what they were doing will certainly help to make you feel good. Every writer is lost, but it’s in forging your own path and living your own life as a writer that counts.
There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.– W. Somerset Maugham