Sunday, May 01, 2011

Swimming Past Doubts

It's so easy to become disheartened in this business.

Even if you're amazingly talented and prolific and have won national awards, and even if you've got an agent pitching new projects, you can still feel like an impostor on some days because you haven't published anything lately.

If you or your agent haven't sold your manuscripts after a year or more, you can start to feel as if you've entered publishing limbo. Then it's only a matter of time before you start doubting yourself and wondering if you can make a living from writing. And before long you start asking yourself if you should keep writing.

These are feelings and questions that every writer (with or without an agent) has to grapple with at times. The feelings aren’t easy to face because facing them means facing the prospect of failure and disappointment, and, even worse, acknowledging there’s the possibility that you may not be able to spend your life doing what you love to do.

But what if you understand the writing process as an activity that's separate from the publishing process? (I'm not suggesting that you stop expecting to publish or earn a living from your work. But I am suggesting that you may have to put aside those expectations in order to keep your writing process alive.)

What if, ironically, the way to avoid becoming disheartened in this business is to look into your heart?

That's because when you view the writing process as a distinctly different enterprise from the publishing process, you become aware that at the heart of the writing process (and a writer's life) is one simple fact: you must possess an insatiable need to write. Not for publication (though publication is always exciting). Not for readers (though readers, too, are helpful). Not for any reason other than needing to put words on the page, to tell yourself the stories that you need to hear.

A writer who needs to write will always find a way to keep writing, despite economic or emotional setbacks, because the need comes from some deep part of the writer’s soul which makes it impossible not to write.

For a writer, writing is as essential to life as breathing, and life's meaning (and pleasure) are derived from the daily act of exploring the world through words and language, and from discovering something about the world and one’s self as a result of a daily writing practice.

Deep and true writing isn’t about pursuing trends or markets. It's not about trying to figure out what sells or what’s “hot” or what agents or editors want. It’s about ignoring these things.

To write deep and true, you must go into your heart to discover what you need to write. That’s the key to writing through the storms of uncertainty and doubt, and to overcoming the vicissitudes of this business.

You must learn how to unlock your heart.

For more on writing from your heart, visit:


MDK said...

Thanks for the reminder and the naked truth about why some have that compulsion to write. Very Inspiring.

Bruce Black said...

Thanks for the kind words, MDK. Good luck with your writing.

Faith Pray said...

I'm so glad I read your post today. As a writer, I struggle with these issues on a regular basis. Lately, even as I try to spin stories and revise other ones, I find myself freezing up, thinking about what my agent will or won't take, what publishers are looking for, and I kind of lose the creative process. Your words are perfect. I want to find my heart, my voice, my place, and stop looking outward so much. Thank you.

Bruce Black said...

Glad the post proved helpful, Faith. Good luck!

Jarvis said...

Advice to live by. I get disheartened all the time, but then I think about the people who believe in me. Works every time.

Bruce Black said...

Hard to stay afloat without the support of good friends, that's for sure. Thanks, Jarvis, for the reminder.