Being a writer is a terrible idea. Welcome to a life of chasing mystical ideas through the ether, constant rejection and of course, ever present, crippling self-doubt. The good thing about this is that no writer, or any creative person, probably, would stop for those reasons. You make your life harder than it has to be, you work twice, three times as much as most people for little or no reward. Why? Because there’s no alternative. You can’t stop, so you carry on, slaving away. If you do step away for a while that’s fine because you’ll be back. We always come back. For most writers, I think the detractions are obvious and plentiful. That got me thinking about the shaky, frail support beams that somehow remain – where do they come from?
Perhaps the most precarious, this is number one for any writer because we for the most part work alone. If you are writing, then you are supporting yourself as a writer. You are winning. If you are not writing, don’t worry. As far as I can tell regular bouts of self-sabotage and loathing are part of the process. Eventually you will hate yourself enough that you’ll get back to work. Here are some ideas to help you be more supportive of the very, very stupid path you have chosen (has chosen you?) to be on.
Write – There’s a lot of banter in the writing world about writing every day, getting your butt in the chair and blah blah. This has merit because you are not much of a writer if you aren’t writing, but at the same time, not all writers write every day. That’s right, I said it and it’s true, say it with me, NOT ALL WRITERS WRITE EVERY DAY! There is no need to hate yourself for not preforming this miraculous feat. If you do write every day, that is awesome, but if you don’t, that’s FINE. I think the most important thing here is that you write regularly and always have a project on the go. Don’t stagnate.
Make a Space – One of the best things I ever did for myself was to make a space. I do almost all of my work in my office. I love my office and it loves me. It’s quiet, it’s full of things that make me feel awesome and that’s where I work, so when I’m in there, I work. I highly suggest that if you don’t have a space, you make one. I don’t care if it’s in your damn closet, or a backpack full of crap and a favorite chair at the library, have a space that is conducive to your writing, whatever that means to you. Then go there, a lot.
Never Stop Getting Better – Like any art, there is no proper way to be a writer. There are also no limits. No matter how good you are, you can always be better and the best writers know this. Read books about writing, take classes, join writing groups, go to conferences, work on your setting, your dialogue, your grammar. One of the greatest things you can do for yourself as a writer is to continually invest in yourself. Valuing yourself and your talent enough to spend actual dollars (!?) is a powerful show of support for the bedraggled writer in you.
Your Inner Circle
I’ve been pretty lucky with this one. My immediate family and friends are supportive for the most part, and if not supportive, then at least not unsupportive. One thing I will say about this is that things did change a lot when I first was published. The balance of power shifted in my favour when that finally happened.
“Oh, so you’re a writer.”
“Yes, yes I am.”
“Have you published anything?”
“Yes, yes I have.” Internal dialogue – several things, multiple things, so eat it, eat it, you smug, doubting bastard! Wipe that damn smirky look off of your face, jerk.
So if you are published, keep that in mind at all times. You did it, you made it, you got there. If you aren’t, yet, then just take yourself seriously as a writer and hopefully some of that will rub off on the people around you. If not, then your inner circle sucks, so focus all your efforts on supporting your damn self. You might want to take a long hard look at who makes up your inner circle and toss them accordingly.
The Rest of Them
We get, or don’t get, support from the rest in a myriad of ways. Having a Facebook page, a blog, a newsletter, a Twitter account are all ways that you can reach out and have people reach back. The key here, as with all things writing related, seems to be consistency and patience. Whatever you chose to do to glean support from the rest of them, be more consistent about it than I am. Also, be patient. If you start a blog, you probably won’t get thousands of followers right away. Stick with it, little grasshopper, writing is a marathon, not a sprint.
My husband recently introduced me to Patreon, which is a neat idea where creators have a page where they post things related to their work and people can sign up to sponsor them and get perks with their sponsorship. I haven’t done it, but there are writers on there, so that might be something worth looking into. Check out his page at www.patreon.com/jeremychaulk
Writing sucks and it’s hard. The other side is that it’s awesome, liberating and limitless. Always support yourself and never stop striving to do better. This is a tough, lonely road, so when you can’t get yourself going, and there will be times like that, support others. Buy books, go to readings, leave reviews, follow blogs and maybe sponsor a few creators on Patreon. Give others the support you want for yourself and it will all come back. Remember, we’re all in this together.
Life is not conducive to writing. Often, life doesn’t seem to be conducive to anything that you really want to do, but that’s a different topic. One thing I am fairly certain of is that life moves in cycles. Some of them predictable, day turning to night, winter turning to spring, and some of them not. At the moment I’m on a low cycle.
I’m not a lucky person. I am a fortunate person. I was fortunate to be born in Canada. I am fortunate to have a loving family, an awesome husband, a few very good friends and rugged good health. These things make me very fortunate and for them I am daily grateful. I am not lucky in the sense that good things do not just happen to me out of the blue. You know the people, those magical, fairy dusted people who have awesome things fall into their lap through no effort of their own with infuriating regularity. I used to envy these people, now I just admire them and appreciate their incredible tales of golden tinged living.
Good things happen to me, lots of them, actually. They are things that I bust my ass for, usually for years, but they do happen. I accept this is the story of my life. I will get what I want, whatever that may be, provided I dig in, hard, relentlessly and make it happen through years of labour. It will never be easy for me. I am content with this state of affairs. I don’t think I would want it any other way, actually. I don’t stop moving and thinking very often to give myself credit for these hard won achievements, but when I do they strike me as pretty impressive for myself and I am proud of them.
Like most people, I am far more likely to see what’s wrong than what’s right and even though I don’t have any serious problems, I have a lot of small ones cycling around me at the moment. It starts with one buzzing around, then another, then another, the mysterious cycle of three. Three bad things in a row. These are not great tragedies, but they derail the cars of my daily life, sap my routine, my energy and my concentration. The first two came in quick succession, then I waited and I waited for the third. It’s a stressful time, that waiting. I want to start cycling up again, fix what has gone awry and get back to business, get my life and head back where they need to be to keep moving forward. I always get ahead of myself, ahead of my low cycle, and it slams into me every time with the third. I smirked at it this time, the last wily bastard that always hits you while you’re already down on two counts. I was ready for it, the third thing, the third bad thing in a row that I can deal with and start cycling out of. I greeted it like an enemy vanquished long ago and back for another round. We do this dance, go through these cycles and will continue to do so because that’s the nature of life, of my life, anyway. I wonder now if there really is some strange, magical law of three or if there are always three things because that’s what I expect? Maybe it doesn’t matter, because either way the low cycle is ending and a better one will take its place, maybe just because I expect it to.
“I have always believed that you can almost will things to happen. You just have to hustle yourself and your talent.” William Zinsser