I am discouraged.
There, I said it. I am discouraged. Lets be real. Writing is not for the feint of heart, and even if my heart is feinter than most my mere stubbornness and sense of calling practically forbids me to stop. There are somedays where I absolutely love writing, I find it refreshing for both the mind and the soul. But there are other days where I just want to throw in the towel, throw my hands up, and say I’m done.
Sometimes I look at an hour or two of work… and just sigh.
Maybe you’re a writer and you feel the same way. If you are not but still work and dream of doing something creative, there is a good chance you are often disappointed by your own work. I suppose it is a flaw of our broken world. God created us to get pleasure from our work, and yet often it leaves us drained. And I can say, one month after writing my initial draft of this article, the drain only gets harder when you have a full time job. Writing has been sparse over the past few months for me, both time and disappointment can really hold you back.
Today I would like to share with you three reasons I typically get disappointed. Maybe you can relate.
1. It isn’t good enough
I’ve been facing this one a lot recently. The particular story I’m working on is actually a sequel to a book that only a few have read. One particular section has already went through a number of rewrites and now that I’ve finished it once again, I look at it and realize that I am still not satisfied with it. The story isn’t as streamlined as I envisioned and the themes were becoming a mess. I traded one problem for another. And still the work goes on.
Sometimes, as creators, we can be very critical of ourselves. To an extent that is a good thing, we should see the problems in our works and aspire to fix it and make it even better, but in another sense this can actually be a bit unhealthy. Our work becomes our value and purpose for living. As a Christian I would call this an idol, but regardless of your faith, putting work over your own mental health and self-care is usually not a good idea.
The fact is, nothing will ever be good enough. Even the greatest stories have flaws. Our struggle is to root most of them out before you have a finished product.
2. It’s a lot of work, and a lot of time.
Lets be honest, writing take time. The previous summer I wrote a whole book with a day job, which was truly a blast, but it also meant that I had to make some sacrifices. That meant movie and video game time would have to deflate, and writing would have to inflate.
Honestly, this one is usually a selfish disappointment for me. I know I can create something amazing, but I choose not to because I’d rather be doing anything else than the thing I enjoy the thing I love the most. It’s a weird paradox.
There is , of course, some sacrifices that you must not make. I don’t care how important your writing is to you, but you should never put your writing over your most important relationships, be it family or close friends. You will be more disappointed at the end of your life if you write 1,000 books and fail to take care of those you love. God time is also an essential!
And yet, even when we manage to make good use of our time, we often still find ourselves disappointed that we do not have more. I am currently working a housekeeping job at a place I really do adore, that being, my old college! But still, like any job, it can be quite tiring and leave your feeling drained, especially when you know you’re supposed to come home and write for an hour or two. The truth is, we will never truly have enough time, and our lives on this earth are limited. The balance between rest, work, and pursuing my dreams is a skill I am still learning. Maybe you can relate.
3. Will people actually like this?
A couple of months ago, when I was deep into writing the sequel to the book I’ve mentioned earlier, I had a few friends share with me some videos essays critiquing a variety of movies, some of which I love and some of them I didn’t really enjoy. They sent them to me because they thought I would enjoy them, and as a fan of movies, I probably would have, but I refused to watch them. Why is that? Am I avoiding critical thinking, or the logic of story? Certainly not. The problem is that I think so critically about my projects, the mere thought of my work being critiqued and received poorly terrifies me. When I am not actively writing a fictional story, feel free to send me those videos and I will watch them, but if I am head deep in a book I am writing, I don’t want to start second guessing every decision I make, both good and bad.
The fact of the matter is this: When you pour so much time and energy into something so precious to you, and then hear about those who adamantly dislike the finished project, you feel like a total failure. Now, luckily, that has not happened to me just yet, granted I’ve only self-published two book which only a few have read. But the mere thought of people hating your work is enough sometimes to keep my fingers from clicking those keys. Even if you are not a writer, you probably still feel this discomfort. It may be at work, or even the way you present yourself. Whenever you put yourself or something that you’ve created out there, you open yourself up to many realities you don’t want to hear.
I will not dare call this final section a place for solutions. People are so unique, amazing and diverse that often one thing might help one person and fail to help others. So I don’t seek to speak as an authority here, rather I want to give you a few things to consider. Next time your creativity ‘sighs,’ give the following a thought.
It can get better. You are not perfect. Allow room for improvement. If a chapter is bad, go back and fix it. Forgive yourself. Creative people tend to be too critical of themselves. After all, we spend most of our time away stuck inside our own heads. If you are just starting or if you have been writing for awhile, realize that there is always room for improvement. Look every obstacle and disappointment in the eye and see it as a challenge worth conquering. You may not tame the beast perfectly, but you will at least learn a few good lessons on the way if you are brave enough to get back up and try again. And I believe you are!
Set aside time over a period of months to work on your book daily/weekly. When I was in college it was next to impossible to be writing any new chapters for my books. I did manage to write a whole 7 chapters for one of them but that too was scrapped (remember the book I was talking to you about earlier?) So instead, I waited till I was out of college to write my little heart out, occasionally taking to the pen on the weekends. Believe it or not, it is ok to take a break. Sometimes a break helps you refine or even redefine a story. If you find yourself having free time to write, and yet still not able to get much done, consider cutting off certain non essentials (just don’t cut off your family, friends, Physical and Spiritual Health, or job. Remember, priorities!). Progress takes time. An hour or two of work a day can leave you 200 pages full in the matter of months. Take it from me, I know from experience.
And lastly I am going to to have to be honest with you, and while I know you don’t like to hear it, lets be real: few writers become famous authors. We chase the dream, and we work hard at it, but there is no guarantee that we will ever succeed or be able to make a living off of it when we start. I am not going to tell you that you shouldn’t write for money, that of course is the ideal, but even then I challenge you to aim for something beyond mere material gain. If you write because you want to succeed at writing and become wealthy and famous, you are writing for the wrong reasons. They key is this: Write something you like. If you enjoy it there is a good chance someone else will enjoy it too. Write for fun, not for fame. Even if, Lord forbid, no one cares about your writing or even enjoys it, write for your own sake. Write for yourself. Unless you are writing something morally wrong or inappropriate, you don’t need to be concerned about what anybody else thinks. Write because you like writing. Success is nice, but enjoying your creativity is even better. Creativity is a God given thing.
Yes, we are often discouraged, but little by little we will finish our work and find ways to enjoy the process of creating, a process that our creative Father in heaven loves to see us put into use.
Which of these “sighs” resonate with you? And how do you plan on fighting against discouragement? Feel free to tell me in the comments below.