There’s a lot of writing advice out there. One big-name author says to let your work grow organically, tells you that you’re uncovering its vines within the ruins of your brain. Another says your work will spiral weed-like and out of control if you don’t outline. One says you should write every day. Another says to let your present mind rest and your subconscious do the heavy lifting for a while. It’s a lot to wade through when you’re an anxious person to begin with, as many writers are.
Even without a diagnosis of an anxiety disorder, a lot of us writer folk suffer from imposter syndrome. My first blog post, in all its Baudelairian melancholy, captured how that syndrome sometimes manifests in myself. On another night it might manifest as going out with friends, ignoring the fact that I missed my morning writing marathon. Sometimes I gobble down books on craft, Bird by Bird and On Writing for example, hoping to make myself more deserving of the title of writer.
Learning from other writers is important, but comparison hinders. For example, I spend so much time perfecting outlines, afraid to make a mistake in the blueprint, that I never get to building the actual story. Maybe you have a medical condition that makes sitting for long periods of time painful, or a loved one who requires your care. You might need an outline so you don’t lose track of where you are in your plot, and can only write three days out of the week.
We know writing is an art, so why do we expect the results of our literary experiments to match those of writers we admire? We think we’re copying their lab notes to the letter, but the most important variable of all can’t be duplicated.
Who we are.
I’m sure we’d all love to be Rowling and King, but we are not. And that’s just as terrifying as it is fantastic. Accepting this is the only thing keeping me from throwing my laptop off a bridge those days when I work open to close and haven’t written anything. The amount of people-watching I get to do at my job, the struggle you endure through that medical condition that keeps you from sitting, it all bleeds into our work. But only so long as you eventually get the words down on the page. That’s all it comes down to.
So tell me, what are you working on and what keeps you driven to complete it? Is it a single motivational quote? The memory of a loved one? A methodology that keeps your brain from turning into a bag of cats? Whether you just hammered out 4,000 words or haven’t touched your WIP in years but still have hope, tell me.