You know what I like about pursuing a certain discipline? It’s that it teaches me about everything else in life. Because the way you do something is the way you do everything.
Writing is no different. I’ve learned so much more about myself thanks to the craft. For one, it’s taught me how much of a procrastinating bum I am.
Besides that, it’s also highlighted how much I can dream, yet not pursue said dream out of fear, or laziness, or who knows what else. In a way, writing has helped me address some problems, and come to terms with others.
And here’s me coming to terms with certain… not so fun facts about writing, thanks to writing.
1. I’ll never achieve greatness
So I lived for ten years next to this neighbour, right? And he loved to sing. From the NSYNC era to Ed Sheeran’s, I’d listened to him belt a verse every time he bathed or washed the dishes.
Throughout the decade, I witnessed his growing passion in music. He started busking for a living, according to his mum, and he was to be a serious musician. But here’s the thing. He still isn’t good today.
Yup, ten years of singing, and his voice still feels like nails on a chalkboard for me. But don’t just take my word for it. Various friends who’d dropped by my place also asked me why the dude was shouting more than he was singing.
Why do I bring this up? Because that could be me in writing.
Like my neighbour, I’ve spent a decade on my craft, and since it’s such a subjective pursuit, I have no idea if I’m getting any better. All I have is my faith that I am.
I’ve grown to accept that there may be a limit to how much I can improve. You know how you’ll never catch up to a gymnast, or figure skater, or musician who’d learned their discipline as a child? That’s how I feel. There are levels to this, and I probably won’t reach the upper echelons of the craft in this lifetime.
But that’s okay. That only gives me the freedom to write what I want, since I won’t need to worry about being the ‘best’.
2. I can’t make others like me
I never ever put out a post with bad intent. The goal has always been to entertain or inspire. But a black cat to me is going to mean something different to you. And what I see as motivating may be interpreted as offensive to others.
Take working out, for example. I’ve always seen physical pursuits as a necessary complement to writing, since it addresses the same resistance towards starting.
But there have been instances where I was accused of not being inclusive because I wasn’t taking into account the people who weren’t able to exercise. At this rate, it’s only a matter of time before I’m accused of toxic productivity.
I can only travel down one path in writing. I can only convey one message a pop. I can’t think of the zillion other issues that surround a certain topic, and people who stand on the opposite end of my views will inevitably feel alienated.
And there’s nothing I can do about that.
It’s the same as when I worked under an editor that hated my work, returning my drafts slashed and scrawled in red ink every time I handed in an assignment.
There’s a saying we used to share in hairdressing: “Even the best stylists have their haters, and the worst have their fans.”
The sooner I accept that I can’t please everyone, the sooner I can get to pleasing those who do resonate with my work.
The people pleaser in me isn’t pleased about that, though.
3. I have to pursue my own approval
At least in my part of the world, writing will always be seen as a pastime more than a worthy career. It’s not stable nor lucrative enough to be seen as respectable career.
Nobody cares if I wrote 1,000 word every day. That’s an equivalent of painting something new every day, which would only impress other fellow artists, but would do naught for the typical layman.
Which is why I the only person’s approval I should earn is my own. I care that I’ve written 1,000 words, and I know how hard it is to maintain that pace every day without rest.
I believe that we all have this inner judge within us, one that looks at our day’s efforts and determines if we’ve done enough to merit their blessing. And this judge’s decisions manifest themselves as the anxiety that we haven’t done enough, or the smile we have from a day well-lived.
I’ve accepted that the only person I need to impress is this judge, and no one else. Which makes everything that much harder, because the judge is actually harder to persuade than the average bystander.
But you gotta do what you gotta do, right?
4. I’m going to hate 90% of my work
I know you know how this feels too. I’m never truly happy with everything I ever put out. There’s always something I can improve on. Phrase a sentence better. Make the message pop. Not be such a dullard.
But facing that doubt is part and parcel of the writing life.
The fact of the matter is that this is me. Whatever I put on paper is the culmination of my practice throughout the ages. I’ll hate my work even more if I start comparing it to others’.
Which is why I’ve accepted that something will always feel off whenever I hit the Publish button on WordPress, or when I send in my manuscript to a publisher, or when I hand in my assignment to an editor.
That’s okay though, because to me, the writing life isn’t about persuading others to like me. It’s about finding my tribe and writing for them. And for this group of people, there’s very little I can do wrong, even though I feel all fifty shades of it when sharing my work with them.
5. Writing will always be my side hustle
Let me be honest with you. Besides being employed full-time, there’s very little I can do with writing in terms of money.
I’m six manuscripts in and I’ve only published one. I didn’t get paid very well for that either. I have a bunch of short stories that only served as writing practice, and I don’t get as many freelance opportunities to sustain my living.
In other words, writing the stories I want will always be a side pursuit. Sure, I could earn a decent living joining a marketing agency or an online magazine, but if I’m going to be paid for my writing, I want it to be for my fiction, or essays like this.
And as a realist, I know that it’s better to earn a living with a more practical day job, and let the chips fall where they may when it comes to my writing.
Onwards and upwards
Weirdly enough, the more I accept that I’m not special, the better I work. Because thinking that I have my magnum opus inside me just relegates me to the whims of the muse.
But realising that the only edge I’ll ever have is hard work means that I may or may not end up with that one novel I’ll truly be proud of.
And either way, I’ve come to terms with that.
What realities have you accepted in your writing journey? Let me know in the comments! Also, if you haven’t joined the newsletter already, you’re missing out on a ton of exclusive content similar to this!