It can be blue, folks. (Photo credit: Hendrike, via Wikipedia)
The fact is: writing can seem at first a terribly depressing field. Believe me, I know—you tack a determination to write onto someone already struggling with depression, and you get someone already prone to the blues receiving a steady stream of disappointments. No one ever said we set ourselves up to be the steadiest sorts.
I have spoken before of endurance, of perseverance, and I will confess the notions can come out as just so many words—a wisp in your ear that is gone by the time you turn around to greet them.
The reasons are plenty…
Reason the First
Though we talk the big game about passion and art and the need to write (all true, mind you), most writers are like the majority of people in the world: in some sense, we want to succeed. It’s not even that we need the big movie deals, or a fanatic cult (ala The Following—don’t watch it, it’s cheesy and terribly predictable), but we want to be able to point at something and say: You see this work? I wrote this, it touched someone beyond myself, and I am proud. Vindication, I suppose.
I know for all my protestations otherwise, I felt it when undertaking The Hollow March–whether I wanted it or not, the feeling lurked, just out of sight.
Especially in a world where the volume of writers has soared through the ceiling, as every Tom, Dick, and Transfalmadorian are able to turn to self-publishing to get a word out, is also a horrendously difficult field in which to get noticed. Slush piles are bigger than ever. As such, the opportunity for disappointment seems to grow, and while we can point to similar stories around the world, there is always that niggling little voice telling us: yes, but that’s not you, is it?
Reason the Second
Loneliness. You will hear many writers speak of it. Though some are capable of immersing themselves in sound, many must isolate themselves to work. The office cubicle may make you itchy, sure, but at least you know you can lean over the wall to talk to someone, or walk down the hall. With writing, we may spend hours in our own little world, and especially if reason the first is letting us down, that sense of isolation—isolation for seemingly no reason (so we tell ourselves) walks the dangerous line of feeling overwhelming.
Reason the Third
Too many hats. It began with a blog. Alright, manageable enough, right? You’re getting the hang of this. A blog post a week, perhaps, to connect with folks while you write. How about a Twitter? 140, alright, that’s not so bad. Have you considered a Facebook page? Well, I—Don’t forget to make two! One for you, and one for your book! Oh, and Tumblr, don’t forget about Tumblr…
ADD. It’s what you begin to feel like. Or being trapped in a bouncy castle. Writers are their own greatest advocates. At first it might seem glamorous—do what you want, when you want, how you want it—but it can wear at you quickly. Because it means you’re also out there without a lifeline. There are no promotions for good behavior. A writer can no longer be “just a writer.” He must also be a sales rep, a public relations whiz, and quite possibly, one of those fellows on the side of the road dancing around with business signs.
You are the alpha and the omega. It’s self-pub law, but even if you hit it big, the burden is increasingly being put on the writers themselves. There are no breaks, no real days off. If you’re self-conscious, or simply not sure what to say, or if the first two reasons have gotten you down, this can be (or feel) devastating, and you run the risk of a serious burn-out.
My, my, cheery today aren’t we Mr. Galford? Yes, I am, and I’ll tell you why: I have come to terms with these things, and what’s more, I know that everyone struggles with them equally.
Cease to abstract it. Can you point to examples of exceptions? Yes, but they are only that, the exceptions, and while you might feel surrounded to them, know that there are many of us in the same crowd, all feeling equally surrounded. You might say, “Chris, but I wrote a book and no one’s biting,” you must know that there are others around you looking at you with awe and wonder saying, “My god, I wish I could do that—you actually wrote a book? And published it even? You’re so brave.”
What you take as disappointment, other will take with jealousy. You may feel like the lowest end of the food chain, but I assure you that you are not, and there are many feeling the same way.
Take the disappointment—I’m not saying it won’t come. To look at the world as nothing but optimistic doesn’t get you anywhere either, but there’s a balance to be struck. Step outside yourself a moment. Don’t lock others out. If you’re struggling, I guarantee you there’s someone else willing to lend your hand.
Keep your fingers nimble, but keep your eyes open.