I have this notion that writers dress a certain way and own only the best writing utensils, such as fountain pens that create words of art; beautiful notebooks that are only filled with the most creative workings of the heart; and manual typewriters that keep the muse happy so the words “the end” are actually put on paper.
So, I’ve gotten the pens and the notebooks and the typewriters, and I’ve got the cute clothes that say “Hey, I’m a writer”. But my pages are blank and my handwriting sucks and dang this stupid typewriter for not having a delete button. I wonder what I’m doing wrong that I have yet to write “the end” on any one of my works in progress. Why am I a failure while others are popping out stories left and right?
Then I come back down to earth and realize that writers aren’t the pens, the notebooks, the typewriters, or the silly clothes. A writer is the heart and soul breathing as one. They are late nights full of hopes and dreams just waiting to get out. They are the risk of creating chaos in a rigid world. Writers don’t need fancy gadgets to show the world their thoughts and their beating heart.
Writing is hard. Even for the ones who have made it to the top. Their first drafts are a tangled mess of words just waiting to be hacked apart so they can be put together the right way. No one sees them but the writer themselves. We lament because our first draft doesn’t even compare to their finished novel. But we can’t compare them because they are at opposite ends of the process.
I recently read a post by Neil Gaiman. He talks about Imposter Syndrome. He says he was at a gathering for other writers, artists, and scientists. While he was feeling like a fake and that he didn’t belong amongst such great people, he meets Neil Armstrong who, he is shocked to find out, is feeling exactly the same. After their conversation he states:
“Maybe there weren’t any grown-ups, only people who had worked hard and also got lucky and were slightly out of their depth, all of us doing the best job we could, which is all we can really hope for.”
His words at the end of the post really got me to understand that maybe I am doing my best, and that is all I can ask of myself. A little nobody like me can take comfort, knowing that one of the most affluent writers is just like us. He most definitely didn’t start out being great, he worked hard to get where he’s at, which is the story for other well known authors.
So, while this helps me feel better about myself and the pile of dusty stories I have accumulating, it also gives me the push to work harder and the confidence in where I am as a writer. I don’t need to expect perfection in a rough draft, but just need to keep going no matter the road bumps. And one day, even if it’s years from now, I can be proud of the effort I’ve put into every word and character (whether or not I get published).
So, in another author’s words:
“Don’t forget – no one else sees the world the way you do, so no one else can tell the stories that you have to tell.”
~Charles de Lint