My lovely friend Kate has just published her brilliant first book and much to my surprise and delight (I actually got teary) she mentioned me in her acknowledgements (not that I actually did a great deal other than gush about how superb I thought her first draft was).
After thanking her on Twitter I joked:
Although I was only half-joking about stopping.
It’s no secret that I
am desperate want to write a book or that I’ve struggled for years to even get a third of the way done (of many different stories).
I quite often get caught up (procrastination? Me?) thinking about what it will mean if I simply can’t do it. What if I’m not good enough (I’m honestly not looking for compliments here) or I just don’t have it in me. What if I can’t achieve my dream?
Is it self-indulgent (and maybe that’s a different issue altogether) to take time that could well be spent doing other things (like actually earning money) to do something that might never come to anything? Can writing be a hobby? Is a book The End or should the joy in writing be enough?
Even to my ears this sounds like the biggest excuse ever but it feels like these questions are what are blocking me from just getting on with it?
The always insightful Amanda at Something to Ponder About recently wrote a post around the word “possible”. She said:
Anything is possible they tell you. Well frankly, anything isn’t always possible. You can not sing opera if you have never been trained nor have any musical ability. You can’t travel the world if you don’t have money for a ticket.
She goes on to ask what can you do to achieve your dream if it can’t be done?
There are many ways around a problem and the solutions, albeit not perfect, can still be found. Thinking laterally, or outside the box, is a way to find a creative alternative solution. And every solution is different.
Just this afternoon I came across a TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, which I think carries on this point. I was just about to buy her new book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, but thought I’d check out the video first as it’s on a similar theme.
She talks about the huge pressure she felt when it came to writing her follow-up book, which, in her own words, “bombed”, and the fact that she had to go right back to the beginning, pre-success when she was working as a waitress and writing in her spare time.
So for almost six years, every single day, I had nothing but rejection letters waiting for me in my mailbox. And it was devastating every single time, and every single time, I had to ask myself if I should just quit while I was behind and give up and spare myself this pain. But then I would find my resolve, and always in the same way, by saying, “I’m not going to quit, I’m going home.”
She points out that she doesn’t mean home in the sense of her parents’ farm but in her writing. And I actually completely get what she’s saying.
For me, going home meant returning to the work of writing because writing was my home, because I loved writing more than I hated failing at writing, which is to say that I loved writing more than I loved my own ego, which is ultimately to say that I loved writing more than I loved myself. And that’s how I pushed through it.
I’ve been writing creatively since I was nine years old, on and off, and even as a flighty Gemini I always always come back to it. Elizabeth Gilbert’s advice is to identify what you love and “build your house right on top of it and don’t budge from it”.
And if you should someday, somehow get vaulted out of your home by either great failure or great success, then your job is to fight your way back to that home the only way that it has ever been done, by putting your head down and performing with diligence and devotion and respect and reverence whatever the task is that love is calling forth from you next.
So is this the answer to my question? Maybe I need to stop stressing so much about the end game and just write because writing is what I do?
What do you think? Am I just giving myself an excuse or do you think she’s on to something?
Please watch her full talk, if you’re interested in this kind of thing. I found it really interesting (and entertaining).