Finding the strength to create

A Young Woman Writing a Letter, Frans van Mieris, from The Leiden Collection

In my last post, I talked about the statue of a sad angel that I saw on a walk, sitting on a wall, mourning someone or something.

Well, recently I’ve wondered if the little angel was sad because they were a writer.

There are writers out there who become early successes, who are adored by thousands, if not millions, and who have the skill and talent and, yes, luck to be able to produce a steady stream of popular, or critical acclaimed (or both!) fiction.

And there are the those who are able, through talent, skill, and perseverance, to acquire a fair number of followers and to make a good name for themselves as solid, interesting and eminently readable authors.

And then there are the rest of us.

The literary world — and by “literary” I include all facets of literature, not just that recognized by academia — is full of writers who have worked hard, are reasonably skilled with words and imagination, and who have never, for whatever reason, been able to become recognized beyond a few friends and colleagues, and perhaps a reader or two.

There can be many reasons for this. They may have family responsibilities that take up most of their time, or a day job that is exhausting. They may have a disability that makes things more difficult, or a medical issue that cuts into their life, or emotional issues that create barriers. They may not have the financial advantages that offer them the chance to do the work, or they may not fit into society’s (and publisher’s, and agent’s) ideas of who can be a writer. They may not be good at making friends, or at taking advantage of possibilities that arise. Or they may simply not be in the right place at the right time.

And so every once in a while, you hit that abyss of I’m not good enough what was I thinking of trying to be a writer I’ve wasted my life damn damn damn. And you shut the keyboard.

If you’re a writer — or a creative of any type — you know what I mean.

I recently had a few days like that. It took me a while to come out of my funk, and I can’t tell you what helped. Perhaps because I saw a film that cheered me up, or read a book which inspired me, or talked with a friend who made me feel more valued. Or perhaps I simply said to myself “Screw it,” and went back to the keyboard. Because, at this point, it would be almost as hard to give up writing as it would be to give up eating.

I have at least one friend who is going through something similar, and I’m sure there are many creatives right now — successful or not — who, because of circumstances, need to forgive themselves for not producing the kind of prose or poetry or music or animation or other art that they think they should ge, or for not being able to impress the kind of people they hoped they would.

All I can say at this point is — you have all my best wishes. Keep trying. Keep producing. Because in the end, it’s what we do.


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