Every writer fears it.
Every writer faces it.
You're striding confidently, feeling good about your work. Words come to you as easily as a Kardashian finds a camera. You, My Friend, are a Writer! Then you walk straight into a glass wall. The impact is sudden. It thwacks you in full stride. And at first, you don’t even realize what the hell just happened.
That's the moment. The moment you realize that you can’t write. That you were a fool for ever thinking so. That you will never be able to quit your day job. (The horror! The horror!)
I have these moments fairly regularly.
I had a big one this past week. I read a good writer writing about writing well. Apparently I have been doing it wrong all along. Writing, that is. It’s not that he was necessarily right. I just thought what he said made sense. Oh well. As the French say, that’s life. (Yeah, I know, they would say it in French.) Then, trying to regain some dignity from walking into the wall in the first place, I turned and tripped over my own two feet. I read a short story I had written a couple of years ago that I thought was pretty good at the time. It wasn’t. It’s not that it was bad. The story still holds up. But the writer was right. I have been doing it wrong. Oh well, c’est la vie.
Writing is hard. It’s not Mongolian coal mining hard or Calcutta sewer cleaning hard, but it ain’t easy either.
Writing is hard. It’s not Mongolian coal mining hard or Calcutta sewer cleaning hard, but it ain’t easy either. So it may not surprise you to learn that you have been doing it wrong. But it’s still disconcerting. Full-on depressing? That’s up to the writer. I don’t think I can quite get there. I’m too old for depression; I much prefer melancholy. Plus, like I said, this isn’t my first rodeo with disillusionment.
(As an aside, I wonder if people who like to say, “This isn’t my first rodeo”—when they attended their first actual rodeo, did they go around telling people, “This is my first rodeo.” I don’t know why, but I would like to think so.)
It’s as if you misread the map, and instead of driving to Napa you’re on the road to Petaluma. (No, I don’t use GPS. I’m a map guy. Like I said, I’m old.) What do you do? Go back to the starting point, or navigate your way through the back roads to your destination? Again, I think that depends on the writer. Me? Back roads. I will figure it out. And yes, if I need to ask for directions, I will. Maybe I will even see something interesting along the way. Something unexpected. Something brilliant.
After all, it’s not about the destination.
It’s about getting lost on the way.