Dear Aspiring Writer,
Thank you for sharing your hopes, frustrations, and confusion about being a writer and what that means. Please know, dear Aspiring Writer, the questions you posed are good ones and are ones all creatives grapple with throughout their writing lives. You ask, What do we, aspiring writers, do when we begin to question our work? I wish the answer was an easy one, a clear path marked with signs letting you know the next right step, mile-markers indicating when you will “arrive”.
Choosing to follow the creative path is not for the weak of heart. People who prefer a linear life should steer clear of making a living through words. As you said, there are many writers who never reach the levels of societies definition of success. Most writers are “working” writers — they support their creative life through other means. This does not diminish their talent or drive, it is their reality. Those writers who do reach a level of success that allows them to write full-time still must begin with a blank page each time they sit down to create, just like any writer. In that sense, all writers, regardless of their level of recognition, are always aspiring.
A question you can ask yourself as you seek clarity on your chosen path is do you want a job or a vocation? If writing is a job for you, then seeking accolades for your work will always be more important than the work. Your work will only be good if others feed you Likes and Shares and Retweets. Don’t misunderstand me, it is important that your work reach the largest audience it can. It’s how all writers build a career. But if writing for you is a vocation, if you are compelled to do it, if you can’t imagine a life without it, if it makes your days fuller, gives your life more meaning, then you allow it to have a life of its own. You do the work of finding platforms for it, you remind people consistently that it exists, you proudly ask others to engage with it, then you release it and move on to the next writing project. You separate the creative work that consists of one writer sitting alone, slipping into words, conjuring something from nothing from the leg work, the hitting the pavement, the bellows of “hear ye, hear ye, read all about it.” These aspects of the writer’s life are two very different things and many gifted writers have been undone and lost because they’ve been unable to differentiate between the two.
So my question for you, Aspiring Writer, is what does writing mean to you? Is it your vocation? Would your life be less without this creative form of expression? If you answer “Yes” to these questions, then by all means keep writing, share your work, and allow your work to speak for itself. To answer “No” to these questions does not doom you to a life without creativity. Writing is still a viable career choice and can support your life and bring you satisfaction. All valued things. The weight of that “no” is that you will always be held prisoner to the opinions of others, most you will never meet, and your work will be boxed in, smothered, not allowed to grow. Questioning your work is normal. Questioning the value of your work is a death knell that only you can hear. The choice is yours, Aspiring Writer. Choose well, and I hope you Discover Yourself Through the Stories You Tell
Another Aspiring Writer…