2022 has been a tough year. One of my saving graces has been my creative projects. If you’ve been following my channel, you’d know I’m deep in some pretty big projects, including my novel and short stories.
However, even my passion project comes with its struggles. As with all daily grinds, some days it feels like I’m making progress, and other days it feels like I’ve wasted my time, regressed in my skills, or even set myself up for embarrassment. When this happens, I want to shut it all down and give up.
Now, I’m no expert in overcoming struggles. As much as I appreciate stoic philosophy, it’s not easy to practice it in real life. Sometimes I find myself frustrated and confused, but I always get myself back onto the metaphorical horse. In this article, I’ll share my most notable writing fears and struggles and what I might do to overcome them.
Comparison with Others
As I follow more and more artists, writers, and all-around successful people on social media, I often notice the jealousy that brews beneath the surface of my cheerful exterior. Every day, I see writers celebrating their milestones, showing off their book covers, and getting profiled by publications, while for the past few years, I’ve been in the weeds with my work.
Seeing others celebrate while I’m still in the middle of the grind is painful. I’m putting in all this effort, but where is the payoff? This is, of course, a dangerous mindset. When these feelings bubble to the surface, I repeat a quote that has always stuck with me, and that is: your success is your success, not my failure.
We can sometimes see life as a zero-sum game. For my team to win, the opposition needs to lose. If someone buys their book, then they won’t buy mine. When they win, I lose. But when it comes to creativity, that is not true. When people read, when people watch videos, and when people appreciate others’ creative work, it elevates all of us.
I try to hold onto that whenever I see others achieving their goals. I want to be someone who rises and meets them at the top, not someone who tears others down so that they are in the pits with me. None of us will succeed that way.
Comparing yourself with others is dangerous, especially when you think they are stealing from you. They are not, they are on a different journey, and their work doesn’t impact yours. Don’t compare your work in progress to someone else’s finished product. It’s all a distraction. I could be jealous, or I could be inspired. Examine their work, see how they did it, and maybe we can learn something.
Fear of the 1-Star Review
While I struggle with the success of others, I also struggle with my failures, and nothing epitomizes that more than the fear of getting a one-star review.
This fear is irrational because I haven’t even completed my novel yet, and here I am, anticipating the criticism and haters. Jumping to a conclusion can lead to a lot of anxiety, and that can throw me off. It creates unnecessary pressure that causes me to second-guess every word I write and every piece I publish.
Here’s the thing, I’ve yet to get a one-star review for my work. One day I will, but for now, I have no real experience. While I’ve gotten negative comments from instructors and on social media and can imagine a similar pain, I don’t know what I’m dealing with. It’s that unfamiliar negative feeling that scares me. It’s like anticipating a car crash while your friend is driving; nobody feels good about that.
We, as humans, put more value on negative comments than on positive ones. We’ve all been there. We share our work with someone, and they praise us for this and that, but end with one thing that they didn’t understand or a suggestion. All the nice things they said disappeared, and now we’re fixated on that negative comment. What hurts the most is that there is truth to that comment. But I try to look at it this way: isn’t it kind that they gave you any feedback at all?
Reviews are important for creative writers, especially in a saturated market. It’s painful to work on something for so long only to have someone trash it. But as Gary Vee would say, ignore all of it. Good and bad. None of it matters. Take constructive feedback when it’s offered, but when it’s unsolicited, criticism is a gift you don’t need to accept. You don’t need to apply it to your work.
Fear is not a bad thing. The fear pushes me to work hard, do everything I can, and make sure it meets my standards. Once it does then it doesn’t matter what other people say because I approve of it. I stand behind it. I can’t make everyone happy, but I can hold my head high. There are bound to be people who hate my work. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It sucks that they have to give me a one-star and hurt me, but hey… it wasn’t made for them. But here’s the good news, they chose to engage with it, and that’s worth celebrating.
The Reward May Not Be Worth It
From the start, people have told me that there isn’t a lot of money in creative writing. Only a small percentage are lucky enough to make a comfortable living, while others need to hustle or subsidize their creativity with other jobs. This is the reality all writers need to understand when they pursue this craft. The reward at the end may not be a pot of gold. The reward may be just more creative work.
While that may sound fruitless to some, and money causes stress, it can also be a positive. If you’re a writer chasing fame and fortune, good luck. However, if you’re a writer who wants to be able to write consistently for your whole life, then you should reframe your mindset.
You’re not writing to make money, you’re making money to keep writing. The act of writing is the reward. The fact that you get to wake up every morning and work on something you’re passionate about is something you should be grateful for. Everything else: the money, the accolades, the fans, the New York Times bestseller ranking, the movie adaptation, and the lifetime achievement award — all that is a bonus. Don’t deny it when it comes, but don’t put those expectations before your work.
When I get caught focusing on what writing can bring, I don’t pay enough attention to what writing does. The act of writing is a friend. Our friend is there with us through good and bad times. Our friend is kind and reliable. What our friend isn’t is someone that pays us regularly for showing up to hang out with them. We don’t expect anything in return for chilling with our friends. We should be so lucky to spend time with them. And so it goes with writing. At least, that’s how I try to see it when my word count increases, but my bank account stays the same.
We, writers, are vulnerable, optimistic people. We put our hearts on the line every time we sit down to create in the hope of impacting our audience. With that pursuit come fears and struggles beyond story structures and typos. These are things I deal with daily, if not on an hourly basis. It’s easy to get caught up in our heads. Of course, it is! We are writers… we live in our imaginations.
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