Write and survive

Writers are survivors at heart. They are unbreakable, resilient and ultimately unstoppable because they have conquered the most insidious of foes — uncertainty.

Uncertainty is simply not knowing. This isn’t inherently bad, but the unknown leads to fear and doubt. Writing is filled with uncertainty. There’s the blank page, the next word, the next project or the next pay check. All of these things can lead to fear, doubt and quitting.

When there is value attached to writing there is an even greater chance for uncertainty to become fear. Writing that term paper is difficult because there is a grade on the line. In those moments of struggle, its easy to venture into the possibility of failure. Suddenly its so much easier to procrastinate because the prospect of failure is hard to face in large doses.

The professional writer has it worse because there is so much riding on those words. Suddenly, the  stakes are bigger and the level of uncertainty that much higher. There’s a reason its difficult to become a full time writer. Not many people are resilient enough to face that kind of uncertainty day after day.

The best writers never forget that they are survivors. The survivor accepts the possibility of failure and welcomes the prospect of success. They know that the only way to success is to work until  the job is done.  When it comes down to those moments of uncertainty the survivor chooses to see things through till the end. Finishing doesn’t guarantee success, but he knows that its impossible without it.

The finished story is a treatise on survival. All these times that uncertainty crept in the writer never wavered. Over and over again he chose to work until the job was done. Successful writers are the ones that never forget that they are survivors. They finish their work then take a deep breath before embarking on that crucible again.

 

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Reaffirming my commitment to writing

I’ve always had trouble reconciling my passion for writing and pressures of financial stability. It’s as if the two concepts are oil and water — destined to separate and never work in harmony with each other.

This isn’t true at allWriting for money isn’t the problem. It’s tying security and fulfilment to writing that imbues the process with a seriousness that is suffocatSuccess, by traditional measures, revolves around what I did for a living. The self made person that works hard and does what it takes to build a stable life is celebrated and iconized. The problem with the idea of “making it” is that it means others have to fail in order for me succeed.

In turn that means I can fail.

I struggled with this for such a long time. It’s why the type of writing that I found fulfilling became a hobby that was relegated to my spare time. Working at a newspaper became my job for so long because It paid the bills, provided health insurance and afforded me some “spare time” to pursue the kind of writing I really loved.

The problem is that spare time translated into “not enough time.” There was never enough hours to write fiction or explore the type of journalism that truly interested me. I did this all for the sake of security.

Knowing nothing else I stuck with the status quo and continued to split my attention. It made me unhappy and disillusioned. Then one career fell apart last week and I was left without the stability I’d been working to keep all this time. It’s scary to experience one of the pillars of your life come down so quickly, but ultimately what it left behind was perspective.

It is impossible to find success in a job. It’s ultimately unstable and could go away with the next “cost cutting move” and “reduction in workforce.” No amount of hard work would have saved my job and that is demoralizing to someone raised on the belief that effort is the ultimate determinant to success.

It’s impractical and deadly to seek security in something so fleeting as a job. The fear of seeing everything fall apart drives people to work themselves to death. It causes the type of stress that gives people heart attacks, cancer and ends lives prematurely.

I see the people around me head down that road and its frightening to see.

True success is dependent on how you do something not what you do. This is a hard concept to grasp because our lives, careers and ultimately our happiness is centered on building toward the future. Yet, living in the moment is the only way to live without killing yourself through worry and stress.

There is no security in any job, but that doesn’t mean I’ll do nothing for the rest of my life. It just means there is no reason to ignore the things I am called to do any longer.

Writing will be a struggle for anybody who is seeking something from it. To subscribe any amount of importance to the end product really defeats the purpose of writing in the first place. This doesn’t have to be a stressful or emotionally draining process. There is creative tension sure, but the prospect of failure doesn’t have to be such a dreadful thing.

Failure affects those who expect their writing to deliver something that it can’t give. To expect a piece of writing to deliver fulfillment or financial stability is suffocating to the person producing it and taints the process with a seriousness that is unnecessary.

The prospect of seeing their best efforts rejected or ripped to shred by critics is the reason why a lot of people don’t even try. Added stakes like financial security, a grade or the notion of self fulfillment adds even more stress to the process. When the writing comes to symbolize a piece of yourself then pitching a story is akin to masochism.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the “why” of things that it’s easy to forget that writing is an art. There is a joy in self expression regardless of what it is or who it is for. There is as much pleasure to be had in writing news article as there is a piece of fiction because I enjoy the craft for its own sake. The real secret to writing is that fulfillment comes from the act of writing and a willingness to let go of what comes out of it good or bad.

Writing in this way requires a certain level of detachment. That doesn’t mean I don’t care what happens, it just means I accept the fact that this piece may not sell and that’s ok with me. For some people accepting this level of uncertainty is impossible and that is why they are not writers.

Anybody who wants to be a career writer comes to grips with failure and how they deal with it ultimately determines their quality of life. Failure only matters to the person that puts too much self importance on writing. I’m not smart enough to make the determination that I am a bad writer and neither is anybody else in this world. It’s also not my call to make that determination either.

My only task is to get better and help others do the same. The reaction to those moments of rejection is a good indicator of my real reasons for writing. A rejection letter doesn’t mean anything beyond the fact that my story or pitch didn’t work for whomever read it. That is the truth for rejection letter one all the way to 100.

I had trouble calling myself a writer because that would mean making it front and center in my life. That would mean making a commitment and putting something I loved so much in the line of fire. Yet, to shift back into the old mindset and seeks security somewhere else brings so much regret  that I can’t go down that road again.

The choice to be a writer is a simple one to make, it just took me a long time to get there.