Wednesday, October 21, 2015

For the Writers: Are We Good Enough?

How many of us ask ourselves that question on a daily basis?

Artists, Writers and Performers, oh my.

The thing about creative pursuits is that, sooner or later, they should be shared with others. Yes, a person can write for themselves, but the magic happens when you share the story and other people can relate to it. Musicians can become masters of an instrument, but the magic happens when they share the beauty of that instrument and what they can do with it to the world. Actors can get together and read plays, but the magic happens when an audience member is held spell-bound at the intensity of emotion dramatized on the stage.

So the creative arts allow us to connect with others in a very unique way, but they also make a person vulnerable. Creators will receive external feedback at some point-sometimes good, sometimes bad. Or they won't receive any feedback (ie. no one will even bother to engage with their creation) and they'll wonder why.


I don't want to give a definition to what being successful as an artist is. Each person has their own definition, and maybe it wouldn't even include sharing their work with outsiders. However, the world's definition of success often involves significant social approval.

As a writer, it seems that popularity equals book sales  (if you're indie) and/or agent/publishing deals (if you're taking the traditional route), and so if those things aren't happening, you're not successful.

There, I said it.

And by that definition, even though I'm doing better than some, I am sooo not successful as a writer.

And there are lots of my writer friends who are feeling this pain as well. I'm seeing lots of blog posts about writer fatigue, how to deal with those depressive writer feelings (this one here, by Jan O'Hara at Writer Unboxed has some great advice), and questioning if they should continue or just quit.

How common are you?

On Monday, I was followed by @GritFire on Twitter, and saw the following tweet:

I retweeted it with the response, "I'm trying! But what do you do if "it" never happens?" Because that's what I've been contemplating lately, and what I think my writer friends have been contemplating.

As writers we're told that, if we just write a great story (being special and uncommon), your book will sell, or you'll get an agent, etc... Or we're told to market our books one way, or submit our books another way, and then you'll grab the golden writer ring.

But what no one talks about it is the element of luck involved. Well, no one but Porter Anderson (@porteranderson). Thank God for Porter and his reality-based publishing industry posts.

Yes, hard work is first and foremost. If you don't put in the work to develop and master the skills to write a good story, then you're sure to be a failure. But the message of the tweet, and of writer society in general is "Work hard and you'll become something (special). If you don't become something, it's your fault. You weren't good enough."

But I don't feel like that's true. There have been plenty of famous people who acknowledge the roll luck, or timing, or any of a number different variables besides hard work played in their success. And then there are the confusing monumental successes that cause you to question humanity's taste and ask WTF?

There have been several opportunities for my writing career to be different, but it's not happened - and those opportunities have been out of my hands. External feedback, be it positive, negative or indifferent, is not something I can control.

I'm coming to accept that my stories, my blog (me!) just aren't resonating with a large audience of people, for whatever reason. And what do I do now? Should I quit? Should I stop dreaming? Should I stop trying? Am I truly not good enough to succeed as a writer?

An Answer from an Unlikely Source

@GritFire was nice enough to favorite my tweet, but they didn't give me an answer. I did find one, though, in the e.e. cummings-like tweet from Luka Sulic of the 2Cellos. (When I got blown away by their music several weeks ago, I naturally followed them (both individually and the 2Cellos account) on Twitter.)

Serendipity is everyday magic. How funny that a random tweet would be a fitting response to my question of GritFire.

His instagram stated:

Be yourself.  Believe in yourself.

No, not rocket science, and definitely been stated before, but for some reason I heard the message differently this time.

We are writers - all of us struggling-to-persevere people are creative, wonderful people. Just by being human beings, we're already special and uncommon, and our stories are special and unique to us.

We are writers, and writing is what we do. Our stories can make a difference in the world, and deserve to be told.

We are writers, and we are good enough to not give up. To keep trying. And, maybe, to someday succeed.


  1. If you give up, you will never know if you would have succeeded had you kept on just another month or year more. Mark Twain wrote that you write for yourself until someone pays you to write -- but that you write: just as often as you can. Emily Dickinson gave up trying to be published because of the harsh things said of her poems by critics ... and we would never have known her work if her sister had not believed in her work's worth after her death With each thing we write, we grow better, stronger. I believe in you, Lara. You can do this. :-)

    1. You're right, Roland. I don't know if it's because I'm stubborn or an optimist, but that not knowing the future, and the fear that things might have changed the very next day after I quit, makes me trudge along through self-doubt and disillusionment. And the occasional review that asks for the next book. That helps quite a bit...

      I believe in you, too, Roland. There is no better person who deserves success than you. :) Thanks for your confidence in me!

    2. Friends and kindred spirits have to stick together. Sorry for the delay in the reply but it has been hectic at the blood center. sigh.

  2. Whether or not you've succeeded as a writer is as specific to each individual as is his or her fingerprint. Does that make sense? I get it, but then, that's just me. I believe the decision to continue writing is also an individual choice, so it's difficult for anyone to answer. I recently heard another saying: "If you keep knocking on the door and it doesn't open, maybe it's not your door." To me, a writer who found a solid, profitable career in the work world with my ability to write, but no real following as a novelist, that saying meant I could make a choice to focus on the work writing that is successful and finally relax about the book writing that got a "Meh," response from readers and a lot of spiteful reviews. I could blame my lack of novelist prowess on my lousy agents and lousy publishers and clueless readers, and when I'm enjoying a pity party, I do. A lot. Yet, I try to rise above the negativity and tell myself I'm meant to accomplish different things. For now. Maybe in three or five years, if I'm alive God willing, I'll give novel writing another shot. Until then, I'll continue to learn the craft and exercise my writing muscles in other ways than fleshing out books. I'll read everything I can get my hands on. I'll dream up plots and jot them down if I feel so moved. And I'll enjoy life, take a breath of fresh air and allow the muse to tease me.

    1. HI, Cindy! I totally agree, which is why I mentioned in the post that I don't want to define success for anyone, and only used "social approval" to explain where my thoughts are. The way I see it, you are still writing, still telling stories, just not fiction ones. And you're doing fiction type work based on your desires, instead of seeking the social approval. You're still a writer, and if your fiction grabs you enough that you want to wade back in, you'll do that. So, the saying "if you keep knocking and the door doesn't open, maybe it's not your door" doesn't mean that writing isn't your door. Maybe that particular door isn't your door, but there are lots of doors in life, in writing.

      For some reason, and I really can't explain it at all, that tweet from Luka Sulic grounded me. It was like when my mind is swirling and I do yoga, and the act of focusing on how my body feels and my breathing refocuses my mind to self-awareness, instead of being blown about by anxieties. Something about the tweet shifted my perspective to that same spot of calm composure that I can handle this. I do believe in myself. That doesn't mean that success is going to pop out of the woodwork. I'm too much of a realist to believe that. But I can handle being a writer with a small audience, with a "meh" response.

      And the things you are accomplishing are so important. Putting those things ahead of writing doesn't mean you're any less of a writer. It means you're a balanced, loving mom and grandma. And friend! :D

  3. Yes, I agree with you about the different "doors" for different people, different opinions for different people. After more than 20 years of writing, I'm comfortable with my choices of how I want to write and when I want to write. In time, all writers find their happy place, whether it's writing for the masses for writing for the so-so readers. It's all good.

  4. Wish Blolgspot had a "Like" button like Wordpress does. I'd click it frequently on your posts.

    1. That's good to know, David! Thank you for the desire to "like" the post! I think if you click on the G+ button at the bottom of the post before the comments section (it's a red button), it works the same. It gives posts more status with the Google bots.

  5. I won't give up writing, but it's the other things I'm tired of and wondering if I should give up. Should I give up querying agents? Should I give up querying publishers? Should I give up the idea of being traditionally published by a big publisher and just look for small? Should I give up the idea of self-publishing and just go someplace like Wattpad and offer it for free. Each giving up comes with some disappointment, but at least I'm not to the point of totally giving up yet.

    1. Yep. I get tired of wondering, too. I think maybe that's why I'm feeling more balanced after this post. I've made up my mind that I'll keep on, however that might look. It may be Wattpad for me, but I'll write.

      And be happy with where I'm at in the journey, instead of feeling jealous and frustrated and sad because I'm not getting mounds of social approval. (And I'll still be making the same amount of money, ha!) But, I just want to quit thinking and worrying over how to get the golden ring. And whining. I think I whine, too, mostly to my husband, but you know... I hate it when I whine. What a waste of breath that is!

  6. I think that for me my success as a writer has been defined as my own goals. Right now I have shed the burden of novel-ing and focus on short stories, one I'm finally ready to submit. And for me, getting those stories published will be my success, right now. Then soon I'll be ready to maybe consider writing a longer story, but until than that's my bar. The hard part though in writing at least for me is revising, going back to the drawing board after critiques and silencing that little voice that wants to know why you are bothering? Some days success only means I am bothering.

    1. Hi! So nice to see you! I think short term goals can help keep going. In fact, I think there's been social experiments done which indicates that is a scientifically proven fact. Revising in a vacuum is hard, too. Writing book two with no input was hard, but now I am having to make decisions, and I really have no idea on if I'm being too lax, overly critical, or even know what I'm doing. So, I hear your pain, and commiserate. Cheers for continuing to bother. :)


I'd love to hear your thoughts! Please leave your comments below.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...