The Hard Truth About Writing: Sometimes You Seriously Just Want to Give Up
I can’t tell you how many times I have wanted to give up on writing.
This is not something people usually expect to hear. My circle of friends and colleagues know that writing is something I am deeply passionate about; it’s the thing I sacrifice my free time and extra sleep for, and the thing I seemingly never stop pursuing.
But what they don’t know is how many times I have really, seriously, TRULY thought about throwing in the towel.
The thing about writing is that most people only see the end result. They see the polished novel that went through 12 different rounds of revisions, or the gorgeous cover that you had to go back-and-forth with your designer over for months to get just right. They might remember you proudly announcing that you had started your novel, or finished it.
But most people never see all the back-breaking labor, and the soul-breaking trials, in between.
Most people never see us when we’ve spent three years writing the first draft of a novel, only to decide that the best thing we could possibly do is bury the whole thing in the backyard. Most people don’t realize the feelings of disappointment and sadness we go through when our novel has been on the market for two years and we’ve haven’t yet broken the $500 mark in sales. Most people don’t know that it’s rare that we ever feel truly supported or understood by someone else when it comes to our writing dreams, and that for the most part, we feel like we’re operating all by ourselves, isolated and alone.
These are things writers go through. On a regular basis. Sometimes we have good days and sometimes we even have brilliant days, but we also have a whole lot of these challenging, difficult, just downright icky days too.
As a writer, this is when you have to dig deep to access your inner reserves. A superficially positive attitude isn’t going to cut it, and neither is the method of kicking yourself when you’re down. If you’re serious about being in it for the long haul then you must tap into something deeper and way more sustainable.
What I’m talking about here is spiritual stamina.
Spiritual stamina is the ability to shift perspective as needed and see the bigger picture. It’s being able to identify a deeply meaningful vision for your life as a writer and an artist, and also being able to return to that vision in times of stress and fear. It doesn’t matter if you’re not religious or you’re not someone who attends a church. Developing spiritual stamina as a writer is a very personal, individual, intimate process. It’s not about joining a community — although that might be part of it for you — it’s more about building a bedrock of inner belief in your destiny as a writer that you can use as a touchstone when the going gets rough.
Developing a spiritual practice around your writing can be extremely helpful in building this inner foundation. Your practice can be anything you want it to be. Maybe you say a prayer or set a personal intention before you start your writing for the day. Maybe you make it a point to use affirmations focused on your writing goals throughout the week. Maybe it’s even something as small as deciding to spread kindness by complimenting one writer in your community each month. Whatever your spiritual practice around writing includes, as long as it soothes your heart and puts you in touch with your soul-level purpose as a writer on a regular basis, then it’s working.
Developing spiritual stamina is also known as keeping the faith. When you keep the faith, you know that each trial that shows up in your life will come and go and that, no matter what, you are always on your right and true path as a creative being. When you keep the faith, you also know that no one else can do the exact, unique, beautiful thing you are doing with writing, and that your writing is a soul expression of pure YOU. When you keep the faith, you know that even if you feel alone, you never really are, and that the Universe always has your back.
Keeping the faith is not an easy thing to do. That’s why it’s called a “practice,” because you have to keep showing up and doing it.
If you’re confused about your purpose as a writer, or you’re having trouble keeping the faith, you can do a few simple things to get back on track. Take some time alone and journal about the reasons — the really deep reasons — you write. Take even more time to meditate and ask yourself those same questions. What do you want to write that you’ve always dreamed of sharing with others? What do you want to write that you’re most afraid of? WHY do you want to write at all?
Searching for the answers to these questions can be challenging, and you might not find the answers right away, or even for many years. But if you begin the search at all, then you’re halfway there. Ours is not a world that encourages you to turn off the noise, turn away from the drama, and go within to ask questions that feel uncomfortable and daunting, so taking these first steps is a victory all on its own.
But you’re a writer. And really, that’s what you were born to do.
So even if it’s been a hard week, a hard month, or a hard last few years for you, take a deep breath and come back to yourself. Come back to the living truth inside you: You are a beautiful, brilliant, creative being.
And, as a writer, you have enough faith to move mountains.
Lauren Sapala is the author of Between the Shadow and Lo, an autobiographical novel based on her experiences as a raging alcoholic in her 20s. She is also the author of The INFJ Writer, a writing guide made specifically for sensitive intuitive writers. She currently lives in San Francisco.