When You Think You’ll Never Make It

ellenkushner:

metteivieharrison:

The truth about your writing
is that it’s not brilliant. But it’s also not terrible. It’s not worthless. It’s
not the best thing ever written. It’s not proof that you should give up. It’s
just what you can do right now. It’s a reflection of you, complete with
strengths and weaknesses. Thinking about things in terms of black and white,
and “never” or “always” statements isn’t very helpful. Don’t tell yourself you’ll
“never make it.” Equally, don’t tell yourself that “this is going to make me a
millionaire.” Your writing is in progress, like you are. As a writer, you are
on a journey. Each manuscript is a way station. It’s not a permanent
destination.

When you’re feeling
discouraged, here are some things to think about:

1.      Many
wonderful books are rejected over and over again.

2.      You
can only get better if you make mistakes and learn from them.

3.      Sometimes
putting things away for a while is a good idea to get perspective.

4.      The
sun will come out tomorrow—meaning, get started on the next book. It will be
better, I promise.

5.      If
you believe in a book, keep sending it out. You may be one rejection away from
an acceptance.

6.      Remember
that every genius has detractors. Some people hate Shakespeare. Lots of people
hate Jane Austen, my literary hero.

7.      No
author is perfect. Every author does certain things well, and certain things
are left undone or are terrible. Some critics value certain things over others,
thus resulting in judgment of certain authors as “the best.”

8.      You
can give up on something temporarily and go back to it later with a more mature
perspective. It may turn out to be workable, with new skills. It may not.

9.      When
you have people around you who are also brilliant, it is great because it
inspires you. It an also be intimidating. Maybe you need to spend some time
with regular people?

10.  Eat
some food, take a nap, and try again.

11.  There
are things that are more important than writing.

12.  There
is nothing more important than writing.

The truth about your writing is that it’s not brilliant. But it’s also not terrible.

Brilliant insights from Mette, as always.

Never underestimate the importance of #10 in that list. 

The other day I was telling a friend of mine about how I was having trouble juggling NaNoWriMo, a full-time job, and a healthy sleep schedule, and his reaction was basically, “Sorry to break it to you, but that’s how it is when you’re an artist”. And you know what? Mmmmmmno.

I don’t actually buy that getting insufficient sleep, eating poorly, or whatever are integral to the artistic experience. Incidentally, I don’t buy that some type of mental health issue is necessary to make meaningful art, either. Sure, fighting your way through some shit can give you insights that end up making your art better. And sure, if you want to actually create stuff, sometimes you might need to choose between that and naps. But here’s the thing. I think it’s totally possible to live a creative life while actually looking after yourself properly. You can write novels and also wake up feeling rested in the morning. You can make brilliant art from a place of comfort and harmony.

I mean, at least in theory. I’ve got no proof of this – I’m actually pretty terrible at getting enough sleep myself – but I want to believe that it’s possible to balance creative work and healthy life habits, because I want that to be my goal. Maybe it’s having my cake and eating it too, but I want to build a life for myself where writing and sleeping both contribute to my overall mental health. (And cake, also cake.) 

I think it’s weird to assume that this is too much to ask. That being a creative person means being hard on yourself, that the cliche of the malnourished, chain-smoking wunderkind burning out in a frantic blaze of unfettered creativity is the only valid model of the dedicated artistic life. Sometimes I feel certain people don’t only see this as what an artist is, but as what an artist should be, and that this fundamentally destructive archetype ends up molding their lifestyle expectations. And this is destructive not only because if they go full tilt into it then they’re probably going to cause some damage, but also because it forces the decision that if that’s not a life they’re ready to commit to, then they’re not cut out to be an artist. And man, is that ever unfair, and untrue.

So I don’t want to give up on finding a balance between comfort and creation before I even start. I mean, for one thing, I know for a fact that when I’m tired all the time, I’m unhappy, and when I’m unhappy, not a lot of creativity happens. That’s why I always try to include both sleep and writing on my daily to-dos. Yeah, I’m not there yet, but I’m also not ready to give up trying.

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