Is Writing What I Am Meant to Do?
When I finally discovered that writing was my passion, it was all I wanted to do. I spent every second of the day and night crafting stories. I wrote on my phone, computer, tablet, and notebook. As I grew and learned more, I got more self-critical of my work. I wanted each piece to be perfect.
I strived to keep learning, following other writers, and reading every book on the craft I could get my hands on. Over time I completed from start to finish my first novel. I was beyond excited and wanted to publish it right away. I knew I needed to edit first though, so I got to work. Having not seen the first chapter since I started, it shocked me how terrible it was. This lead me into a dark hole of feeling my work sucked.
I had heard the term imposter syndrome before but didn’t put much thought into it. I thought it was something only successful people felt. You write a novel, it becomes an instant best-seller, and boom, imposter syndrome due to the rapid success.
What I found though was this syndrome was not exclusive to the rich and famous. Having written a novel (that will never see the light of day) and feeling accomplished, going through to edit was enough to feel like I was not good enough. I had continued to read fiction and it seemed they had everything figured out. The plot, the dialogue, the setting. It was perfect. My work felt like something much more inferior. Something that would embarrass me to share.
I shared it with the one person I knew would be honest with me because I was being too harsh on myself. My wife read through the first few chapters before putting them down and telling me what I had feared. It sucked. She was much nicer about it, but she was honest. At the time I felt that I wasn’t cut out to be a writer. It was a fun hobby, nothing more.
After that, I wrote very little over the years. A few short stories that went nowhere went I had a crazy dream, but that was it. I had thrown in the towel and called it a day. It was not the first time I had given up on a hobby, but it was the first time I felt I was giving up on myself. Whenever I thought about writing, joy came over me, but once I started to put words down, I felt like a hack.
That was it then. I had tried, failed, and it was time to move on. Story over. At least that is what I thought.
No matter how long I went, or how far I distanced myself, writing always came back. It was something deep inside of me urging me to get out. I decided to take things a little slower. I wasn’t going to become a best-selling author by writing a single novel and calling it a day. I needed to push forward and practice.
I spent the next few years focusing on short stories. Something that I could finish in a few days, edit, and see the final product in full. It helped not try to fix an entire novel, that task alone could make anyone go insane. Short stories allowed me to feel the joy of writing again and feeling the satisfaction of finishing a project.
I practiced my craft, learning to outline better, and understand where I was going wrong. I went back to basics and was proud of what I was writing.
Of course, as I delved into longer pieces again, I felt the overwhelming feeling that I was not good enough. I started using short stories as a crutch. I was back in the pit again, even after all the work. Was this going to be like this for the rest of my life? I thought so. I would gain confidence, have a setback, and lose it all again.
Then something changed. I didn’t wake up and feel different. Instead, I started listening to others’ similar experiences. Going beyond agreeing with them, but understanding why they felt that way. I thought my feelings about my work were me being honest with myself. What others taught me indirect is that seeing the negative in your creative work can be a positive. It means you understand your faults. You can’t stop at understanding though, you have to work towards improving it.
Writing is my passion. It is what I am meant to do. Sure it is not always going to turn out perfect, but that is alright. There are going to be times when I spend weeks writing something to throw it away. That doesn’t mean I wasted my time and am a failure. Instead, it means I learned what I don’t like, and next time around I can be even better.
There is a balance in this all. I had to understand that I was never going to meet my idea of perfect because as I got better, my standards rose. I learned that accepting what I was able to accomplish at a given stage in my creative journey was the best I could do. I gave it my all, I am proud and it is time to move on to the next project.
In summary, I don’t think I am cured of imposter syndrome. It is only a syndrome, not a disease, and the way to get better is to keep going forward. I have learned to deal with it by pushing through the doubt and understanding that I will get better as I keep pushing. The moment I believe my work is perfect is the moment I stop trying to improve. I can accept my work for what my skill level allows for, be proud, and make something even better the next time. I can also accept that not everything I produce will be up to my standards, but that doesn’t invalidate what I have done, or what I will do in the future.
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