I think writing can be a lonely process. It’s just you and the computer. You and the page. You and the fictional universe you carry inside you at all times.
Or: you and your own mind, your insecurities, your dreadful voices, your fears, and your failures.
It’s easy, I think, to feel like you’re the only one who’s going through this, the only one who’s struggling or suffering. And, I think, being an artist, it’s also easy to feel like you can’t reach out, can’t share your negative thoughts and feelings about yourself/your art/your career, because art is a privilege, a luxury, and complaining about it means that you don’t love it enough, you don’t really deserve to do it, and so-and-so would so much rather be in your shoes and so-and-so would be grateful (unlike you), or whatever.
It’s easy to think this way, when you’re isolated, to tell yourself these stories about how you’re not good enough, you’re a failure, you’re alone. Which is why I think fellowship, connecting, really connecting, with other writers, is so important for the health of your creative process.
I’m on deadline right now, which means that, in general, I don’t do much more than work, sleep, eat, shower (sometimes), work, research, and work. (This isn’t the most healthy practice, and it’s something I’m working on, but for now, it is what it is.) But in the middle of this month of self-imposed relative isolation, I flew to Seattle last weekend for Emerald City Comic Con.
If you’ve never been to a comic convention, let me tell you, it is the most glorious, hustle-bustle extravaganza of creators, fans, geeks, and geek-related things. It’s long lines and long days and aching feet and not-great-food and communities of people coming together for something they love with other people who love it.
One of my favorite parts of these conventions now, however, is that I get to hang out with fellow writers, many of whom are friends, and many of whom I haven’t seen in a year or more, and we get to talk about our current projects, our anxieties, our aspirations, our fears, our doubts, sharing industry specific things without having to explain them, using this comforting, companionable shorthand.
“I’m on deadline.”
“OH GOD. YOU CAN DO IT.”
There’s something about being around people who know what you’re going through without you having to describe it. Or: being around people who have already been through what you are going through right now (and who can tell you that you’ll make it through relatively unscathed), understanding your titanic struggle with your revision, or your insecurities about the stability of your career in the arts. Or: being around people who, when you tell them something that sounds so petty, so small, because it’s only fiction, after all, it’s only your perception of your readers’ perceptions of you, it’s only your fear that you’ll quickly dwindle into insignificance if you don’t put out another book next year, they never make you feel petty or small. They listen. They get it. They’ve been there.
What a gift that is! To know you’re not the only one going through this. To know that it’s normal to be afraid, or to feel like you’re doing it wrong (even though you’re doing just fine). To know that there are people with you, even when they’re not with you, and they’re only a convention, or a phone call, or an email away. I am always reminded of these things, and I am always grateful.
You are not alone.
Your fears are not unreasonable.
Your doubts cannot actually stop you.
Your victories are worth celebrating.
Your work has value, and so do you.
Next week: DICTION. When I was in high school, I learned about diction (word choice) and syntax (word order), and I’ve found that the more I’ve studied craft, the more I think about them. What’s in your narrator’s or character’s vocabulary? What words do they gravitate toward? Do they speak plainly, or do they obfuscate? How do you make them sound educated? Blunt? Colloquial? Pull up a dictionary next Sunday at tracichee.com and/or post your own responses with the hashtag #workandprocess. I believe in you. <3
Work and Process is a year-long journey of exploring and reflecting on the artistic process, craft, and working in a creative field. Each Sunday, I’ll post some thoughts, wonderings, explanations, and explorations on writing and creativity, and by the end of it, I hope to have 52 musings, examinations, meanderings, discoveries, bits of joy or inquisitiveness or knowledge to share. In each post, I’ll also include a topic for the following week, so if you happen to be inspired to question/wonder at/consider your own work and process, you’re welcome to join me. We’ll be using the #workandprocess hashtag across all social media platforms, and I hope we find each other to learn and connect and transform on our creative wanderings.