I woke up this morning with a nagging feeling. This feeling is one that I have had for the entirety of my life. It often creeps around dark alleys awaiting my arrival so that it can attack, often crippling me. It springs an odd form of depression. Not a depression that makes it difficult for me to enjoy anything in my life, but one rather that destroys all motivation to chase my dreams. I can still laugh. I can still enjoy most anything in life. But when I stare at a keyboard or a pen and paper telling my hands to write out a story, I crumble.
That feeling is this:
I have no idea what I am doing.
I have been a writer for over 20 years. (The definition of writer being one who writes, not necessarily one who earns a living writing.) Only in the past 4 years have I begun to attempt to make something more of it. Those four years has seen 3 novellas, 1 book of poetry, 1 novel, and 1 short story get pushed out into the world. Seeing that, one would think that I seem very comfortable in knowing what I am doing, despite the lack of financial success I have garnered from those books.
What nobody sees and I seldom discuss is the struggle I have internally every day of my life. The artist’s struggle. It’s the statement above. Many artists, no matter their caliber, believe in their own ability to fail rather than any capability to succeed.
Over the past week I have been trying to build up my skillsets in marketing my books through Twitter. Based on a new friend’s recommendation, I tried tweeting at least 10 times a day about my books. Now while I missed the mark every single day, I only didn’t tweet 1 day where my life got too hectic that not having the habit built in, I forgot to even try. What stands out to me in this endeavor are 2 things: 1) I haven’t been able to get myself up to 10 tweets per day about my books. 2) My tweets have not translated into sales. It shows I have no idea what I am doing right?
Knowing what I do, I should be focusing on these things: 1) I only started out with 270 followers and am now over 290. 2) I only started this about a week or two ago. 3) I get at least two likes or retweets per post. 4) Despite trying to sell books for 4 years, I am still technically new at this. 5)This is to help build my skills, not sell books necessarily (although selling more books that people enjoy is the ultimate goal).
Then there is my blog. Earlier in the year I talked about doing a post a day. Then that quickly fell off. It was the nagging feeling above. It had nothing to do about capability as I might have alluded to in a later post, but everything to do with the feeling.
Coming up is a novel I have struggled writing for two years. A novel that should be part of a five book series. It is a book that when I write it, when I read it, it gives me chills. It is called “The Dangerous Life of Agnes Pyle.” A handful of people have read what it is so far… the response is equal to how I feel when reading it for my own. These people tell me that not only is it good, that incredible falls short of a good description. As a reader, I would devour it were it written by another.
But then that feeling of not knowing what I am doing has been nagging at me.
And because I feel as though I don’t know what I am doing, it makes me doubt that I could do well for this book.
I want to invoke the same feelings I get when reading my story in as many others as possible. I want there to be an obsession over the story.
There are more stories too that I want to write. Looking back over notes, I have at least a dozen stories in various stages that need to be completed. Motivation is there… until that feeling visits upon me.
What got me out of this damn feeling enough to write this post was listening to the latest Nerdist podcast with Mike Birbiglia as the guest. Though much of the first discussion was about comedy and the various levels of success, it was the talk about writing around the 30 minute mark that struck me. And I knew in the moment, I had to write out what I was feeling.
For years I have learned that in most of the world, people have no idea what is going on or what they are doing. We all deal with it differently. I happen to be one of those people who more or less is relatively stymied by the feeling.
It is likely that it will never change; I may never get rid of that nagging discontent.
I can, and should, change how I deal with it though.
It started when I pasted a simple, yet poignant message onto one of my personal notebooks: “It will never be perfect. So let it be perfect.” The point of it isn’t to say that everything I do is perfect, but rather to let things be as they are, to not get muddied in the quest to make things perfect.
I know that I am capable. Not knowing what I am doing has nothing to do with becoming successful. If anything, I should applaud myself for admitting it. I should let myself not know anything; I should use that as an opening to keep learning. If I do get to a point that I feel that I do know what I am doing, where would the adventure be?
It’s ok that I don’t know what to blog about daily. It’s ok to post opinions that are not fully formed in order to spark debate both internally and externally. It’s ok to not be successful in anyone’s eyes other than my own. It’s ok to feel that I am writing garbage, as long as I am writing… which means I am at the very least: practicing my craft. It’s ok to fail.
And it is ok to doubt myself. As long as I get up. As long as I dust myself off. As long as I keep trying.