Last week I wrote about the contributions others make to our work as writers. This week, I want to say something about what we do.
Apart from actually sitting down in front of the keyboard and pounding out words, the hardest part of writing is the mind game. There might as well be a demon hunched on your shoulder. He leans forward, his ragged lips mere centimeters from your ear, and whispers with hot, moist breath. He says your work is shit. Worthless. Garbage. He insists you’re a hack. No one will want to read this drivel. He wonders aloud how much time you’ve wasted in this pointless pursuit. “When,” he demands, “will you wake up? When will you stop this nonsense?”
And there are days when you listen to him. Don’t.
The mind game is intense. Even with all the support and encouragement I wrote about last week, no one else can tell that demon to shut the hell up. Only you.
And how do you tell the demon to zip it?
“This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until its done. It’s that easy, and that hard.”
– Neil Gaiman
You ignore his foul breath, his claws digging into your shoulders, and his scratchy voice. You let his proclamations of your inevitable failure fall on deaf ears. You redouble your own efforts, investing yourself more fully in your characters, your stories. You allow the act of writing to become a reward in and of itself. Who cares if you even get published? You’re already in a rare class. You’re a writer, damn it. That means something.
It’s that easy, and that hard.
It’s also worth it. Only writers too cowardly to tackle worthwhile content don’t struggle with self doubt. The very fact that you have such fears confirms that you are most certainly not a hack. Very, very few of us are Dostoyevsky, but that’s okay. Aspire to be the best writer you can be and avoid the temptation to grade yourself by comparison. Know that you write because you have a story to tell, and that is a noble thing.
Tell your stories. Write, even as the demon tells you not to. Ignore his hissing and find the courage to believe in yourself.