At some point or another, after working yourself into a lather, your eyeballs stuck open from eons at the computer, and your fingers frozen into clamped little typing claws, your brain will tell you a lie; it will go something like this: You haven’t done enough.
If you’re like me, it may come as a result of comparison. You’ve worked your tail off, but you haven’t done enough because [you haven’t won that grant/published that book/secured that agent/obtained acclaim]. And somehow, the fact of how hard you’ve worked makes this voice an even greater insult.
In the Facebook age, I think comparison has become an even more common bad habit. I think I was happier before Facebook, in a way; I cared a whole lot less about what people thought of me, my writing, and my achievements because there was a smaller stage, and the only way I could really share information with a large group of people was to send out an email blast. With email, you were lucky to hear back in a week, much less a moment. In other words, my focus was kept on the work, not the audience (and yes, I believe you have to eventually consider the audience, don’t get me wrong).
I’m not blaming Facebook, really I’m not, but I do think writers are happier when we are: 1) just writing and 2) focusing time and energy on our own little plots of writer land–plucking off the sugar sweet beans of your own good work, and getting deep into the healthy earth of your efforts.
Comparison is insidious. It taunts me like a memory of being five, a scared little girl on Halloween night cornered in a group of slightly older ghouls who locked their arms and wouldn’t let me free, laughing harder the more I cried. Even if the taunting voices only come from inside my own head, I’m learning the true dangers of both comparing my work, and my status, to others, as well as forcing myself through a performance ringer where I come out bloody and resentful.
Are you working on your writing regularly? Is it a writing practice—you feed it, nurture it, toy with it, challenge it, test it? Do you produce material every week or month? Do you make forward movement, even if only a sentence or a page?
You’re doing enough.
Take it from me. It’s just like Anne Lamott (and frankly, just about every famous author I know) has said, in one form or another: You think that the day your book is published/grant awarded/acclaim given, etc… life is going to be fantastic, your happiness guaranteed, your beauty at its fullest, your sex life robust. But it’s just another day. And some people—many people—aren’t even going to notice.
You have to notice.
Work hard enough to satisfy your own demands, but not so hard that you lose joy.
It’s your writing practice. What does it mean to you?
If you like what you’ve read, please subscribe to this blog or sign up for my newsletter. Also check out my books: Night Oracle, Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time and, Forged in Grace. And there are a few spots remaining in my Plot & Scene Writing Retreat with Martha Alderson at the Mt. Madonna Retreat Center, May 30-June 1, 2014.