Keep Moving

I’m not sure how many people that have reached this blog are actually writers. Though I devote a lot of posts towards the inner workings of the profession as I see them, from tropes to alternative mythologies, I can’t be sure who’s reading it. There is no survey that has you tell me your profession and I’m not entirely sure who does follow the links more often than not. Still, in my heart, I like to think that there’s at least a few of you out there who are writers and appreciate where I’m coming from. And I want you to know I appreciate you too.

Group hug time

Almost every writer I’ve ever talked to has had a similar problem in their life: feeling accomplished. Even Isaac Asimov, famous as he was, still feared the idea that he could be rejected with his next manuscript. JK Rowling started writing new books under a pseudonym so she could see if she could sell her writing and not just her name. Even the most successful of us feels they stand in a precarious position overlooking a pack of hungry wolves.

So where does that put people like us?

If you’re reading this, you’re probably not one of the “most successful” of the field. You’re probably down where I am, still looking up at those people and wondering what exactly they have to be so afraid of. After all, from their perspective, we’re standing at the bottom… with the wolves. And there’s a feeling deep in a lot of us that our lack of success is our own fault, at all times. It’s not, by the way, it almost never is. Don’t get me wrong, I know better than anyone that a writer can make a mistake and pay for it, but those mistakes are often also beyond our control.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s not our mistakes that define our success, it’s our ability to keep going despite them.

Still, I’ve seen how hard it is for a lot of people. I feel like one of the most unmotivated, untalented people I’ve ever known, yet I’m told by one of my closest friends that I’m one of the hardest working writers she’s ever known. I suppose the grass isn’t only greener on the other side, but the grass just grows more vigorously there while making your grass feel inadequate about its lackluster growing regimen.

But almost every writer I’ve spoken to has that feeling they just aren’t doing “enough” at some point. They aren’t writing enough words, not enough pages, not enough posts. It leads one to ask what exactly they would consider to be “enough”. Is it a tangible number or is it a vague feeling that they may never really achieve?

I think we all know the answer to that.

Anyone who actually follows this blog knows I’ve fallen behind on my schedule so badly it has lapped me a few times while I was still trying to catch my breath.  My health was failing me for a while and when I finally found myself feeling stronger I was faced with a family emergency that is still, sadly, ongoing. And each time I tried to rally myself I would bring up the next entry that I was supposed to post to this blog and I would stare at it wondering just where to take it. Was I funny enough to make it work? Was it the right length? Would anyone care? It’s easy for people like us to get caught up in the dark thoughts of our inadequacy. But I had to push ahead on that post, because not pushing ahead would mean I was a failure there too. Right?

Well, no. The fact of the matter is, sometimes you just don’t feel funny. You can’t force that, no matter how hard you try. This is why comedy shows have a whole writing room. No one man or woman could possibly be funny enough to stay on all the time. Sometimes you also have no insight to give, because you just can’t see beyond the situation you’re in. Sometimes you just can’t finish in the direction you were trying to head, not until you get around that obstacle.

Today I woke up to find my day was already off to a bad start. I realize that it’s one of many days to come that will continue to be bad starts. I’m not going to be able to escape this status quo for a long time coming. But I took a moment to reassess and realized that I needed to tell myself something, something that you probably need to hear too: It’s okay to turn another direction so long as you keep moving. You are not a failure, it is not your fault that things don’t work out your way, just keep going.

Neil Gaiman gave advice to an aspiring writer once that if you can’t push forward on something, it’s better to just write something else until you can go back to the original project again. He’d personally suffered some problems before and found that one of his projects just didn’t have life in it anymore. He couldn’t pick it back up and he needed to work on something else. A lot of us would be throwing ourselves against that first project over and over again, feeling that surrendering to it would be a mark against us. Though, honestly, if he can do it, why not you?

That’s true for everyone, writers and non-writers included. Sometimes you just can’t have that perfect situation. But that’s not saying anything about you. That’s not a judgment against you. There’s only one unforgivable failure in this world: giving up. It’s not unforgivable because you’ve wronged someone, it’s unforgivable because you can’t move past it. People can’t see past something if you’ve brought an end to it. How can the story progress if there’s never another page written?

But changing directions, changing course, is not giving up. You’re still moving, you’re still pushing in a direction even if it wasn’t the one you started with. You are accomplishing something every day that you put something out, even if it wasn’t as strong as you hoped it would be. You’re still succeeding even if no one has acknowledged you yet. And if they haven’t, I’m acknowledging your efforts now.

Absolutely, positively, refusing to give up.

You are not a failure until you stop moving and the world is stronger for every person who can get kicked while they’re down and still keep going.You may lack complete confidence in yourself, but every mote of confidence you have is being put in the right directions. And, honestly, too much confidence can be a bad thing…

So don’t feel bad for not having that much confidence.

And, because I couldn’t decide between being funny with Sheen or inspiring with someone actually winning, I’m doing both. Here’s a video of someone getting something they worked hard for. Here’s the face of a hard-fought victory.

May we all be able to experience that feeling someday.