I’m fond of telling people that I come from a long line of accountants. It’s true–I run out of fingers trying to count all the accountants I’m related to.
So it’s quite strange to talk to anyone in my family about writing. We don’t have a tradition of arts or artists in our family. I used to think this was a huge disadvantage owing to the lack of support and understanding, but then I met a writer who comes from a long line of well-known writers; the pressure to write and write well is huge. What we can learn from this is that some things about family are just family.
The truth is, no matter what kind of family you come from, writing is lonely. That’s not solely because you shut yourself away to write, but it’s that most people can’t quite relate to what we do or why. Encouragement is often well-meaning but misguided. (“You must be so happy spending all this time on a hobby!”) Discouragement runs high. (“Don’t you have better things to do?”) Every writer, I think, has a secret log in their head of things people have told us that made us feel we shouldn’t write, or that we were aliens for wanting to. Our inner critic uses this frequently to beat ourselves up.
But the amazing thing is that we write anyway.
When you are a new or emerging writer, no one really tells you to keep going or that what you are doing is worthwhile. No one really tells you that you are good. Inwardly, you believe you aren’t that good, but no one tells you if you’ll ever get better. You screw up enough courage to send writing out for publication and you start collecting form letter rejections. You let someone read your work and they tell you “It’s nice” (or “I don’t really get it”). You get something published and no one reads it. You spend money on classes and courses and maybe even retreats, you come away feeling energized, but that feeling fades as you find yourself back in that place, wondering if there’s a point to all this time and energy and love and care and emotion and frustration you pour into this.
And you write anyway. You beat yourself up for not writing enough, or not being more conventionally successful, but you write anyway.
Think about this for a second. In the face of being misunderstood, discouraged, rejected and unsuccessful, you write anyway. It sounds crazy, right?
But the act of doing it again, of trying again, takes a great deal of personal strength and courage. And that is pretty amazing.
Pat yourself on the back, writer.
You see, in my view a writer is a writer not because she writes well and easily, because she has amazing talent, because everything she does is golden. In my view a writer is a writer because even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway. ~ Junot Diaz