That Quiet Little Devil: Inadequacy

My friend asked me how I deal with inadequacy, and I had to think about it for awhile. There’s a lot of articles, and videos, and blogs out there sympathizing with the feeling of inadequacy. Some of my favorites being Neil Gaiman’s NaNoWriMo Pep Talk, Ira Glass on Storytelling, Why Writing a Book is Hard by Sarah J. Bray, Don’t Give Up by Beth Revis, and this blog on Burnout by Dawn Montgomery.

But that doesn’t always help. Sometimes I’ll open up a manuscript and feel physically ill. No matter what anyone says, no matter the encouragement I get, it’s like I’m just vomiting words onto a page of sewage, and then slogging through it so it gets caked and dry on my skin, and I feel like the crap that I see my writing as.

There was one time that my own pressure and my perception and my goals were strangling the words that were coming out, and I had to stop. It wasn’t healthy or productive, and I had to take a whole freaking month to find the courage to even try to write again, spending that time with my family and reading a ton and generally refilling the creative well.

It was the right choice.

Another time, I had some crazy-difficult-but-needed revisions to apply to a manuscript I was totally exhausted of working on. And I slogged through that feeling of inadequacy, because I had goals to meet, and I may not have succeeded in the end, but they were more important to me than anything.

It was the right choice.

I wish I could give you magical words to tell you what the right choice for you is, right now or sometime in the future — because you will feel this. I have never met a writer who hasn’t hit this point. Last year I spent months stewing in self-pity because life honestly was that rough, and my brain couldn’t take it anymore. But let me give you a few facts that will hopefully help:

  • You’re here, you’re reading this silly blog post, you’re trying. That’s amazing.
  • You’ve written words. Not a lot? Too many? Does it matter? You’ve written more than the people sitting down and only thinking of writing a novel or a short story.
  • Maybe your words do suck. You can make them better.
  • No one who gives you positive feedback is lying to you. They have no reason to. Unless you paid them to, which is kinda weird.
  • Even one word is progress. Reading one sentence in revision is progress. Not every writer has to write every day — I don’t.
  • Success is what you define it as. Nobody can tell you how to be successful or creative.
  • Sometimes writing for a friend, or for yourself, is the best way to get it out. What you do with it afterwards is your choice.
  • Once in awhile, you need a break. Go out for a day. Take a walk, see a movie, get some weird food you’ve never tried before, hang out with friends or family. It’s okay. This is me giving you permission to get off the computer and live a little.
  • If you quit, that’s okay. If you decide to never create professionally, that’s okay. If you want to come back, that’s okay.
  • It’s okay. Whatever you’re feeling right now is okay. It makes you cry, and eat lots of deliciously horrible food, and probably some crappy TV, too, but it’s your feeling, and you have every right to feel it. If anyone tells you otherwise, send them to me.

Okay, I’m done rambling. I hope this helps, even if all it does is make you feel less alone in the isolation that creativity always seems to bring. If you need to talk about it, the comments are all yours.

Bacon, out.

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