I close my laptop halfway through another blog post. “It’s too hard.” I think to myself. Writing, vulnerability—it is all too much right now.
I keep having the same issues. I can write out my problems in a silly anecdote, but, when it comes to working out the solution, I hit my writer’s block.
Discouraged, I stop writing, promising I’ll come back another time. But then I remember all the other ideas I’ve conceived, posts I’ve started, and drafts I’ve left unfinished.
I spot the pattern.
When I was 7 years old, my mom gave me a composition notebook so we could write letters to each other back and forth. She had caught on that, even though I could hardly write sentences, I communicated best through writing. As a middle child in a family of five, it was my way of having my voice heard.
That green notebook eventually got lost, but it started something in me. I began journaling. 14 years and 23 notebooks of various shapes and sizes later, and I am still trying to work out my thoughts and feelings on paper.
When I started picking out books on my own, I gravitated toward mystery novels. At 9, that meant the Cul-de-Sac Kids and anything else I could find in the juvenile section of the library.
I decided I wanted to be an author when I grew up, and I started by writing a (mostly plagiarized) story in a spiral bound notebook. I lost interest before I could submit it to Harper Collins, but I forced my little sister to read it.
I started my first blog, You Be the Writer, when I was 16 because blogging was the fad, and I had some time over a beach vacation to come up with a name from the Ellie Golding song I was obsessed with at the time. I wrote about clean eating and teen problems. I didn’t have a mission statement or a schedule; I mostly just mimicked the online content I read.
After being inspired by Emily Freeman’s book Graceful and discouraged by virtually every other Christian book for teen girls I had read, I decided to become an author of Bible studies. I wanted to tell girls that God’s grace is bigger than their legalism.
I went to college to pursue a writing degree and was genuinely astonished when my adviser told me I may need to consider a more practical career path as a back up plan. I almost cried right there in her office.
Over the next year, I changed my major from Professional Writing to English, back to Professional Writing, to undeclared Interdisciplinary (mixing English with Ministry), then back to Professional Writing. I gradually pulled away from the book/blog writing path toward a business track. The professor who made me cry the first day become my boss and mentor, not because she discouraged me from my dream, but she helped me realize I could still pursue ministry writing while holding down a 9 to 5 job.
When I graduated, I looked for any job with the word “writing” the description. Sending out countless applications and utilizing everyone in my network, I finally landed an internship as a copywriter at a web design company.
Nine months after graduation, here I sit, wondering if all that was a waste. All the time and energy I invested in writing and now I can hardly finish a 500-word article online.
Every time I put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard), I end up hating the words I write. Either 1) I have no idea what I am actually saying, hence no idea why someone else should waste their time reading it, or 2) I can only think about how uninteresting my style is and how, even if I am making a good point, almost anyone else could say it better—go read their blog.
Like most things in life, the more I learn about writing (grammar, style, structure) and marketing that writing (publishing, online presence, networking) the more I realize how hard it is. The deeper I get into this world,the more I question my ability to live in it.
I want to go back to the girl who thought because you said you wanted to be an author when you grew up, it would be so. When “grown up” finally arrived, you would magically publish a book and it would mysteriously sell thousands of copies. Just like how the kids who said they wanted to be doctors or actresses are all practicing medicine and accepting their Oscars, right?
Nope. It turns out the journey to your dream is actually filled with bad grades and tearful nights. And, after all that, it doesn’t feel worth it anymore.
If I quit now and never wrote another word—not for a business and not for a book—I could get a job at Starbucks where I could get health insurance and brighten people’s mornings with their favorite latte. Sure, I would have to get up early, smell like coffee, and work with sassy teenagers, but at least it wouldn’t hurt so badly. At least when someone complains that you put too little ice in their light ice caramel macchiato with almond milk, half the syrup, and an extra shot of espresso, you could just make them a new one without feeling like they stomped on a piece of your soul.
Maybe this living out your passion thing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
All this brings me back to my question: Is it worth it?
As a 7 year old, writing allowed me communicate my thoughts and feelings to discover who I really am as an individual. At 9, writing helped my find my voice as I responded to the books I read with my own take on the genre. In high school, blogging gave me a chance to talk about anything and everything that interested me. Through college, I was inspired to use writing as a way to serve others with a message I didn’t have when I needed it. Since graduation, I’ve used my training in writing to pay the bills.
Through my life I have written for self-discovery, artistry, enjoyment, ministry, and income. Putting words on a page has been both easy and excruciatingly hard, but in the past, I have always gotten something out of it.
Is it the same now? More often than not, I feel like I pour out everything in my writing and go away feeling more tired and useless than before.
I could just remember the good times and end it there. We had a good run, let’s end gracefully before it gets ugly. You’ll find someone else who will treat you better, I promise. Just look to social media, you’ll find thousands of other aspiring writers to torment.
Or I could keep going. One lazy word, disjointed sentence, and inconsistent page at a time, trusting that the value I found in the written word will come back. Maybe not today, but the past promises a future.
Pain is part of the process. The only failure is quitting. – My dad