Ordeals of a Writer

Writing is difficult, there is no hesitation at that. It’s one of the most difficult things that I ever did. The blank word document that stares back at you after spending hours trying to write a story is the most dreadful experience that I have ever had. But what is not difficult in life? Everything needs effort; so, why not put that effort into something that you love to do? People might say it’s virtually impossible to make it in the field of writing, but, in the words of bestselling author Brandon Sanderson, “The odds are much higher than you think they are.” I quit writing a lot of times, but I was lucky enough that I had the heart to give it another try. I learned through experience that writers quit too early, and for the wrong reasons. I’ll tell you what are the things that made me quit and how to overcome them.

One of the things that make writing difficult in the beginning is that we have a very simplistic view of writing. Creative Writing is never taught actively in our schools or colleges, as a result of which we end up knowing very little about its nuances in the first place. As a beginner, I gathered up all the interesting thoughts in the world and went to war on the blank sheets of MS Word. I faced the first blow when my sentences felt bland, and they didn’t carry the power I assumed they would. The next blow was my lack of knowledge in grammar- that’s when you realize getting an A in English means nothing. But beginner’s enthusiasm got me through my first story. When I read it after it was done, I felt horrible. And I couldn’t even tell what was wrong with it, because everything was. That’s when I realized that, man this is tough! After a few weeks of soul-wrenching and unfruitful work, I deemed myself unworthy of lifting this Mjolnir of a task and quit. I have quit writing six times until now. But I always came back. I understood that I knew very little about this art, and I studied a few books on writing and took a few courses. Frankly, the courses taught me nothing, but they familiarized me with what I was dealing with. They showed me that I wasn’t in a pool, but in an ocean, that I had a lot to learn.

Moreover, there is a lot of negativity associated with writing. People, even established writers, tell you not to take up writing as a career. Whenever I’m alone I find two personas in me arguing, one voices the world and prods me to give up on writing and find something more rational. The other tells me to believe in myself and tells me that persistence will yield results. This is a never-ending internal conflict, I assume, that every writer faces. The general misconception about writing aggravates this conflict and hinders our potential to write. Why does being successful in academics mean earning a decent living, while success in writing means that we have to be best-selling authors? Shouldn’t being a successful engineer then mean that one should become a Bill Gates? Moreover, we assume that writing is an all-or-nothing business. We feel that it would be a gamble to invest our life solely in writing. But that’s far from the truth, there is a myriad of opportunities for a creative writer in this world: Copywriter, Content Writer Journalist, Web Content Editor, Content Marketing Specialist, Social Media Specialist, Email Marketer, Public Relations, and many more. And many people make a decent living out of them. While they may not be what you set out to do, they are better channels for your creative potential, than working as a code tester or a call center employee.
Further, one other thing that tormented me when I started as a writer is that I am the only being who was to be held responsible for my story. Nobody else, but I and I alone. There are no teammates or partners to blame, there are no teachers to attribute your incapacity to. Writing is a solemn affair and everything is on you. That is quite a huge task for a kid who grew up avoiding responsibility, one which most of us are not ready to face. While this might not seem like a big problem, it’s shocking how devastating failure in writing can be on our personality. I became more and more insecure as I failed in my writing endeavors. I grew critical of myself and everything around me. I was either jealous of other’s success in their lives or pitiful about their relatively small goals. The beginning years of my writing are the worst phase of my life to date. But I learned to accept this responsibility. In fact, I became a more empathetic and understanding person than I was before writing. All the time spent thinking about characters, their beliefs, and motives elevates our emotional maturity. Writing shapes our personality into something better, but we need to persist when it melts us down.

I find that failures in writing or any creative fields, in general, have a deeper effect on us than other failures, because nobody asked us to write, or paint, or dance. We took it upon ourselves, assuming or aspiring greatness in those fields. Most activities in our life are forced on us, and it’s acceptable to fail in them because we didn’t want to do them in the first place, but writing is our voluntary choice and it hurts when we are not good at it. This was what caused me to quit writing many times. But we need to understand that what we like and what we know need not be the same, it’s fine to be terrible at what we love to do. There’s always time to learn if you have the heart for it. Don’t be so serious about it, the seriousness takes away all the necessary joy and playfulness from your work. Caring too much about writing is very much counter-intuitive and will make one’s life a living hell.
Finally, there is only one piece of advice that anyone, from a rookie like me to a professional like Stephen King, can give to any novice writer: Read intensively and write consistently. You might have heard it before and you’ll hear it again. I cannot stress how important these two activities are for a writer. Set aside an hour or two for writing daily, and stick to it as your life depends on it. And don’t give in to the negative arguments that you’re making against yourself, “Every writer I know has trouble writing,” says established author Joseph Heller. The most difficult phase is the beginning, it only gets better from there. Frankly, you’ll be grateful to yourself for not giving up on writing.

-Aditya Upadhyayula, DAV Public School, Safilguda, Hyderabad