When I was pregnant, I woke up to some pretty bizarre dreams – dreams of people walking in my room, dreams of wild sex, dreams of being a terrible parent.
Three nights in a row I had dreams about my writing career. In the first, I was being urged to keep writing. In the second, I was being urged to keep writing with a particular client of mine, one who was in the midst of marketing his book proposal at the time. In the third, I was shown a chain of flowers that seemed to symbolize what I had written already. It was incomplete.
There’s no more context than that, no more information. I woke up going, “Write what? What do you want me to write? THROW ME A BONE, HERE.”
Why the questions? Because I was in the throes of doubt over whether I should continue to write. At the time, I was filled questions, emotion, excitement, confusion, not to mention a baby.
Like every writer (I assume), I’ve probably thought about abandoning the pursuit of writing as a career at least as many times as I have thought about my gratitude for the ability to pursue it. In fact, I’ve come to think that the constant back and forth will be a part of life.
My writing was commercially good and I could sell my work, but when I tried to write for myself my thoughts meandered, and I never managed to say anything substantial. Writing was always a catharsis, but how could I make what was inside me mean anything to anyone else? Where was the value proposition for the reader, the thing that would make them say, “I’m glad I spent five minutes of my life reading that.”?
The other day I was listening to Paulo Coelho talk about writing on Tim Feriss’s podcast (which episode?). Coelho needs to feel pain in the morning and happiness in the evening to write well. Pain comes in the form of procrastination in the morning – checking his emails, checking his social media, etc. The usual stuff we all do. Throughout that time, he gets more and more irritated with himself, feels guilt. He’ll start and stop writing a couple of times, until some magical moment where he’s ready and gets down to the business of writing his work for the day.
Doubting whether you want to be a writer is like Coelho’s guilt: a necessary part of the whole process. There will likely come a day when the invoices aren’t getting paid, the ideas don’t feel fresh, the clients are annoying, and the endless demand for content is disheartening. It’s natural to question the sanity of what we do then. And it might even lead you to throw in the towel for a little bit, or to drastically change the kind of writing you’re willing to do.
Feel the doubt and look at other options, perhaps even taking them seriously. Just know that when you return to the work of writing (not the commercial work of selling your writing), you will feel the commitment to it again, and the ideas and enthusiasm will return.