Updated: Apr 2
Because even the best writers eventually stall.
I sat at the computer, tears stinging the corners of my eyes.
The end of semester report card came in and the results, so patiently waited for, were not what I expected. After a few years of going to college full-time, not to mention volunteering as a youth leader and working at the school to help pay tuition, my perfect grade point average finally took a dip. Every class had an A next to it except one - political science. That one had an A-.
I could only sit at the desk and sob. I was only a few semesters away from graduating with my bachelor's degree, and I no longer had the perfect 4.0 grade average that I tried so hard to achieve.
Looking back over a decade later since that fateful day, I can't help but kind of roll my eyes at my breakdown over getting an A-. In the grand scheme of things, it didn't matter, and it neither affected my getting a degree nor did it influence me getting a job after graduation. But at the time, it was devastating. I was aiming at perfection, desperate to not only be good, but the best, because in my newly-adulting mind, that was the only way to get ahead in life. It wasn't just about learning or the journey - it was about accomplishment.
In other words, tell me you're a Type A personality without telling me you're a Type A personality, ha!
Fast-forward a number of years, and I'd like to pretend that I've grown since that day at my desk, but I sometimes catch myself getting frustrated, still upset at not accomplishing more. Why isn't my book done? Why are revisions so difficult? How am I supposed to juggle all the things in my life when sometimes it just gets too busy? I may not be crying over an A- anymore, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't have my bad days. Days when work gets to be overwhelming and I'm too tired to write. Days when my body doesn't want to cooperate, and instead of feeling energetic, I'm exhausted. Days when I look at other people like me and wonder, how is it that they're accomplishing so much when I'm doing so little?
Over the past few months, these thoughts have been wandering in my mind as I've been finishing up Heir of Vengeance's revisions and writing Captain Patty and Whalebone's War. Two books, if I'm being frank, that should've been released a few years ago to keep up with the original releases. But life happens, doesn't it? In the years they should've been released, my family and I were dealing with two very sick grandparents, one who survived a hemorrhagic stroke and the other who could barely get around from a previous stroke. My own mother developed heart issues. As for me, endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome, as well as heart issues and chronic migraines, began to slow me down. I was no longer the sprung college kid who could read hundreds of pages a day and go from morning to night without a break.
But even though I may not be that college kid physically, parts of her are still there. Still getting frustrated, maybe not with an A- this time, but certainly over a lack of ability to publish books as fast as other writers.
Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever compared yourself to others, seeing everyone accomplish so much and yet feeling that you're barely making a dent? It can be frustrating, I know. Especially if you're the type of person who dreams big and bold, wondering why everyone else is racing near the finish line while you've barely left the start.
But I'm going to pose a question to you, one that my mom posed to me. And whether you're a writer or something else, I think it still applies. Why do you do what you do? If you're a writer, why do you write? If you're a painter, why do you paint? If you're a photographer, why do you take pictures? Do you do this because you want to accomplish something, or do you do it because you love it?
When my mom asked me that question, I thought long and hard on the answer. The obvious answer was because I love writing. Stories have and always will be my lifeline. But as I was answering the question, I noticed something about myself. Writing was no longer as joyous as it used to be. I still loved it. I still wanted to write. But it was losing its luster. Maybe it was from burnout? Maybe it was from stress? But then I blurted something out, without thinking, that I think was a true reflection of my heart.
"I think I've been so focused on accomplishing things as a writer, that I've forgotten to just contribute to it." Rather, I was so busy worrying about releasing the next book, meeting deadlines, and making sales, that I forgot the simple joy of writing a story and just being a writer.
It's a tale of caution that I would share with anyone, whether you're just starting out living your dream, or you've been at it for years, like I have. It's so easy to get wrapped up in the accomplishments of your profession. Milestones, growth, meeting goals. These aren't, of course, bad things. But too much of a good thing can easily start to outshine everything else in our lives. Are you so focused on the deadline that you're forgetting the joy you felt in creation? Are you so worried about sales that what you create is no longer a reflection of you, but the market?
It's great to accomplish things, and we should feel proud for all that we've done and worked hard for. But don't let accomplishment consume what made you love your craft in the first place. Success comes and goes, but finding joy in what you do is what lasts in the long run. And who knows? Sometimes falling in love with your craft (again) may lead to new and exciting accomplishments.
Don't get lost in the comparison game, as we all have our own journeys to walk. Sometimes it's a run, sometimes it's a walk, and sometimes, by golly, it's a crawl. But as you go on your path, don't forget to take in the sights. Look around you, breathe in the fresh air, and simply enjoy the journey.