TW: I wrote this to discuss a anxiety spiral I deal with.
I sometimes get these weird moods when it comes to my writing. I refer them as my “Fitzgerald Fits” because the first time I read a biography about everyone’s second favorite alcoholic expat author I really recognized a lot of his complaints and concerns (definitely not all of them, but…I’m tangenting now…) They’re something I’m sure every writer gets from time to time, though. Let me break it down for you.
- Halfway through a project I start to worry about it, doubt it, wonder if it’s actually coming along the way I envision
- I start looking at other things I’ve done and the poor response, low readership numbers, etc (assumed or actual, keep this in mind. Anxiety is a lying liar and tells me things sometimes that aren’t necessarily true.)
- I decide, “Well, if I’m not popular, that’s okay. Lots of great writers weren’t popular in their life time, but they wrote works that stood and shaped our society.” (In keeping with our Fitzgerald theme, I often remind myself about how during most of his life Gatsby was his poorest seller.)
- Then I look at my work again and decide that it’s not literary enough, serious enough, important enough, to stand this required test of time. I mean…A LOT of what I write has supernatural elements. Beyond Frankenstein and Dracula how much of the cannon really does?
- Well, Wuthering Heights kinda does…and Shakespeare…I suppose. Okay, I’m making myself feel a lot better, actually, wow…
- But still, I start telling myself how I’m not like those great authors. My work doesn’t have those lasting, serious elements.
- Well, at least my early work doesn’t. I’m only in my late 20s. I’ve got time to write my masterpiece!
- Someone posts something online charting the relative age that authors wrote their first masterpiece. I ignore the actual ages and see how often it was their first or second book. Often it was. Anxiety makes me pretend that the nature of the publishing industry in different time periods has nothing to do with this.
- Anxiety tells me I’m too old to write anything great or accomplish anything because I’m no longer an ingenue and the world keeps looking toward younger and younger people for genius. And, of course, “Don’t trust anyone over 30.”
- I’m really close to 30!
- The panic spiral continues for awhile until I decide to just power through the project I was halfway done with. I reread what I’ve written, decide to change some things here and there, but usually I do get excited about it again!
- Process starts over at the first point at least two more times on average before I finish the project, with other nuanced and project specific steps added it.
It’s a struggle that I think a lot of those in creative professions can relate to and I don’t have the answer*. I can spout empty platitudes about how you should “write the story you want to tell” and ignore any other considerations, but that’s not going to stop you or I for doubt our talents or whatever else we’re doubting. The only thing I can direct you to is the penultimate point, the one where I decide to power through. It doesn’t work for everyone. Some people can’t reread their own work without trashing it. I am lucky to not be that way (I think it comes from being trained as an archivist…aka another story about lack of fulfilled ambitions, but we’re not going there today)…most of the time. There’s something that works for you too. I promise you’re a better artist than your brain thinks sometimes. I believe in you.