When Writing Hurts, Remember Why You Started

Generous writing, the kind that might produce a masterpiece, hurts. I've tried my whole life to run away from this fact, but it's true.

The pain comes from two places:

One, the fear that you will never measure up to the writers who inspired you.

Two, the anxiety that your work will never fully capture the world of feeling inside you.

There's a fundamental irony connecting these two: your heroes did not feel like giants when they wrote the works that inspired you. What you felt while reading is not what they felt while writing.

It's inevitable that you will get sick of your work at some point in the process. After all, it contains so much of you, and you have to spend all day with you.

At the worst moments, the pain turns into absolute despair. You might even pray not to be a writer anymore or just decide to quit (as if it was ever your decision).

When you have these moments, understand that you are feeling the same feelings and having the same thoughts as every writer who came before you. You're one of us. Welcome to the family.

That will help you feel less lonely, but that alone won’t keep you writing. For that, we need to go back to the beginning.

You read something that activated you as a writer. You may or may not have been writing already, but this book or comic or movie or poem acted like a pilot light. It lit you up. I don't have to ask you which work it was or when you found it. You already know. You'll never forget.

Go back to that moment. For this part, I don't recommend you actually pick up that work yet. Just remember how it felt the first time you read it.

Remember the overwhelming flood of emotion, whichever emotion it was. Remember losing control of yourself. Remember having that work fill up your mind for the next few weeks, months, or even years. Remember the humbling, heartbreaking gratitude you felt towards that writer. Remember the obligation you felt, after all this, to pass this gift on to someone else.

You are a writer. As painful as this fact might be right now, remember that it started with a gift. Now you get to pass on the gift too.

Take that all in, and understand this:

You did not understand the craft then. You did not fully grasp what that writer was doing. In fact, the story happening in your own mind might’ve been completely different from the story the writer meant to tell.

There was a gap between the writer’s struggle to create the story and your experience of the story. You were in different places. You were different people.

And still the gift bridged the gap.

Above all else, remember that. Even if you and your work turn out nothing like your inspiration, and even if the work looks nothing like the world inside of you, the gift will continue.

As long as you keep writing and sharing what you've written, you'll keep passing on the gift. And you’ll see it in the faces of your readers and hear it in their voices.

The gift is why you started writing and the gift is why you keep writing.

Remember this, and you are unstoppable.