Writing is a craft. Like all crafts, it takes work and perseverance to excel in. That said, humans are human. Everyone, me included, faces many challenges on a daily basis. On some days, those challenges are tougher than on others. And some days, those challenges can be the kind that can completely derail writing altogether without anyone even noticing it’s there.
A problem can’t be solved until it’s addressed. This is my personal list of the 7 hardest and most detrimental challenges a writer is likely to face.
1.If You’re Writing for the Money, You’re Going to Have a Bad Time (Greed)
There’s a definite reason writers always hear the dreaded “Don’t quit your day job.” Though it definitely takes hours upon hours of work to produce a book and is certainly deserving of decent pay, the reality is that art next to never produces the monetary results we’d like to see.
Here’s a secret: it was over a year after I finished the first draft of Nightfall before I saw a single cent.
2. So What if Their Grass is Greener? (Envy)
I’m so guilty of this one, it’s not even funny. When you’re a part of a large community of artists somewhere like a NaNoWriMo group, Tumblr, or even as small scale as a group of friends who share arts on the weekend, it’s easy to catch yourself comparing your works to those of other people.
Something I learned while studying music has helped me learn how to fake the confidence I need to survive those awful sharing circles. If you play a wrong note, own it and the audience won’t notice.
You are your worst critic. Of course you’re going to think their work is better-you see your flaws more clearly than you see the good. That said, the opposite is true for them. Your work has merit, and they’ll see that much more quickly than they’ll see those mistakes yelling at you from the page.
3. It’s Work, not an Aesthetic (Lust)
If one more person tells me they think it would be fun to “be a writer and spend my days curled up by the fire with a cat and some tea,” I’ll probably become extremely violent toward my favorite pillow.
Sure, go ahead and enjoy that stereotype. It’s something I find pleasant, definitely. Nothing beats tea and a warm, fuzzy blanket.
It can’t stop at that stereotype. The hours and hours it takes just planning a novel, not even producing the first draft, revising, editing, and making it an art instead of a collection of words makes it work, not an idea. It’s something that consumes a ridiculous amount of time, and it’s not something to dive into unless the idea of not writing brings about feelings of nausea and crippling anxiety.
Don’t go into it for the aesthetic. You don’t have to be a writer to enjoy warm drinks and cozy evenings.
4. Ideas are Golden, but Focus is Platinum (Gluttony)
Excuse the food comparison. It’ll make the most sense, I promise.
Every moment is a part of a story. Every person is a story of their own. All of these stories weave together to become the elaborate mess we like to call time. There’s so much to think about, so many questions to ask, so many paths to uncover. It’s simply too much for one person to ever uncover on their own.
It’s rather like pizza. If there is a long line of 20 different flavors of pizza, it’s possible to take a slice (or bite) of every single one and try to experience the full range of experience possible. It’s also almost guaranteed to result in a painful stomach ache.
It would be fine to instead take a piece of one or two different varieties and savor what’s there, knowing the others can be explored on another day. It’s less stressful that way, both for the gastrointestinal tract and for the spirit.
The same is true of writing. Most of the time, I have one or two main projects and several ideas bouncing around in my head. In order to make it through any of it, though, I have to take them one piece at a time.
5. Newsflash: You Sucked When You Started, Too (Pride)
Remember that bit about us all being our own worst critics? Well, what happens if our worst fears are confirmed? Or even worse, they’re confirmed by someone we admire?
Think back to the first short story you ever wrote. Now imagine your idol telling you it’s the worst thing they’ve ever laid eyes on. Would that second work ever exist? There’s no way to know.
I’ll be blunt. You probably sucked. Every master started out a beginner, and every beginner has the potential to evolve into a master. There’s no need to crush anyone’s self confidence, especially not a fellow artist.
Come on, we deal with enough aggression from people who think artists are lazy wannabes. Let’s show each other some support.
6. If You Don’t Start, the Snail’s Gonna Win (Sloth)
Snails are small and slow, but at least they’re moving.
Most people find procrastination to be a problem when it’s something important. Be it homework, an unpleasant work task (ugh, cardboard compressor), or wordsmithing, most people will procrastinate when they’re the most afraid of failure.
Unfortunately, the cliche is true. Success is impossible if there is no attempt. An attempt of any kind, therefore, is going to be better than no attempt at all.
Procrastination is comfortable. Doing something worthwhile isn’t. It’s your choice-pick one.
7. RAGE QUIT (Wrath)
Procrastination is a delay. Rage quit is the end.
Never quit. Wrote a poem you wouldn’t even show your mother? Try again. Can’t seem to get the dialogue quite right? Try again. No amount of flipping through the thesaurus is finding the right word? Try again.
Never give up. Take a break. Walk away. But always come back.
If writing is your passion, the worst thing you could ever do, both to it and to you, is giving up. Never, ever, ever give up.