If you’re a writer and ready to give up, read this first.
I know you’re tired. I know you have times when you wonder what the point is. You wake up early, stare at that blank page, and aren’t sure why you even bother. You have things you want to say, but you’re afraid no one will listen. Sometimes you wonder if you actually do have things to say, or if writing has just become an extension of your ego.
What’s the point?
There is one, but first let me tell you a few stories.
Eat. Pray. Love.
“When I get lonely these days, I think: So BE lonely, Liz. Learn your way around loneliness. Make a map of it. Sit with it, for once in your life. Welcome to the human experience. But never again use another person’s body or emotions as a scratching post for your own unfulfilled yearnings.” — Elizabeth Gilbert
My first story starts around sixteen years ago, when I was in my mid-twenties. I was going through a volatile divorce and custody battle while all my friends were finishing college and heading into careers. I had never felt more alone in my life. I had no one around who I could relate with, and I was navigating a world that is friendly toward couples, but cold and distant to young single mothers. The only thing worse than the divorce was the marriage, which had been abusive and full of secrets. Still, it had been all I knew, so when my ex moved on a mere two months into the process, I felt like my life was over. Who would want a washed up single mom? I had no education, no skills, and a body reshaped by motherhood.
My life wasn’t over, it was just different. A few years into single parenthood, I’d dipped my toe in the dating waters, started making my own income, and got used to raising my kids on my own with the help of my supportive family. Still, there was that twinge of loneliness that stuck with me, something I didn’t know how to shake. That’s around the time a friend lent me her copy of the book Eat. Pray. Love. by Elizabeth Gilbert.
From the moment I opened the book, I was riveted. Gilbert talks about life after divorce, and then the painful pulling away from a dramatic rebound relationship, as she goes on a journey of self discovery through Italy, India, then Indonesia. Her journey was only part of the story, as she came into contact with so many wise sages disguised as new friends, who offered her the pieces of life she hadn’t known were missing.
I ate her words like they were thick slices of fresh baked bread slathered in creamy butter. I gleaned as much information as I could about how to escape the weight of my divorce and move forward into freedom. And when I finished the book, I came away with a new hope for life as it was instead of lamenting how I thought life was supposed to be.
And then, I read it again.
“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it” — Paulo Coelho
About five years ago, it appeared my life was completely in order. I was a few years into marriage with my best friend, I was working my dream job at the newspaper, and I’d already written several novels with more to come. But the truth is, things weren’t what I wanted them to be. My marriage was good. But my career and books? I wanted so much more. My dream job was actually turning into a nightmare. In the mornings I fantasized what it would be like to keep driving past my work exit…just drive until I ran out of gas. I’d often leave work in tears, so stressed out I couldn’t even function. After hours, I couldn’t escape work as my boss texted me or messaged me on social media. My brain wouldn’t shut off, constantly looking at everything as material for stories.
I was exhausted.
But I had my exit plan, and that was my books. With each new release, I had hopes it would be the one that put my name on the map and save me from my job. I longed for the time when I’d finally make enough money to quit my job with grand flourish, completely with hand gestures and four letter words.
That day never came. Each book gained a small following, but it’s never amassed enough to allow me to stop working full time. I sunk into a deep depression, so deep I had dark thoughts about ending up in a car accident that wouldn’t kill me, but allow me some much needed rest.
I came across Paulo Coelho’s book, The Alchemist, around this time. And when I started reading it, there were so many times where I felt Coelho stopped telling the story so he could look at me and say, “See this line? I wrote it for you.”
Through the life of a sheepherder, Coelho shared the universal longing to achieve a dream, and offered hope to go along with it. And not just hope, but HOPE, the kind you can believe in because it’s suddenly tangible. I read The Alchemist in bite-sized chunks, putting it down every so often so I could digest what I had just read.
I pick up this book every year or so for a re-read, and each time I do, I see something new in the story and learn something new about myself. The book speaks different things to me every time I read it: things on life, love, dreams, hopes, and so on. And every time I read it, I feel like he’s speaking directly to me on whatever issue I’m grappling with at the moment.
The most popular quote in The Alchemist is “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” I have not reached fame and fortune through my books, and I still require working a day job. However, I was slowly dying in the job I was working. A few years after I first read The Alchemist, my mother-in-law required in-home care due to a falling accident. I took family leave to care for her, and in that time I got the rest I’d been looking for. I gained some slow time, as well as perspective, and by the time my family leave was up, I was on my way to a new job that allowed me the work-life balance I needed so I could write and help support our family.
I wholeheartedly believe the universe conspired.
Where the Crawdads Sing
“I wasn’t aware that words could hold so much. I didn’t know a sentence could be so full.” — Delia Owens
There’s a reason why Delia Owens’ critically acclaimed book Where the Crawdads Sing has topped the bestsellers list for two years and counting. I picked up this book a year and a half ago because I wanted to see what the hype was. I ended up reading that book in one sitting because I couldn’t put it down, and then, when I finished with tears in my eyes, I turned back to page one and started reading again — slower, this time.
At the time I read this book, I was under the impression that readers, with their short attention span, required sex and high stakes drama to capture their attention. And yet, here was this beautiful book that offered a message about inner strength, humanity, and how our challenges shape our triumphs in a story about an unlikely hero, all told with such exquisite description and language. It was the kind of book I wanted to live in. It was the kind of book I wanted to write. It made me realize the full effect a wonderfully told story has on readers, and just how important good writing is. It made me want to always be a writer — not to feed that dream of fame or fortune, but for the possibility that my words might reach someone who needs to hear them, and make them feel the way I have felt reading a lovely, emotional, well told story. It made me want to continue learning how to be a better writer so that I could offer readers that same experience Delia Owens offered me.
Think back to the last thing you read that truly moved you. Some writer poured themselves into a story, a memoir, a poem, and it reached you somewhere you couldn’t reach on your own. They became the catalyst to the thing you couldn’t even name, and they pulled it out of you with what they wrote.
Words have power. That’s the point.
Somewhere out there, someone needs help reaching that thing inside them they can’t even name. Remember what that powerful piece of writing did for you? What if something you write can do that for someone else?
Don’t give up. Write from the heart. Write your truth. The world needs your writing.
Want to join a journey of self-kindness, confidence, and accountability for writers? Find me on Instagram at The Writers Therapist.
Find my books here.