Letting Go of the Writer I Thought I'd Be By Now
There’s a song that I really love that is called, “Tell Your Heart to Beat Again.” The line I wanted to share with you all goes,
“Yesterday’s a closing door. You don’t live there anymore.” (You can listen to the rest of it here).
Have you ever gotten caught up with where you feel like you should be with your writing? Like of course you should be published with a three-book contract by now. Of course your book should’ve been optioned for a movie already. Of course you should’ve won that [insert literary prize here]. Worse yet is comparing yourself to other writers who have achieved those things and thinking to yourself, “What’s so wrong with me that I can’t do that too?”
I think sometimes we get caught up with comparing ourselves to an internal benchmark. Sometimes that benchmark is someone else’s success you strive to match. Sometimes that benchmark is from a childhood dream (that you are certain you thought you’d achieve by now). Sometimes those benchmarks come from our own favorite authors (the whole “if that author can do it, so can I”).
If I could go back and tell my teenage self anything it would’ve been to focus on writing and finishing short stories. I would have told my 15-year-old self that short stories will help her get to know herself as a writer and figure out her writing strengths and weaknesses. Sadly, my 15-year-old self would have been offended at my advice and wouldn’t listen to me. So, there you have it.
It’s one thing to have dreams and goals. It’s another thing to hang onto the disappointment those dreams and goals haven’t happened yet. Growing up, maybe you thought you’d be a published novelist by now. And instead, you are struggling through the outline of a book you aren’t even sure of yet. Or maybe you are struggling to get just one short story published. But you know what? There’s no reason to be disappointed by where you are at right now. Sure, my former 15-year-old self may balk at the fact that I ditched that fantasy novel she worked so hard on, but she can relax in knowing that we’re in a much better place writing-wise than we were before.
So today, appreciate your journey. Appreciate where your writing has taken you, because even the side roads that send us off into a ditch are lessons to learn. Because that’s how life is, right? Things are either lessons or blessings. I may not be the published novelist I thought I’d be right now, but I am satisfied with where I am at. And I’m not saying that a novel won’t be written and published one day but I promise to stop comparing myself to others and comparing myself to where I thought I should be by now. And right now I have a short story in mind I’d like to finish and another I want to revise. And that’s a pretty good place to be.
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