I am thinking about walls, doors and windows, and the rooms that many writers feel they are kept out of. The feeling is real. I have a lot of experience with walls, doors and windows. Besides the fact that I spent a good deal of my writing and publishing life cleaning these things, as well as toilets and bathtubs and carpets and kitchens, I have also felt closed out of the ruckus that is writing.
The ruckus I am talking about is the world of visibility. It can seem like there are writers who are very visible who are ignoring the writers who are not. It can feel like a club you’re not let into. It can feel like standing outside a house and looking at a grand party going on inside while knocking on the doors, the walls, the windows and never gaining entry.
I have experienced some real bullshit in the writing world. It’s there. I used to complain and whine a great deal about it. I was sure that I was deliberately being kept out of the greatest party on earth. The truth is, this feeling of being left out came from my own feelings of inadequacy.
Here are some of the myths I had to dismantle:
Myth Number One: The greatest party on earth. Like every party, there are some wonderful people here and some real assholes, and it’s not always easy to tell the difference. But you can believe this: everyone in the house worked their asses off to get here. And if you’re working your ass off too, and feel like you’re not being invited in, let me suggest that the greatest party on earth is really just a lot of sub-parties. Chances are you’re already in and don’t know it.
Myth Number Two: Once invited into the greatest party on earth, you’re always in. This is simply not true. You never know when this magic thing called writing is going to kiss you goodbye. A hot shot writer today might never publish another book. Or the next book might be a terrible flop. Or the whole desire and drive to write might just leave you, and you decide you’d rather be a serial killer than write another word. And then you’d only be invited in as someone’s character (we hope). Again – writing is hard work.
Myth Number Three: Once I am a celebrity life will be easy and I will be respected. Not true. Re. the respect, you’ll never be respected if you don’t respect yourself, and that relates to not worrying about being kept out of the party and just doing your work, which is hard. Writing is hard. But, besides writing being hard work, you know what else is hard work? It’s hard work to have and maintain a public life. It takes a lot of juice to remain visible, to give to the public the best you can think of to give, and to receive from the public both love and criticism. It’s very difficult to do this, and retain the spaciousness and silence to research and write deeply on the next work. All this stuff takes time, but also soul and energy. Sometimes, a person with a public life just needs time and space to herself. Sometimes, a person with a public life must disengage or never write again. And sometimes a person with a public life disengages by degrees. Do not assume it’s personal.
And Then There’s This Truth- I’ve found that talking about the walls only makes the walls thicker. The more closed doors I see, the more closed doors there are. Forget about the hierarchy, which is both real and not real. The less I think about not being in the company of the giants, the more I become a giant in my own world, and the easier it is to see my place in this party called writing, and the more I understand that while we all differ in where we are in the party, we are all important. We’re all cells in an organism. Who’s to say which cell is more important? Who’s to say that someone isn’t struggling, just because we have different struggles? Who’s to say that some struggles are better than others?
Just relax. Writing is hard enough without worrying about whether one belongs or does not belong to a particular club. And believe me every writer has felt invisible at some point. If he or she hasn’t felt invisible, I doubt he or she would be writing.
Thank you so much for this. I really needed to hear this right now.
I need to remind myself too.
Love this post. Thank you. Feel such a calm after reading it. Lately I alternate between crazy swings of jealousy, frustration, irritation and swooning love as I survey all the books I wish I’d written, all the lovely children’s book illustrators I wish were illustrating my stories…Twitter can make me feel connected to other writers and the urgency and energy of all of us writing but can also absolutely make me see walls, doors and windows. I forget the fun of writing. The joy the page brings me. The contentment I feel away from all that noise. Thanks for this kind guidance.
Thank you, Rachel.
You’ve been reading my diary, I see. I really appreciated this. Thank you.
Oh, but if I only could read your diary…