Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Why Bother?

Every writer has doubts. I have them along with everyone else.

Today I ventureed outside, sweeping leaves, picking the garden (yes, I have beautiful collards in the garden right now), talking to the chickens, and smelling the aromas that make autumn and the beginnings of winter. Nothing rejuvenates me like nature, and for some reason I needed the boost.

This world is immense, and the odds of writing great words and putting them in the hands of its occupants are not that keen. So many people write. Some publish. Many more don't. The world is gagged to the gills with submissions and manuscripts, and one can't help but wonder "why bother?"

Writing messes with your ego, you know. It's inevitable. We're accepted or declined, exuberant or slam-dunk depressed. People openly say yes or no to our hours of hard work. It's masochistic in so many ways.

So when I see a lack of numbers in subscriptions, tweet responses, blog comments, whatever, I stop and wonder what the heck I'm doing. Especially when I could be outside inhaling crisp autumn air, admiring the cardinals and chickadees in my abelia bushes, feeding the birds so desperate to find winter forage. I could be building new playgrounds for my chickens, taking boat rides on the lake, maybe taking a few trips I've always thought about.

And art. I used to dabble in charcoals, you know. I have a few pictures here and there - at my mother's, in my study, under the bed, even in my bathroom. Haven't done that in years. The urge still nibbles at times.

I sew, and turn to the machine for expression several times a year. And of course, there's the gardening. No end to opportunities there. I keep saying I'll plant giant pumpkins one year, and never do.

But as I stand in the leaves, wrapped in my cozy, not-to-be-worn-to-the-mall, plaid Tractor Supply work coat, I ponder life and my mission as a writer. I'm chilled, fingers frozen from removing ice out of chicken waterers, ears cold because hats stop me from hearing which birds call from the trees. Eventually I go back inside, not really wanting to. As always, I am drawn to the computer.

I check email first, always eager to hear from readers, but also scared to open messages that might tell me I'm wrong for something I tried so hard to be right at. Someone usually fusses that I shouldn't charge anything, or the contest wasn't managed correctly. Others complain I shouldn't have posted this market, or that publisher, because of a personal experience he had. Then a few write me with success stories, and I breath easier for a while, smiling. But then . . . I receive the occasional email that rocks my world:

I just wanted to say thank you for doing what you do. As writers we often never see the impact of what we do and we get discouraged and even begin to question why do we even do what we are doing. Our society tells us that if you are not seeing results quickly then you are going in the wrong direction. Just the other day a book I wrote was on amazon in Japan for sale, and a new copy at that. That encouraged me to keep going because how many other places are being impacted in the world by what we are doing? Keep doing what you are doing, and I thank you for the emails you send out every week. May the God of all grace bless you a thousand times today.

Writers have doubts. All of them. The successful and the newbie, the seasoned and the student have days that dip down so low that the negative feelings can entice someone to pivot, make a change, leave writing and pursue another life.

No, I'm not making a plea to be stroked. I'm suggesting empathy for all writers that cross your path.

Next time you read a great blog post, a striking editorial, a heart-touching novel, or mind-blowing how-to, thank the writer. You never know if your message could be the one that tilts his world back on its axis, and convinces him that writing is worth the bother.

And it might come back around to you, too.


Linda O'Connell said...

Dear Hope,
From St. Louis, Missouri where we are in a deep freeze with a few inches of snow on the ground, I wish to assure you that your words, call outs, newsletter, and personal comments warm my very core. I seldom leave a comment but I read you everyday! I cannot imagine how you manage to do all it is that you do. You manage well! You are so very appreciated.
Linda O'Connell
See you at the MWG conference in the spring. http://lindaoconnell.blogspot.com/

linda said...

Dear Hope,
I find it interesting that writers get so discouraged, and think they should change professions to, say, accounting. I have worked as an accountant for 30 years, and found myself in the top spot of Chief Financial Officer of a company with $46 million in assets. I was recently let go from my job for "lack of leadership skills." More like "not agreeing with the crazy schemes of the president," but I suppose that's just my opinion. I have decided to take the opportunity to switch focus from doing day-to-day accounting to writing about it, and perhaps selling some easy-to-understand information about running a small business on my blogs. Believe me, having to go to an office every day where someone just dreads seeing you, and you have to report to him, and you know he's complaining about you to your co-workers and subordinates isn't a piece of cake. Staying home with my cats and computer in this terrible weather that's gripping the East Coast, working on a piece the way I think I should be done, and having it judged for itself rather than the way I come across in person - now that's the life! I'm glad there are people that like to run the "rat race," but I find I'm not one of them. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to be connected to actual writers (like you!) and a potential audience via the Internet. The grass isn't always greener on the other side. We all have down days, but when they outnumber the good ones, then it's time to reevaluate your choices. He did me a favor by letting me go, and now I'm going to make the best use of it I can.
Thanks for reaching out to us newbies with your words of encouragement!

Unknown said...

I read many blog posts through out the day, but I try to leave comments on the ones that I really like. I know a comment from someone new on my blog always makes me smile. A little kindness always goes a long way.

Anonymous said...

Linda said: "when [down days] outnumber the good ones, then it's time to reevaluate your choices.

Couldn't agree more, Linda. There are times when, as I churn out product description and web copy for retail sites online, I simply couldn't feel LESS fulfilled.

However, I do reap incredible benefits from working at home and having the enormous freedom that goes along with freelancing.

Be thankful for the good and don't be afraid to recharge and/or change what doesn't work for you--even if it's just a temporary change (ie., skip a newsletter or take a week off).

You're one of the few I read every day, Hope.

Annette Lyon said...

Count me as one who does appreciate you.

And one who gets discouraged right with the rest of them.

Nikki said...

Hope - don't despair. I'm another frequent reader, even if I rarely if ever comment. Your blog is amazing - full of help in finding markets and contests, and your reflections on the writing life always strike a chord. Thank you for the work you put into this blog!
Actually, I've sold essays to markets I found here. Thanks for helping me keep going.

Unknown said...

Hope, thanks for all your inspiration. Do you have you any information on the 2011 Bylines Calendar? Will there by any this coming year?? Thanks.


Kelli said...

I guess I've fallen into the trap of taking Hope for granted!

Did anyone ever notice product reviews on websites? 99% of them are the biggest thumbs down reviews you could ever read. Why are we as a society seemingly programmed to reach out to someone only when we've got something to complain about?

Your blog sparks my interest in opportunities and keeps me focused on my writing goals. And that's the biggest thumbs UP I can give ya!

Susan said...

Hello Hope...Like you, I LOVE reading comments after writing a post on my blog. Of course, I love receiving news that something I've written is going to be published.

But even when there is just "silence," writing still makes me happy. Who knows who might read something I've written, long after I'm gone from this earth, and feel an impact? One just never knows.

In the meantime, I don't let any criticism bother me because: 1) I know who I am 2) I know what I stand for and 3) I know WHO I stand for.

Thank you for all your posts and helpful suggestions. Have a peaceful evening. Susan

Sioux said...

Hope--Don't you think there are more readers who check out your posts, but, for whatever reason, don't comment? (At least that's what I tell myself over and over again--ha!)

Hope Clark said...

Wasn't seeking pats on the back, but the responses to this post are so appreciated. We work for ourselves, so while it's great to work at home, there's no one to keep us on course or rectify us when we deviate. We don't have steady rudders, and must watch the stars, sometimes misreading them. That's why feedback is needed by most writers - to learn where they've strayed and where they've hit the target. We have turned into a world where we speak up mainly when we complain. This time of year, maybe we need to contemplate responding more in the new year in a more positive nature. Besides, you never know what sort of networking can result from positive energy like that.

Donna Cummings said...

I really enjoyed this post. I want to add something profound and meaningful, but at this moment all I can say is "Yes", to everything you said. :)

Jackson Dunes said...

Excellent article. We all feel that way at one point or another. And we each have our own stories of being ready to call it a day only to run into someone who has been profoundly impacted by something we've written. For me it was a woman who used an essay I'd written as a motivational tool to help her walk again after brain surgery left her paralyzed. And she did! Doesn't get much better than that.

Julie Hedlund said...

How about starting with a "Thank You" for this one? THANK YOU.

We obviously write to reach people, so giving feedback to writers really is the greatest give you can give them.