I am a mentor to a few writers and I deal with them on a daily basis while running my site The Manifest-Station. Recently, a few of them came to me feeling upset and frustrated. One person bemoaned his “lack of talent” and suggested that there was no reason to write because who cares? he asked. I mean, who cares what I have to say. No one is listening. I’m not very good. I just got rejected from a site I want to write for and I think I should probably quit while I am ahead, he complained over coffee.
I get this. I am working on my book and at the moment feel like I have hit a wall. I want to throw it against a wall and stomp my feet and pull my hair out. I need to rework a lot of it and that feels overwhelming and frustrating and, since it is a memoir, frankly I am quite sick of my voice. So I get the wanting to quit. Like really really.
Here’s the thing: All of us artists, and by artists I mean: writers, photographers, and painters … let me rephrase … all of us humans — all of us — at one point think that we suck.
We think What’s the point?
And we think we think we think we think.
We think too much.
And what we need to do — what I am attempting to do is this: Just do the work.
I guess Nike was on to something with that slogan? Just do it.
It’s about THE WORK. (Yes, in all caps for a reason. Because it’s about doing it. A writer is someone who writes not necessarily someone who has published. A painter is someone who paints. And on and on.) It’s about the blank page or canvas- whatever that means to you, whether it’s a metaphor or a literal blank page or blank canvas.
My latest mind-tattoo, which I’ve had to offer up to those writers who came to me for advice: “Get over yourself.”
Sometimes my brain feels like a hamster wheel- filled with repetitive thoughts, running in stupid little circles. The same ones. On repeat. In my 20’s, during my anorexia years, they were things like: You are fat. You are a monster. Nowadays they vary, but sometimes I get tattooed with: You will never finish this book. No one will read this. I try and remove the offending mind-tattoo with one that will serve me better. Get over yourself is helpful. It’s the same thing as when I say, Get out of your head, it’s a bad neighborhood.
I actually got that one from a shrink I didn’t like very much. He gave me that phrase though. And I borrow it often.
When I start to lament my life or the fact that I have no idea how I am going to finish my book or I start to compare myself to other authors I think of Cher delivering the famous slap and line in the movie Moonstruck, “Snap Out Of It!” and I say Get over yourself. Kindly of course. But nonetheless, with a swift kick in the ass.
Here’s what I want to say to you (and to myself): Everybody’s insecure. Everybody wonders if they should be doing this, whatever “this” is.
Write. Paint. Take pictures.
Stop whining and get to work. Write a shitty sentence. (We all have.) There are so many shitty sentences in the world. Get over it. (There! That was a shitty sentence I just wrote.) And yet and still, I am continuing on.
You, on the other hand, may have stopped reading by now. No matter. I forge on. (We can’t let ourselves stop creating just because someone has stopped reading or doesn’t like us.)
I have been stuck on this Joan Didion quote lately, “I suppose almost everyone who writes is afflicted some of the time by the suspicion that nobody out there is listening.”
Listen, if Didion said that, one of the masters, hopefully there’s a sense of collective relief that everyone has that same concern of “Do I matter? Is anyone listening? Do I suck? Do people think X, Y, or Z about me?”
The answers, consecutively are:
- Yes, you matter.
- Some people are listening. At least one person is listening. Some are not listening at all.
- You do not suck but sometimes you may write a shitty sentence. (Or take a shitty photograph or mess up in a very human way.) Someone on this page wrote that we should make our mistakes out loud. Said he learned that while taking guitar lessons. Something like that. But mostly, you do not suck. Don’t wallow in your own suckery.
- Some people do think X, Y, or Z about you.
Get over it. Keep working.
See you in London July 6th. I have an interview coming out in the UK magazine Grazia so please book the workshop before that interview runs as they will be promoting it and I want my Positively Positivers to get a spot!
Jen will be leading a Manifestation Retreat in Ojai, California over Labor Day as well as New Years. All retreats are a combo of yoga/writing and for ALL levels. Read this Positively Positive post to understand what a Manifestation retreat is. Check out her site jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you (Dallas, NYC, Seattle, Atlanta etc,). Jen and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October (3 spots left.) Jen will be back in London for another workshop July 6 but book soon as the last one sold out fast with a long wait list!
*Image courtesy of Simplereminders.com