I’ve been writing seriously for about 12 years now, and while a lot of things have changed along the way, one thing has pretty consistently remained the same: I always seem to feel dissatisfied with my writing life.
Sometimes I’m unhappy with the writing itself, but experience has shown me that almost all bad writing can be improved if you just work hard enough at revisions. What I’m really talking about is something different, something deeper. It’s an insidious feeling of never being where I wanted to be, of always striving to reach some goal, and then reaching it and still feeling like I didn’t get what I wanted.
For many years I thought this feeling would go away if I got an agent and/or published my work. But then I started publishing, and while the euphoria of that lasted for a little while, it also faded eventually and the feeling was back. So then I started looking forward to the next book I would write and publish, and the next, until I realized one day that I was always obsessing about the future. I was constantly envisioning what it would look like when I had five books published, and then ten, and then more.
This restlessness and dissatisfaction spread into other areas of my writing life as well. I always felt like I should be working more on my blog, reaching out to media for more interviews, and other authors for more opportunities to collaborate. I should be working on getting more reviews and doing more guest posts for other sites. No matter where I was, no matter how good things were going, my mind was always focused on the future. I was always striving for more, more, MORE.
Because of this agitated feeling I carried with me about my writing life, I tended to rush through whatever stage I was in while writing my novels. I was always in a hurry to get the first draft done, and then get through revisions. Right before I launched any book was pure hell, nothing moved fast enough and obstacles seemed to throw themselves into my way on purpose. I would lay awake at night stressing over the smallest details and trying to come up with a better plan tomorrow so that I could move through the process faster and more efficiently.
It wasn’t until a couple of months ago that I had a huge epiphany, which resulted in a creative breakthrough:
I wasn’t enjoying my writing life very much.
And my unhappiness had nothing to do with the writing itself.
I was miserable because my brain was going haywire trying to predict and plan and prepare and PUSH things into existence. I was uncomfortable in the present moment because I really had no idea how to look around and enjoy it. All my life I had been driven and motivated. Ambitious. I didn’t just like to read books, I read voraciously. I didn’t just enjoy writing, I wanted to set the world on fire with it.
I wasn’t just okay with where I was at, wherever that might be. I always wanted to be somewhere else. Somewhere in the future, where the idealized fantasies my brain played on a loop had all come true and I was magically not anxious, not afraid, and not uncertain in any way.
Well, something happened a couple of months ago and all of a sudden it was like this light clicked on in my mind. I suddenly got it. After years of devouring self-help books and trying to shove myself into “being in the present moment,” something snapped into place for me and I finally saw what being in the present moment actually means.
Maybe it’s because I went to a big magical creative conference in Santa Fe this September. Maybe it’s because I just turned 40 years old. Maybe it’s because my dad died last year and it became apparent to me how short life is. You know, I really DON’T know. All I can say is that I get it now. I see things completely differently and it has changed my writing life.
The point of this whole pursuit we call writing is not to get somewhere with it. It’s not winning awards or getting the approval of others, or being interviewed or selling millions of copies of our books. Those things are nice but not one of those things are IT. The point—the whole IT to this thing we call writing—is to experience the process of creating something that is uniquely ours. Sometimes that experience will be joyful and we will love what we are creating, and sometimes it will be ugly and painful, but no matter what it is, it works. Because the point is to just be with it, as it is.
And to do that, you gotta let go.
All your fantasies and plans and frantic anxious mind loops that go around and around and around and never stop…yeah, all that stuff. You gotta let it go. It’s not helping anything, it’s only taking up your emotional energy and mental space. It’s only holding you back from experiencing your writing right now, in this moment. Today.
So, wherever you are, just stop for a moment. Look around. Take a long slow breath and be in it and be grateful for it. Because this moment will never come again.
And this moment is really all there is.
Lauren Sapala is the author of Firefly Magic: Heart Powered Marketing for Highly Sensitive Writers, a guide to help any HSP, INFJ, INFP, or introvert writer move past resistance to selling and marketing their work. She is also the author of The INFJ Writer, a writing guide made specifically for sensitive intuitive writers.