Although I have always considered myself a writer, I have also spent many years not writing. In fact, for most of high school, college, and my 20s, I didn’t write at all. Not one story, not one poem. During that period, I was mostly entangled in living the life of a depressed alcoholic, while trying to keep my shit somewhat together in the meantime. So, you could say I didn’t have time to write, but the truth was that I was really in no place to write.
I didn’t start writing seriously—and by seriously I mean that I committed to sitting down and doing it at least once a week—until 2006, one year after I got sober. Two things happened when I committed to the practice of writing. Number one, I found that it was hard. It challenged me on nearly every level and forced me to look honestly at my addictions, my demons, my self-loathing, and my depression. Number two, it felt better than anything I had ever done before. It felt like a huge relief to open doors within myself that had been closed for years and let all those long-buried thoughts and feelings pour out of me onto the page.
All my life I’ve been attracted to weird things. And all my life I’ve been very much aware that other people think I’m weird for being attracted to those weird things. Sometimes it’s that I can’t help but be drawn in by all the different facets of human darkness. Sometimes it’s that I get interested in a subject that seems complicated and obscure, and extremely boring, to others. But whatever my latest passion is at the moment I can be sure that it’s not something that a whole lot of other people understand.
Writing my first novel was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It took me two full years to get through the first draft, and I felt like I was slogging my way through the entire time. I would write sections of the book and read over what I had written and cringe. Sure, I also had days where I felt like I had actually written something good, but most of the time I was full of self-doubt.
If you’re a highly creative person then chances are you’ve gone through periods in your life when you felt creatively stifled. Maybe you had a brutal work schedule or you were caught up in a bad relationship and your head wasn’t where it needed to be to make good art. Or maybe you had critical parents and you just never had the self-confidence to put your work out into the world. But no matter what the reason, all of us at one time or another have wished we could bring more creativity into our lives, and then we’ve gotten blocked on how to make that dream a reality.
Why is this? Why is it so hard to tap into our own creativity and make it work for us?
If you’ve been hit by a bad beta reader you’ll know it. Emotionally, at least. You’ll feel panicked, anxious, FULL of self-doubt, and lower than low. However, your rational mind will try to talk you out of it. Writers need to be thick-skinned, it will say. All feedback is valuable in some way, it will add. But your gut will feel otherwise. Deep down, you’ll know that something is off. Something is wrong.
And then, if you don’t find another outside party to confide in who can give you that reinforcement and validation you need to trust your gut, you can quickly spiral out of control and lose all confidence in your book.