But no really, why?
Sometimes it certainly doesn’t feel like it. When you’re slogging through the seventeen thousandth-and-one draft of that screenplay, or re-reading the cringey first draft of a melodramatic piece of s@*! you wrote fourteen years ago (yet can’t seem to give up on) to bring it into this decade, it really doesn’t feel like. It feels like banging your head against a wall.
You could be cleaning your house, for goodness sakes. You could be with your children, your partner, paying attention to “real world” crisis or—and this is the scariest one of the bunch—you could be working a real job. And probably are, especially if you’re a writer!
Whether you’re brand new to the gig, a working screenwriter, an artist with paintings in a gallery, or five published books in. Unless you’re Quentin Tarantino or T-Swift, chances are, you’ve got a “side hustle” that makes the real money and keeps you a sane part of our global community. I mean, if Tarantino has a side hustle, please do let me know, I’d actually be fascinated as to what that is.
But this job that pays the bills is a must, while you daydream about your other job; the one you actually want to be your job that pays but are currently doing for free because you want it so badly.
Do you believe it?
I think that’s an entirely different question than, “Do you want it bad enough?” They say if you do, you’ll make it. If you stick it out long enough. There’s basically a lot of “ifs” involved.
The cold hard truth is, slithering down your spine leaving an icy trail of morbid realization: you can’t let your creative pursuit go in favor of realistic normalcies. And it’s going to take a lot of bleeping work to see it through. You see, you were never meant for a muggle life. It’s not hubris or delusion, it’s work you were called to do.
Call it a dream, a whimsy, a pursuit, a whatever; to face all those “ifs” and still forge ahead. Why, that’s a hero’s journey right there. And all journeys come down to work of some kind.
Can’t get away from that dirty word:
Other trades involve years of schooling, internships, and mentorships. Working your way up, through, and around to carve out a career. Writers of any kind? A lot of hours working away on pages no one will ever see, until they finally write the ones the world will see as an "overnight success."
Stamina to keep going until you’re the last one standing is another key to being that overnight success. Who remembers Highlander? There can only be one. Thankfully, we don’t have to chop people’s heads off to succeed. It’s more about not giving up on yourself and doing the worthy work.
Screenwriting, writing novels or short stories ... whatever your creative calling is—it's all a job. Paid or not. It's not this romantic concept of a solitary writer in a cute, secluded place or bustling café doing their thing. It's time management and business admin and marketing and building relationships and all the rest of what normally a whole team of people would undertake to boost a start-up to success.
A writing career is a start-up. And that’s all AFTER you’ve done the “hard part:" Written the thing!
This pursuit of selling a script, getting published or self-publishing, it’s an all-consuming undertaking. One that, I will reiterate, is worth your time and your energy. Creative energy, but also the physical and mental stamina to maintain that energy. It’s like training for a marathon, people! You need to get the right amount of sleep for your brain to function at its optimal capacity. To be creative, there’s a certain amount of sharpness involved. Ironic, I know, considering how creatives are often dreamers … There’s also eating right, moving the body to not only roll those shoulder kinks out from being hunched over a keyboard but to get the flow going inside, as well.
It can be a struggle. A deep, dark, down-right depressing one. The self-doubt is a real-live villain that roots in the mind, ready to cackle every time their jabs pierce the heart—and stop the creative work.
Why am I even wasting my time on this? Who said I was good enough to write [insert your latest WIP here]? What do I get out of this? What will those dependent on me get out of this?!
Why is that self-doubt voice louder than our self-confidence one? What we say to ourselves is important. How we say it, maybe even more so.
Did you know there’s even neuroscience-based evidence behind this? That “a wide range of studies [have] found that third-person self-talk can improve emotion regulation and self-control by facilitating self-distancing and reducing egocentric bias.”
Bringing it back to that work aspect of it all again as well, if we’re questioning ourselves, quite frankly, so will everyone else. Learning the answers to those questions, like, really digging deep for why you picked up that pencil or brush or type away on those keys, that’s the real heart of your work. Some people have soapboxes to stand on or important history to relay, others want to whisk us to a galaxy far, far away (and still have something important to say while doing so), but no matter what the message is, the method itself is what’s key.
That worthy work.
It can involve guilt—time away from family and other duties. Things that “matter more.” Yet if we’re not doing the thing that makes us tick, are we really living to our potential and sending the right message to those that might be watching and emulating—children, dependents, mentees, friends, family?
I think that’s the “why” right there.
If the creative work is something we feel better doing, don’t feel like the best version of ourselves if we don’t, then how can we not pursue it?
You’re the only “yes” you’ll get for a very long time, so make it a sincere one. Say yes to yourself even those days you really don’t feel like it. Say yes even when your self-doubt is saying hells no. Say yes until you believe it.
This is worthy work.
*Feature image by Cristina Bernazzani (Adobe)