Honesty hour: Writing has been really difficult for me lately and I haven’t enjoyed practicing my craft.
When I started this blog last July, I was excited to have my own space to grow and develop my voice. In more recent months; however, I’ve felt the pressure to keep producing and pushing content, so that this space stays “current.” I’ve also been obsessively monitoring my blog’s analytics and have felt preoccupied by clicks, likes, comments, and new followers.
As if the quality of how “good” my writing is rests on how many people read and respond to a particular post or don’t. As if this should influence my decision as to whether or not I continue to maintain this space.
Validation culture in 2019 is a dangerous thing for creatives. It makes us doubt ourselves, it impacts our ability to create for the pure joy of doing so, it sparks feelings of frustration, sadness, and even jealousy. It pulls our focus from what’s truly important.
I admit this is something I’ve had to remind myself of a lot lately. I don’t write for Internet validation–though it is nice when my words connect with others and they share this with me–I write because I like telling stories. I write because I enjoy sharing my knowledge and perspective on certain topics (see Music Journalism). I write because it’s therapeutic.
I write because I find happiness in creating.
And you know what? That’s enough for me.
In thinking about why I started this platform again, I still say that I wanted a space where I could grow and develop my voice as well as hold myself accountable, “show up,” and commit to my craft even when I don’t always feel like it. I’ve done that, and in my opinion, that’s the true measure of my success. (The power of positive thinking, am I right)? Pursuing a creative life isn’t easy–as I’m often reminded–but continually “showing up” and cultivating my craft is how I’m going to become a better storyteller.
I believe in myself and I am my primary audience. If I write for me and with the intent of becoming a better storyteller–if I just be myself–then I’m confident I’ll connect with people who believe in me and in my words. And if not, then that’s okay, too. No matter what, I always want writing to be a part of my life.
So then, how do I combat writing “burnout” and continue practicing my craft for the pure joy of it? How can you?
First, I suggest finding a platform to practice your craft. That could be a blog, journal, or even a freelance gig at a website or newspaper. There is no right or wrong choice here. Determine what you want to write about and where.
Second, disregard validation. This is a tough one, but if you focus on just the recognition aspect of writing, you won’t be happy. Write for yourself. Write to improve. Write because there’s joy in creating. Believe in your own abilities and grow as a storyteller. If people like what you have to say, then they’ll find you. Just relax and be yourself.
Third, take breaks when necessary. It’s okay to step away from your work if you need to. A lot of the time this is helpful and doing so gives you perspective. Maybe you’re writing something and you just can’t get the words out the way that you want to. Stepping away and shelving your work for a day–or a week–can give you insight on what might not be working and how you can correct that.
Fourth, connect with fellow writers. Do you have friends who also write? Trade anecdotes about how your writing is going over coffee or lunch. Or if you maintain an online blog, seek out writers with similar content. Read what they’re writing and figure out what you can learn from them. They may even offer you valuable tips on how to improve your craft.
Finally, have fun. Writing is no good if you’re not having fun. Take creative risks and embrace your artistic license. Experiment with your style, voice, and form. Experimenting with your art can show you exactly who you are and what you want to say as a writer. It may also help you develop an appreciation for a writing style you previously disliked or never considered utilizing. (For example, I used to hate poetry. Then I read more poems. Soon after, I fostered a deep love for it and now I write poems for fun). You’d be surprised at what can happen. : )
If you’re a writer–or other type of creative–how do you keep practicing your craft when you’re struggling? Do you combat creative “burnout” or seeking validation? What tips can you offer your fellow creatives?
Comment below or tweet me at @cmsellers14.