If you told me what 2019 would look like for me a couple of years ago, there’s no way I would have believed you. It’s been the writer dream year for me, one that made up for a decade plus of rejections, endless querying, and self-doubt. 2019 was the year my novel, The Body Myth, came out both in the U.S and India. All of a sudden, I was getting reviews, interviews, and little blurbs about my books in magazines and online periodicals I had only looked at with aspirational eyes in the past.
Before you shake your head and wonder why you’re reading some writer blabbering about their best-ever writer year, I am here to assure you that this is to make a point about the writer’s journey. When you are in the middle of the things you dreamed of, you realise the path of being a writer only begins to feel longer.
How do you stay in the present moment? How do you keep your spirits high no matter where you are in your writing journey?
Here are a few of my thoughts on writing dreams and our personal growth as writers.
Normalizing Mile Markers
The biggest dreams you have can come true, but what happens once you live that dream or at least a sizable part of that dream? Think about one writing success you’ve had in the past—it could be praise from someone you respect, an acceptance in a magazine, a good review, a mention in a competition, or even a publication. After you finished that bottle of sparkling wine, and told everyone and their neighbor about your accomplishment, that accomplishment became your new “normal.” On a biological level, our bodies are aching to go back to normal from an extended state of excitement. On a more philosophical level, at some point we actually start to take some of our accomplishments for granted.
Once we make something happen, we don’t often engage with gratitude that much, or stop to truly see how much of a journey we’ve taken with ourselves over the years to get to where we are. We’re simply transported to a place where this one accomplishment is the new normal, and this can set us up for some not-so-great-things if we’re not careful.
Considering Others vs. Self with Social Media
The era of social media first seemed to give us a choice: You could either stay away from the online world completely and rely on your “irl” writerly network, or you could be online and create a writerly persona of sorts. Nowadays, most writers are encouraged to have some kind of online avatar. What’s more is the pressure to keep your online avatar relevant to what you do. If you have a following that expects writerly advice or writing humour from you tweet after tweet, then a sudden vulnerable post might shock your audience and make them shy away from engaging.
The battle of who you are (and who you are growing to be) and what you do online is the new existential crisis of our times. It’s important to stay balanced and allow yourself to be as authentic as possible. If it means surprising your audience or writing about something that’s very different from the genre/areas of interest you normally share, ask yourself if it’s coming from a place of self-growth. If the answer is yes, then share it; we are all evolving, and you never know whom you might help with what you share.
Sharing the Love
There’s a reason the acknowledgement section in a book is so comprehensive. Writing might be an isolated act, but it’s written on a mountain of people and networks that touch our lives in many ways. Our connections to the people who helped us research and did sensitivity reads are the first in line, but there are many other intangible moments, places, and experiences that allow us to write. The amount of gratitude you feel is the gratitude you can give back to the world. Something about that energy will pull in the best from others and demand the very best from you.
Sharing the love is easier than you think. Most of the time, we undervalue ourselves and think we have nothing much to offer, but we do.
- You have specific talents and aptitudes. Maybe you are really good at spotting or evolving narrative tension. Well, I’d say, share that with your community and offer free input on a chapter or two every couple of months (more or less depending on your circumstances). If you have a specific knowledge base or skill, no matter how obscure you think it is, a lot of writers could benefit from accessing it for projects they might be working on.
- You have reached a milestone; perhaps your story has made it to a dream literary magazine. I can tell you that a lot of budding writers would love to read about your journey getting into that magazine, as that alone can inspire and spread good energy in the writing community.
Bottom line: Don’t underestimate what you have to give. Put it out there and see how this circle of gratitude comes back to you in bright, spectacular ways.
Have you normalised a big writing achievement? Do you underestimate the help and support you could give to other writers? What have you learned, so far, on your writerly journey?