Why You Should Give Your Craft Your All
Self-doubt can cripple even the most talented of us; all the more reason to go for broke anyway.
What do you write about when your heart is filled with doubt?
I never stopped to consider the question before because for me, writing had always been a means of escape. It gave me a way to process the complex emotional process that is being human in this world.
But when I shifted to writing and creating professionally, my view of writing also shifted. It was no longer about escaping, but rather creating the thing that would draw people to me and show the world exactly how talented I was. This meant I had to develop and stretch my craft in ways that began to pit my love for self expression against my need to be recognized for it.
In Good Company
Fortunately I don’t believe I am alone in my feelings. I noticed the level of writing for the sake of writing tends to drop off — at least publically — for most writers sometime after they publish their first books. Maybe it’s the buzz from finally seeing a work go from the inside of your head to the outside world that creates this dip. Or maybe the idea of trying to create again in the face of other life obligations begins to dawn on them, restricting the fun-and-fancy-free feeling they once got from doing it. It’s not like writers are paid very well — even less so when they aren’t white or male.
I can’t speak to what caused it for them, but I can say for me it’s because I put writing on hold. Not entirely, I’m still good for a couple of poems here and there when I’m in a particularly dour mood. But I’m at a weird point in my career. My voice is still developing and I’m worried about how it will be perceived. Plus, I’m still experimenting with what subjects I want to discuss.
Needless to say, I’m filled with self-doubt.
It’s like I’m going through writer’s puberty. And it sucks just as much as the physical version did between all the mental anxiety, crying, mental pressure, social comparisons, and of course, a break out or two.
And the problem isn’t entirely mental either. It’s the sophomore’s dilemma. I know enough to know what won’t necessarily work for the small audience I’ve cultivated, but not enough to understand why they keep coming back to read. So it makes me hesitant to explore certain topics because I’m past the freshmen “caution to the wind” stage and in the “i want to remain on brand, but I’m not sure what that means” stage.
Then when you tack on the idea of having a full time job that I hate, with a full time life that I love but can’t seem to get enough time to engage in, I feel utterly hopeless and exhausted. By the time I sit down to try to type something out, all I end up with is half finished drafts that sit in my files collecting digital spiderwebs.
This has left me in a state of misery as I marvel with mild envy at my peers’ success as of late. Not because I don’t want them to be successful — they worked too hard not to win. But because I’m stuck in what feels like an infinite loop of try, give up halfway, rinse and repeat. If only I could bleed before my keyboard as openly and honestly as I did before I knew what about it I was doing wrong.
But a funny thing happened. In the middle of a depressive state, brought on by a dream that I had missed my flight — dream omen wise, not a good look — my husband came bursting into our bedroom with a brand new electric guitar.
Now I’ll pause here for context. My husband has devoted himself to working on his music professionally for about 4 years now. And recently he began to complain about not feeling as inspired as before. He said it felt as though the music he was making was just going through the motions. Which interestingly enough was exactly how all those semi-finished drafts were making me feel.
So when I saw the electric guitar, I was a bit puzzled and concerned it might have been a vanity purchase. I guess the concern read on my face, because before the question “why” could make it to my lips he said, “I know why I’m not getting what I want out of music. I’m not giving it my all.”
A huge light bulb went off in my head on hearing that because it made sense. From July of 2019 up through January of this year, I was solely devoted to writing. Hell, I’d quit my job to do it. If anybody was ride or die for this writing thing it was me. But then, it failed to pick up the way I thought it would, and I still had so much more to learn. So I had to re-enter corporate America, but in a job with just enough difficulty to remain engaged, but not too much that it would distract me from my ultimate goal: being a successful writer.
But working 40+ hours a week, for a company I loathe, zaps so much from me, that on top of my writer puberty, it’s damn near difficult. to put my all into my work. Between that and the crippling self-doubt that comes from wondering if I’d ever make it, the quality of my work has suffered.
However, hearing my husband confess the truth I’d not been brave enough to repeat, made me realize I only had one option. Sucky pieces or not, I needed to get back to putting my all into my writing…without leaving my job — at least not without replacing my income first.
I can’t tell you how exactly I’m going to do it, but it’s gonna involve putting my feet to the fire more by reminding myself that the longer I take to tackle this fear of my work not being well received by my audience — or worse, that’ll I’ll just be screaming into the void forever — the. longer I’ll have to let this parasitic job keep feeding off my labor for pennies on the dollar.
Why am I sharing this with you?
Because we are living in an age right now where more and more people are walking off their jobs to do something that makes them feel fulfilled. And for those of. you like me who know what that thing is, but for whatever reason may need to hold onto your employment just a tad longer than your peers, keeping the end goal in mind can feel like an exercise in futility.
But if you can find the gumption to pour your whole self into the thing that gives you life, it will pour back into you. Until one day, you can tell that job to fuck off once and for all.
In the meanwhile, you can at least join me in drafting resignation letters and fuck you notes to management to keep hope alive.
Till the next time my loves, wishing you luck, patience, and a whole lot of stamina.
Jael is clearly a martian doing a terrible impression of a human being. When she’s not busy trying to explain the button conspiracy, she can be found spreading general worry and concern for the earth being on social media (username: @jaelrbakari). Read more of her work here.