(This post is part of the 30 for 30 Challenge).
In this my fifteenth post in the 30 for 30 challenge, I am officially halfway through, and I have to say, it has not been easy. If I was thinking more clearly when I set myself up for this, I probably wouldn’t have committed myself to writing 30 full-on blog posts in 30 days. I think 2 or 3 posts a week would have been a modest, but noble challenge.
Anyhow, here were are… fifteen days in, and fifteen days to go.
As a small ego/inspiration boost to all of us struggling writers, I wanted to share a few quotes from the great John Steinbeck on the subject of “sticking with it” – quoted from the daily journal he kept while writing The Grapes of Wrath. The now publicized journal is called Working Days.
In it, he shows how he was constantly plagued by doubt concerning his ability to write, and he kept a daily journal during the process of writing the book in order to remind himself why he simply must carry on, and press forward. He also saw the journal as a form of accountability for himself:
In writing, habit seems to be a much stronger force than either willpower or inspiration. Consequently there must be some little quality of fierceness until the habit pattern of a certain number of words is established. There is no possibility, in me at least, of saying, “I’ll do it if I feel like it.” One never feels like awaking day after day. In fact, given the smallest excuse, one will not work at all. The rest is nonsense. Perhaps there are people who can work that way, but I cannot. I must get my words down every day whether they are any good or not.
I think any writer can relate to this feeling. Some days we dread the page, others we can’t wait to jump right in. I have been reading a lot lately about habit forming and how to create better, more productive ones. Forming the habit of daily writing is the best way, it seems, to take me much further along on my journey to producing something substantial than simply setting an abstract goal to be accomplished at some undefined point. This philosophy of habit could easily apply to all aspects of our lives, not just writing.
All writers, especially those who have gained some notoriety for their work, are often plagued by feelings of doubt and insecurity. Really though, I think any form of creative expression inherently comes with these feelings of uncertainty in oneself – feelings that are not always present, but that come and go with each project. Those who have attained some success with their craft, as Steinbeck had at the point which he wrote the following, are sometimes haunted by the Imposter Syndrome – the feeling that one has somehow fooled everyone, and that one is not really talented at all:
For the moment now the financial burdens have been removed. But it is not permanent. I was not made for success. I find myself now with a growing reputation. In many ways it is a terrible thing… Among other things I feel that I have put something over. That this little success of mine is cheating.
From now on, whenever I sit around staring at my computer screen for 20 minutes without typing so much as a sentence, I’ll think back on this post and remember that when I sat down to write it I had no idea how it should come together. And now, it is done.