Writing can be a chore. It requires constant dedication and practice, and the will to work for many years before reaching any kind of success. Success is variable, but I suppose I define it here as getting to the point in your life where you have lived through enough interesting things to have something to say, and you have practiced to the point where you have enough skill to say it well, and you send out the things you say to an audience who can engage with your work. Fame and riches could be measures of success too, but it is hard enough reaching competence and pride in one’s work, and if you aim for the latter with no desire for the former, you are doing it wrong.
So, with years of hard work and (potentially) disappointment ahead, how do you know that writing is worth it for you?
You can feel it.
Yesterday I was having a hard time at my job. Nothing in particular made me feel that way, but things just felt like a terrible, slow grind, weighing me down further and further into passivity. I went out to buy lunch, and on the way back I saw a man who had been in one of my previous writing groups. I stopped him and said hello, and we chatted for a bit about life and writing, and maybe meeting up again at some point with the rest of that group. As I walked back to work I felt buoyed, like someone had flipped a switch that turned my mood around. And suddenly I was enjoying my day again.
Had I met any other friend who was not related to writing it might have been nice to see them, but I know I would not have been as delighted as I was. The meeting was an affirmation of who I am and what I really care about, and I knew it from the way it made me feel.
Follow your bliss. My father has been telling me this my whole life. The particular turn of phrase comes from Joseph Campbell, who says that if we chase after that little flicker of joy we feel when we do the things we love, then our life will have meaning.
There are difficult aspects to writing. There are hair-tearing moments, phrases that refuse to sit well, plot holes, ideas droughts, doubt, rejections. Every single time I sit down to write there is a moment of resistance – a moment of not wanting to face the difficulty, pick up the pen and start again. This is normal. Writing is hard. In spite of all of this, every time I commit, the triumph and progress comes. I get better at what I do and I feel that flicker of joy ignite. This is my bliss, and I commit to following it.