Certain acquaintances believe that I have just the best life ever. No job. No boss. No commute. Ah, but no money! They have their office jobs of one sort or another, bosses and work they often complain about, and varying types of commutes from being able to walk to work to dealing with freeway traffic during rush hour. They receive a paycheck on a regular basis. Often these acquaintances own houses, cars, pets, and have spouses and children. Their lives have more than a little security and stability. They don’t have to deal with the bogeyman.
Writers (and most artists), unless they’re independently wealthy or have enjoyed blockbuster sales on one or more books, deal with the bogeyman of uncertainty 24/7. Will I have the money to pay the bills this month? Do I need to get a part-time/fulltime job? When will I write? If I send out this essay, will it get published? Earn money for me? If I send the novel to a contest, will it get attention from literary agents or publishers or readers? Will it bring me an income?
And then there are the self-doubts: Is my writing good enough? Is my story interesting? Have I a sharp enough hook at the beginning? And so on and so on. The uncertainty of the writing life as well as self-doubts can rise up like the worst kind of bogeyman and scare a writer into catatonia.
So, it’s essential to have a strategy for dealing with that bogeyman.
- Don’t think about it. Most of the time this works for me. I get so busy with my writing and research, or reading, that I don’t have time to think about the bogeyman. Being busy is wonderful.
- Muzzle the inner critic. Ah, man! This guy has a nasty habit of popping up at the worst times. What keeps him busy? Reading as a writer, i.e. with a critical eye. When the inner critic is busy doing what he loves, he’s less likely to intrude on the imagination’s work and play.
- Develop a support network. This does not mean you go out with friends all the time and party. This means join a writer’s group. Be sure they are writers who accept your genre and have a positive, supportive way of reading and critiquing each other’s writing. They know all about the bogeyman and can help you through the rough times.
- Feeling productive. This is another strategy that works well for me. If I’m not achieving the goals I set for myself, the bogeyman jumps up and starts screaming. So, I’m careful to set realistic goals, whether short term or long term, and focus on achieving them. When I do, I feel great and especially productive.
- Read The Writer. Or other writing publications like magazines, memoirs by writers, interviews of writers, etc. For example, the August issue of The Writer has three articles that I found especially helpful in keeping the bogeyman at bay and soothing my imagination: the first was about writing short stories in bits and pieces (“Making Short Stories from Bits and Pieces” by Linda McCullough Moore) that reassured me my writing in stops and starts is OK; the second assured me that I really don’t need to write everyday (“You don’t need to write every day” by Kathy Leonard Czepiel); and the third talked about how to maintain a story’s forward momentum (“Keep it Moving” by Carole Bugge). I found the last article especially soothing. Reading about writing can be reassuring (you are doing it right!) and educational.
- Get a job. Make sure you’ll earn enough to pay the bills and be able to work in writing time on the schedule that’s most comfortable for you.
The uncertainty and insecurity will not disappear completely, but I know that it’s mostly in the way I think about being a writer and my writing. I control my thoughts. So, I share my bogeyman’s methods with others, or give my mind something more productive to think about. No one has ever said the writing life is easy. The world is full of people more than happy to tell you how much your writing sucks and aren’t really qualified to make that assessment. The writing lifef demands perseverance and determination. Let them guide you and when you sell a story or a novel, you can give the bogeyman the bird! Ha!