I was lucky enough to grow up with parents that told me I could do anything I set my mind to. I could be anything, and that my capacity was infinite. I started to believe that as truth.
Then I got older and tried to put it into practice. I’d been reading all my life, and I had a strong vocabulary and grasp of grammar thanks to my fantastic high school English teacher. So I decided I’d write. I was going to write a book – no, I was going to write an epic.
When dreams meet reality
I tried. I really did. I still have those early documents, crafting an intricate world in which my characters would live. I told my friends and family that I was going to write, that I was going to publish my own books and make a living doing so. I told my wife. To their credit, they all supported me, encouraged me – they still do.
Come to find out there is more to writing than just being told I can do anything I set my mind to, more to it than having others tell me I can do it. It takes discipline, and it takes realistic expectations.
Impossible internal expectations
I expected too much of myself. I’d barely written anything – a few short stories, and a pieced together D&D campaign – and I wanted to write a sprawling epic akin to Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time, or Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive? Some people might have been able to make that jump, but I wasn’t ready for it.
And that’s alright.
My own expectations were too high. I lost sight of why I was writing to begin with – because it’s something I enjoyed, and it created an outlet that I desperately need in my life. Instead, I went from 0 to 100 in an instant, hoping to be the ‘next big thing.’
I still occasionally get asked where I am with my book. I smile and say I’m working on it. It’s not a lie – because I am – but it’s evolved into something more… intimate (more on that in a second).
I was, and still am, afraid of letting down those that have been so gracious with me, backing me and supporting me through this journey that hasn’t been quite so straightforward as I originally thought.
The funny thing? I don’t think they’d be all that upset to find out that I hadn’t made that much progress. I’ve managed to project what they’re expectations of me would be and let that contribute to my paralysis.
I’m my own worst enemy. Others that struggle to write for a living hear from those they’re close to that they can’t make it writing, that it’s folly to even try. Me? Nope, just my own internal voice whispering sweet discouragements.
Here are some of the thoughts I hear in my mind at times, what I imagine others might be thinking of me:
“They’ve all been so supportive and patient with you… and you can’t even put out a single book?”
“Do you know how disappointed they’d be if they found out how little progress you’ve made?”
“It’s been years. If you haven’t done it by now, you won’t ever get it done.”
We all struggle with these voices at times. I’m convinced of it.
My material sat, untouched for a long time. I had no problem crafting an intricate world full of unique religions and geography, but when it came to actually write… I struggled and was never happy with the work. I eventually found an opportunity to use all that I’d worked so hard to build but in an unexpected and wonderful way. Look for that in a future post.
I needed everything to be… simpler. So I stopped writing. I took some time to examine why writing had become so difficult. I examined, with some help, what was holding me back. Then I surrendered each of those difficulties.
To be honest, I still have to surrender them, still have to choose to put those burdens down and simply write. Just like I’m doing right now.
The difference between then and now? I’m not doing this to make a living. I’m doing this because I want to.
If you could set aside all expectations, what would you write? More importantly, why would you write? I encourage anyone that reads this to take some time to answer those questions. If you feel so inclined, let me know in the comments. I’d love to discuss it with you.