The Insecure Writer's Occasional & Vulnerable Lament

Friday, January 16, 2015

I wrote a piece last January, my first on Medium, called "How to Not Be a Writer." At the time, I had just moved from New Jersey back to Washington, D.C., with the singular goal of doing more writing. I didn't really know where to begin, & it wasn't going well.

I made some strides in 2014 on the writing front, for sure. On the first day of the year, I learned that my first submission to Thought Catalog had been published. I started writing occasionally for Hello Giggles. I kept posting to Medium whenever I had something to say that didn't seem to fit on this blog; one of my favorite pieces there, "What We Never Talked About," was featured in a collection with 12k followers.

Then, my proudest moment of the year: In July, I sat down at one of my favorite coffee shops (BakeHouse on T St., highly recommended), where I banged out a really personal, somewhat painful piece & then, on a whim, decided to submit it to xoJane. An editor responded two days later to say they'd love to run it, & that was that. They even paid me, like a real writer! And then the next month, it happened again. I was on a roll.

And then everything slowed down. Majorly. I sent four more submissions to xoJane, all pieces I really loved; every single one of them was rejected by way of silence. I continued to submit my Medium posts to Human Parts, the collection that had accepted my first piece; I was rejected all four times there, too. My well of ideas for Hello Giggles dried up. My connection at Thought Catalog fell through.

And just like that, my few months of growth & success came to a grinding, ego-crushing halt.

Look, I'm gonna level with you: I'm having a pretty hard time with it. I feel terrible about my writing. I don't trust myself. I don't trust any outlets to give a shit about what I have to say or to like the way I've said it. I have been rejected so many times that I suddenly feel too scared to send anything else out into the world, like, at all. The other day I started writing eleven different pieces & quit all of them a few paragraphs in because all I could think was, "This is never going to see the light of day, anyway."

It probably doesn't help that I'm watching from the sidelines as my friends, who are fantastic, talented writers, see the kinds of successes I've been trying for. Every time someone I love is published on a major site, I click "like" on Facebook & genuinely mean it, because you'd better believe I'm proud as hell of all these wonderful, skilled people I know. But it adds to my insecurity, too, because all the comparisons build up in my head - & the more they succeed, the more my failures stand out. I'm usually pretty good about using jealousy as a tool for personal success - don't envy it, go get it for yourself - but these days, it just feels like an anchor, an anvil, an elbow to the nose.

The worst part, maybe, is that it makes me not want to write here, either. When I get really stuck in my other failures, I start to think about everything in terms of failure. I start to think about how I've been blogging here for seven & a half years, but I've never been discovered, gone viral, seen huge readership, or done much of anything else that would qualify as a major personal success. After all these years, is this space a waste of my time? If I'm not good enough for publication, I begin to think, then maybe I should just shut up altogether.

And look, I know that's not how it works, OK? You don't have to tell me that. I know. In so many ways, for starters, I don't have a blog for "success"; I have it as an outlet, as a guaranteed place to put my words, even if no one else will run them. And I know that writing is a difficult, soul-wrenching business. I know that sometimes it's up, & sometimes it's down, & just because my last billion pieces were rejected, it doesn't mean I'm the worst writer who ever lived. I know all of that, & yet, I am still a person with feelings. And as we all know, feelings - especially those of the insecure variety - are not exactly know for being rational.

The thing is, I couldn't stop if I wanted to, anyway. Writing is the thing I'm the best at, the thing I love most, & the only thing that makes me really, really happy. And really, really proud. But that's why this is such a struggle, right? Because all this rejection feels like a threat to my happiness, to my pride. If I don't have writing, what else do I have?

The answer, I guess, is hope. I've still got that, although it's sometimes a struggle to remind myself of it after I've spent a bunch of time wallowing. But I know this is a cycle, a test, a process. I know that one of these days I'll bubble over with some sort of word vomit that I'm brave enough to submit to another outlet, rejection be damned - & then it won't be rejected, after all.

In the meantime, I am reminded that Michael Jordan got cut from his high school basketball team, that it's always darkest before the dawn, & a million other cliche-but-true reminders that success is not immediate or obvious or easy. And until my luck starts to change, you can find me listening to a lot of Kelly Clarkson & Kanye, trying to convince myself that whatever doesn't kill me makes me stronger a better writer.

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