Mental Health for Writers Will You Ever Be Good Enough as a Writer?
Mental health: Will you ever be good enough as a writer?
This question haunts even those published writers who already make money and have a following. Actually, these two things make it even worse: will I live up to their expectations?
There’s something that I’ve been noticing in this online writing community in general: our mental health is really hurt.
I’ve seen all kinds of things around. How to write better, how to market your book, how to publish it, be successful, and so on. I haven’t seen anything about writer’s mental health.
A lot of people are full of self-doubt, impostor syndrome, afraid of what other people will think, thinking they will never finish a book, that they are no real writer, that they are not good enough.
And when I say a lot of people, I mean ME TOO!
If there’s a thing that I know in this world is about anxiety and self-doubt.
Personal mental health talk
When I was younger, I ran away from other writers. I hated to know that somebody else was writing. I had a writer “friend” that was always competing with me, telling me she was much better than me, giving me things to read but never ever reading mine. She used to think that she was so much better.
I didn’t want to know if somebody else was a writer because I was too afraid that they would be much better than me. They would succeed, have a large following, make money, they would get a movie from their book. And then I would never be published, I would never even finishing writing.
It used to be so bad that I didn’t want to read other books because I thought I would never be as good as the writers I was reading.
I used to beat myself down so much. I would read what I wrote and almost cry. I would cringe and think about the most horrible things.
“What is this? Do you think you are a writer? This is horrible. Nobody will ever relate to that. It’s badly written, it’s horrid. You don’t know how to create characters, your fantasy world is like Earth in a bad disguise. Nobody will never read you. You are a failure. This is ridiculous. Stop already. Give up and die”.
I know, I wasn’t the nicest person to myself, was I?
Even writing this now I feel like crying because hits home hard.
I would never want to read nothing on improving your writing because I was too afraid I was going in the wrong directions in my own writing. I would read about a technique and think: I’m not doing that! So I might suck! Tell me something new, I really, really suck, anyway.
Sometimes, I would get so down that I would not write for a long time. I would abandon the project and never look back into it because only to think about writing those things would make me cringe so, so much.
Have you been there? How is your mental health?
I want you to know that there’s a way out of it. And I’m not telling you those stupid old things like “believe in yourself!”. People, if I could believe in myself, I wouldn’t do this, right?!
There are things you can actually do to help. And I’m going to tell you right now:
1- Face yourself and think: Why am I writing?
Be ruthless with yourself. If you think yourself down as much as I did, I’m sure you can be mean to you. I’m telling you: be mean.
Why are you writing after all?
If you think you are so bad like this, why don’t you quit?
Even if I thought about all those horrible things, I still kept writing. Even if I quit the book, I would always start something new, even if it had been months or years.
I always came back to it.
And let me tell you why:
You write because it’s the only thing we can do when we don’t know what to do.
We write because it’s our way out of the pain.
It is our way to control things and create a better reality.
It’s how we can express ourselves and convey our message.
We write because it’s only natural. You don’t know what else to do, so you write.
Everybody that once called themselves writers are like this.
They write because it’s almost a physical necessity.
Even if you quit for years, one day you’ll go back to it.
We write because we are alive.
Even if you never succeed. Even if you suck. You’ll keep writing because that’s how we survive reality. That’s how we face pain.
The words flow just like a river. It’s like somebody else is doing it for you. It’s your muse. You have almost no control. You write because it has to be done, it has to be on paper. It can’t be on you, it was meant to leave and be heard. It’s like you are a mean of doing things, not an end. It is like the universe has a message that they want a hearing, and you are there, writing it. You have to do it.
Knowing that I want you to make a list now, I mean it, now, get yourself a piece of paper and write it down:
What is my OBJECTIVE with writing?
What do you want to accomplish?
Would you like to be a famous author? Or you want to write just for yourself?
I want you to be honest with yourself.
I’m doing first, so you won’t get shy.
My honest objective is to publish my books, get people to read it and fall in love with it. My dream is to have fans and people that admire my work. The money would be nice too, but what I really want is people to write fanfics about my work. I want to receive a message: I fell in love with your character, and I really identify with them. That’s my goal.
You can have another goal. I told you mine because I want to be honest with you so you can be honest with yourself. Write it down and face it, as hard as it can be. There are people that just want to finish the book for themselves and that’s it. There are some people that want their book turn into a movie, and that’s fine too.
What do I HAVE TO DO to get to this point?
Know that there’s a way to getting to your objective.
If other people have done it, why not you?
After you’ve identified your objective, I want you to be cold right now.
Thing objectively, without letting your emotions getting in the way: How can I get there?
If you don’t know the answer, you might as well Google it.
For me, I want to have a following, right? People to love my writing. So, how will I get there?
First, I need a book published. Without a finished book, how will people read it? So, first things first. Finish the book. How to finish a book? I’ve explained here in my step by step on how to write a novel.
After I’ve finished it, I have to publish it and market it, so it will get to the readers. How can I publish a book? Will it be better to self-publish or to go after an agent? How can I market a book? Should I start a writer’s blog?
You can read good books about writing.
You can keep learning and keep writing, so you’ll improve if that’s your goal.
If you know that there’s a way to go after your writing goal, it’s much less likely that you go nuts about it.
You can do it because there’s a clear path that you can follow to achieve your objective.
When you are beating yourself up, ask yourself: Why don’t I just quit then?
If you are that bad,
If you will never be good enough,
If you know the path, but you ARE SURE that you can’t get there, even without trying:
Why don’t you just quit then?
It sounds harsh because it is.
And I’ll tell you why: because writing is like breathing. Like I told you above.
You won’t quit writing, because writing is in your blood.
After you’ve called yourself a writer, there’s no way to return. You’ll forever be thinking about writing.
Writing is as natural as eating, walking, sleeping.
I know that because we are all the same.
You won’t quit writing.
You simply can’t.
So, you get yourself up, you stop thinking negatively, and you go back to your objectives.
Everything that we have come from thoughts.
Every bad emotion you have come from something that you thought.
What are you thinking that is making yourself so sad?
When you think that you suck, you feel sad.
So, now, you’ll analyze this thought:
Is it true that you suck?
Analyze it without that brat teen that lives inside of us all. Yes, that one that keeps screaming “yes, yes, it’s true, I hate everything!!!”. Analyze coldly.
What factual evidences you have that you will fail?
I’ll answer for you: none. You have no evidence at all.
You know why?
Because you can’t control success. You can’t guarantee that you will succeed. And you can’t guarantee that you will fail.
How many examples of terrible books that are best sellers we have?
Without wanting to offend anyone, but 50 Shades of Gray is not exactly Shakespeare.
What to do then? How to improve your mental health as a writer?
1. We already know that you won’t quit because writing is like breathing and we can’t live without it.
2. You know your objective and you know the way to get there because you researched it.
3. You have no control if it will be successful. You have no control at all that it will fail. So, since you won’t stop writing, you might as well TRY.
Because that’s all we can do.
Keep writing, keep improving, and keep trying. Hope for the best. We have no control. While this means we can’t know if it will be successful, we can’t know that it won’t. It’s 50/50. And since you won’t stop writing even it fails, you have only one thing to do: keep going.
Everything that was successful is a result of people not giving it up.
There are only two options: you keep trying until you make it or you die first. And if you die, it won’t matter anymore, because you’ll be dead. So, logically, what is the only option left?
Will you ever be good enough?
There is no such thing.
I love JK Rowling to pieces. There are people that hate her.
I LOVE Stephen King. There are people that say he writes just for selling and he sucks.
I bet you love a bunch of people that I hate.
When I say there’s no such thing, I mean it. It literally does not exist.
Even if you self-publish a short story full of typos and a person really likes the character name and identify themselves with the character, the person could love your book.
It can be full of mistakes, plot-holes. There are people that will like it. Think about fanfictions written by teenagers. I mean it, ten-years-old. I bet if you go to a fanfiction site right now, there will be a ton of this kind of fics there. They will be badly written, full of mistakes. Some of them have tons of comments. People raving about it. People loving it.
Also, people don’t read the book before buying it. They buy it first. So, you can sell it.
And, you can improve. You can learn the techniques. You can write more, and more, and more. Until you do it with your eyes closed.
People can learn anything they want.
Think about those Olympic masters medalist. Do you think they got there on their first day of training? Or even their first year?
It took them YEARS of repetition.
We can learn anything.
Don’t let that talent crap get to you.
I used to SUCK in French. But I kept studying. And now I can even talk to people! I keep struggling, I keep studying, I keep evolving.
Life is like this.
You can learn to market yourself. Believe it or not, I used to HATE the marketing part. Now, I TEACH digital marketing. Because I learned it right, and I love it.
This “good enough” thing is made up by your perfectionism standard
Don’t let it win.
I have this too.
We must beat perfectionism.
There is not a single thing on Earth that is perfect.
Your favorite book is not perfect.
Harry Potter is not perfect.
DONE IS BETTER THAN PERFECT
Get a tattoo with this phrase if you need to.
I can’t stop beating myself up. I know everything logically, but I can’t help it. I keep doing it.
There is only one thing to do. Keep trying.
Keep trying to be nice to yourself.
It won’t be easy.
You’ve been being mean to yourself since you were born basically. We are taught that through our whole lives.
You learned to call yourself stupid, horrible. You learned to hate yourself.
But in the same way that you learned that, you can learn to stop doing that.
Don’t ever think: I am like this. I will never change.
There’s nothing more false than that.
We are not like anything.
We are not out mental disease.
I mean it, we learned things. We’ve become like this. And like we did this, this can be undone. We can learn new behaviors. We can learn to love ourselves in the same way you learned to hate yourself.
It won’t be easy. And you have to be really willing to do it. But you can do it. You. Can. Do. It.
And I’m not saying this in that stupid motivational tone. I’m saying this because it’s absolutely true: humans adapt.
If you lost your home now, your family, if you were put into jail. You would still survive. You would adapt to your new situation. Or would you say: sorry, prison guard, I am not like this, so I can’t live here?
Which means you can adapt again. You can learn to stop hating you.
Get professional help
This is not for crazy people.
It is not for sick people.
It’s for everyone.
If you think: I hate this writing, this story is shit, I’ll never be good enough, I’ll never be a good writer; know that this is not normal. It’s common, but not normal in a sense of expected. This not coming from the story or from the writing itself. It’s coming from other things that reflect on your writing. For example, traumas, the way you form thoughts.
It’s something much deeper.
Please, seek help.
I go to therapy once a week and if I don’t, I freak out.
It’s not normal to hate your writing until you hate yourself. It’s okay to feel down sometimes, to have some doubt, but not to offend yourself until you hate it so much you don’t want to do it anymore.
If you need to talk, I’m here for you. Email me. I mean it.
Because I’ve been there.
I want you to know that I don’t do this anymore. After I read my first draft, I usually think: wow, it’s incredible how I can get it better after editing.
I used to think: you useless piece of shit, you can’t write, you will never be a good writer, give up now, die.
This. is. not. normal.
Know that you can change. You can get help. You can get better. You can heal. You are not dead yet, so you have a chance of changing.
I’m here for you. I mean it. If you need a sign to get help, this is it.