From Friday's Comments:
A few years a go I began writing. I wrote because my sister was a writer and people always fawned that "wow, a writer?" while my dad bragged proudly.
I...I guess I was jealous. That I wanted praise.
So I started a book, purely out of envy.
The book failed. I moved on to another idea.
Now I believe myself to be a writer, I'm no longer jealous.
I enjoy writing but the reason I started to write haunts me.(Is 'haunts' too dramatic?)
Because of that I can't fully give myself over to my 'muse'. I feel I can't truthfully say that I love writing and, while my sister has finished three books, I've yet to write one full rough draft.
Your the only person I could think of asking about...what...to, um, do?
Dear Struggling Writer,
Here’s what I think. And be forewarned—it’s long.
I think pretty much whatever means brings creativity into your life is perfectly okay.
Some people are born believing in their talent and their “right” to spend their time and energy and resources pursuing and honoring that talent. Those lucky devils. For the rest of us, we sometimes need to trick ourselves into finding permission to pursue creativity. In today’s culture, creativity for its own sake isn’t particularly valued or treasured. It’s not practical enough, doesn’t reap great enough financial rewards, and causes people to spend long periods of time alone. It’s often only valued if it leads to a specific end, usually in the form of prestige or lots of money. And yet . . .
I think it is one of the single most important things we can invite into our life—whatever form it might take and by any means it might show up. Mostly because I think the act of creating is one of the single most spiritual activities we mere humans can experience, whatever your definition of spirituality may be.
There is only a small portion of us who will initially feel confident enough or brave enough or worthy enough to devote the time and energy to something creative. The rest of us will need excuses.
Some people will tell themselves they are writing so they can produce the kinds of stories their own kid hunger after.
Others will tell themselves they are writing because they (mistakenly!) think it is a way to make a little money on the side.
Others think it is a way to fame or recognition, validation or a way to impress people.
For others still, perhaps it was the only thing they were ever good at.
Or maybe they write to learn about something or come to some understanding of themselves.
But here’s the thing: Whatever wild and crazy reason you can name for first beginning to write—I can almost guarantee you that there is a wildly successful author out there who started for that exact reason.
Permission takes many forms.
If you love writing, no matter what caused you to pick up that pen initially, you love writing. Nothing--nothing--can take that away from you. Not even the reason you first started to write in the first place. It was simply a trick the Universe played on you to give you that little nudge you needed.
Is writing to gain your father’s regard any less noble than writing to become rich and famous? Is writing to keep up with your sister any more onerous than writing so you can be on Oprah?
I don’t think so.
Besides, I don’t think envy is all that bad an emotion. It’s not like jealousy, for example, which is much stronger and more toxic. Envy means you want it, too. Jealousy means you don’t want the other person to have it. Jealousy also includes suspicion and mistrust and anger. From what I hear you saying, you’re not trying to take away your sister’s love of writing; you’ve just found it’s your calling as well.
And the Universe has a wild sense of humor when it comes to handing out callings to us unsuspecting mortals.
Elizabeth Gilbert is an amazing writer and she’d written a number of terrific books before her sister, Catherine Gilbert Murdoch picked up a pen and wrote the equally amazing Dairy Queen. There is no rule that says only one writer allowed per family.
So in answer to "What should I do?" (Finally! poor Struggling Writers gasps.)
At school visits I constantly tell kids that one of their most powerful tools in being a great writer is their Secret Crazy Self. That very part of them that gets them in the most amount of trouble or causes them a great deal of embarrassment.
That part of you that was compelled to pick up a pen to earn your father’s admiration and compete with your sister may very well be part of your Secret Crazy Self. Maybe it will make you more competitive and you will never give up, which brings you just that much closer to success. Or perhaps the ability to admit such things to yourself will give your writing a raw emotional honesty. Either way, I think you need to recognize it as having the potential to be a strength, and not just let it be something that haunts you.
Or you could just consider this as good as a confessional and let it go.
Either way, check back in with us when you’ve finished that first draft. We’ll want to celebrate with you.