I received an email this morning from a sweet young friend of mine, wondering if she’s really meant to be a writer. She’s had no story ideas for a while, and she can’t seem to get anything written. All her creativity seems drained. Let me give you some advice from Dorothea Brande, my favorite expert on writing. She was a witty, intelligent woman who published her book Becoming a Writer in 1934. I highly recommend that you all get the book; thank the Lord they began to print it again! I have an old copy, but it’s well-worn. Let’s see what she has to say.
“First, there is the difficulty of writing at all. The full, abundant flow that must be established if the writer is to be heard from simply will not begin. The stupid conclusion that if he cannot write easily he has mistaken his career is sheer nonsense. There are a dozen reasons for the difficulty which should be canvassed before the teacher is entitled to say tha the can see no signs of hope for this pupil. It may be that the root of the trouble is youth and humility. Sometimes it is self-consciousness that stems the flow. Often it is the result of misapprehensions about writing, or it arises from an embarrassment of scruples: the beginner may be waiting for the divine fire of which he has heard to glow unmistakably, and may believe that it can only be lighted by a fortuitous spark from above. The particular point to be noted just here is that this difficulty is anterior to any problems about story structure or plot building, and that unless the writer can be helped past it there is very likely to be no need for technical instruction at all.”
Now, I don’t believe everyone who enjoys writing is a writer. Some people do it just for fun, or because they’re going through a phase. Others, however, truly are writers. Simply because you find your well of inspiration running dry doesn’t mean you should pack up your pens and stow them in the attic. True writers get discouraged. Writer’s block sits stubbornly on their doorstep, and they wonder whether something’s wrong with them. They find themselves discouraged and doubting, and that doubt can lead to despair, and despair can lead to giving up all together.
My thought is – if you’re worrying that you may not be an actual author, chances are high that you are. True authors worry whether or not they’re ‘real’ – insincere writers don’t bother worrying about it because they know their hearts aren’t in it. Doubt is a positive sign, but don’t let it drag you into the slough of despond – find something that inspires you, pluck up your courage, and write something. Often times, all it takes is for us to plunk ourselves down and get a sentence out of our system for the dam to break and the words to start flowing again.
After all, no one said writing was a predictable business.