The more I write on Medium and try to succeed, the more fear I feel when starting a new story. Will it get curated? Will it come out good enough? How much time does it take before I publish it and can get to the next idea?
How can I publish faster, more, better? How can I push myself harder to produce more quality content?
First of all, it’s not called “content.”
I realized that I couldn’t avoid the mistake so many writers talk about. Trying to emulate someone else’s success.
This leads me away from my authentic voice (wherever it is at the moment) and towards the attempt to write like somebody else. There are these ideas in my head that certain types of stories “read well” here on Medium. The self-help guides. The super vulnerable personal stories. The semi-philosophical thought pieces.
I have tried them all, but focusing on being like someone else usually leads me away from what I really want to say.
I come to treat my most personal work like the corporate blogs I used to write for my clients. I think of them as pieces that “must” contain certain elements and not others. I am being mental and strategic about them, rather than writing from the heart.
I don’t know how to escape this mindset trap yet — but I already know that writing content is not what leads to my definition of writing success. Because content is exactly what I don’t care about. Content is produced with an end goal in mind.
What I want to do is to create art. And I don’t always know how to. I don’t always know how to connect to the heartfelt experience and find patience and passion for the words to come out as they will. I know I am often intervening too much. I am pushing it. I am trying a little too hard.
But can I ever overcome my own limits without trying hard?
The glorification of hard work is tricky.
I am honestly not sure how to pinpoint my idea of what it takes to be successful. I certainly believe that hard work is involved in that. But what does hard work actually mean?
For the longest time, I connected the idea of work with unpleasantness. I only knew I “worked hard” for something when I experienced a certain amount of distress and tiredness. The idea that success is bound to be paid for with some suffering is very much ingrained in my mind.
But this is just one idea of what “hard work” means. In the context of writing, I can see more and more often that what is required to grow is not the suffering itself. It is much more the act of sitting down and trying my best every day. And this doesn’t have to come with suffering, since pouring words out of my soul is what I love to do.
For me, the real work required to do here is the inner one: changing my beliefs and putting myself in the state of mind where I don’t doubt myself. Or at least, not so much. It is often the work of not doing anything — so that I can actually hear what is going on within me. This is the only way of knowing what I should write about and how to write about it.
When I am not in touch with myself and work hard for the sake of working hard, all that comes out is content. Long series of articles that mean close to nothing — neither to me nor to the readers.
This is the fast track to become discouraged and lose motivation.
The question of internal or external motivation
Speaking of which — I have been feeling very motivated to write for the past three months, since I decided to give myself a real shot on Medium. I was convinced that this was enough to empower myself to push through the resistance, distraction and the “bad days.”
But recently, it occurred to me that this is not about any kind of motivation. It also matters what I get motivated by. Because as long as the primary source of my fuel is the longing for claps, money, and external recognition — I am probably not going very far with this.
That’s because the external sources of motivation put me in a state where I experience lack. I am still not popular enough or rich enough, my writing voice is not there yet and my stories don’t get curated as much as I would like them to. Shit. I feel motivated to publish more, so I can eventually get all these things — but that comes at a cost.
The cost is that I am making my satisfaction from writing dependant on factors that I can by no means control. I can’t make curators pick my stories or make people clap for them. And I will never be able to. So, ultimately, this leads to the place of misery.
But what if I cultivate the internal motivation instead?
The motivation to simply express myself and talk about the issues that matter to me. The motivation to practice vulnerability in my writing, rather than pretending that I know something I don’t. The neverending commitment to hone my craft, improve incrementally and learn, learn, learn.
Not for the sake of accolades. But for the sake of satisfying my deep, natural curiosity.
That curiosity is ongoing and fuels the whole process in a much more reliable and authentic way than the external motives. And this is what I hope will allow me to make it as writer one day.
But then I need to ask myself: what does “making it as a writer” even mean?
There’s no “making it” as a writer.
I finally feel disillusioned about this one — and that’s great. It removes one more brick from my goal-oriented mentality and puts it in the stack to start building the process-driven one.
After becoming familiar with Srinivas Rao’s An Audience Of One, I realised that the concept of ever “making it” as a creative is a myth. You can experience success — that’s for sure. But the feeling of completeness and knowing that you can now settle and stop growing? Unlikely.
If you know that your art is an intrinsic part of your life to the point that you don’t know how to live without it — then you will never reach a finish line. At least I believe it to be so. I can’t imagine a moment when I will be able to say: “That’s it, I accomplished everything that there was to accomplish, and now there’s nothing left I can learn as a writer.”
There is a big chance I will never “make it” and be fully satisfied. But rather than feeling threatening, this reminds me of something super important.
I am lucky to be doing what I love. I ultimately enjoy the process — it’s just that sometimes, I forget about it. So why not remind myself how much it means for me to be free to create?
I am writing this story now on a train, coming from staying with a friend for a week at his place, and on my way to see another one, in another city. I am free. My work is with me anywhere I go. I can write whenever, whatever, and however I please.
In this sense, I already “made it” as a writer. If this is not bliss, then what is?