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“Quitting is not the same thing as failure”

Chuck Wendig: “Your lack of confidence is neither interesting nor unique.”

“What? You think you’re the first writer who doesn’t think he can do it? Uh, hello, please meet every other writer ever. We’re all f***ing headcases.”

This was from the blog Chuck Wendig wrote the other day, “Failing vs Quitting,” and I thought it was worthwhile to share it here. It’s a long piece but good. Go check it out.

“Writing and storytelling isn’t a math problem with a guaranteed solution,” Chuck continues. “It’s threading a needle inside our heart with an invisible string strung with dreams and nightmares. We are afforded zero guarantees.”

I was in a good space when I read this blog. I was productive and positive that day; I had written something. And so I was nodding my head and saying, “Yeah!” But I could have fallen into a trap I’ve fallen into before, the one that says, “OH! Easy for him to say! Stories probably flow right out of him, he has talent, he’s smart …”

I am really not that familiar with Chuck Wendig. I follow him on Twitter, I read his posts and blogs once in a while, but I haven’t read his books. I like his attitude, though, so I probably will go check out one of his books soon (His new one is called “Bait Dog“). But the point is that the default position I’ve taken in the past is that some random strange writer must be better than me. And because he’s written several books, all the stuff he wrote about insecurity must be a lie.

SHE’S insecure?

I was watching Shawn Johnson on “Dancing With the Stars” over the last 5 or 6 weeks, and she frequently expressed insecurity, too. I’m thinking, she’s only 20. She won two gold medals and a bronze in the Olympics just a few years ago. In 2009 she won her first season of Dancing With the Stars (this year they brought back some of the champions to compete again). But she’s talking about feeling uncertain, nervous, insecure. What does she have to be insecure about? Look at all those crazy flips and stuff she can do with her body. Look at how good she is! I wouldn’t be insecure if I make my body move like that. She must be lying, right?

But I can believe she’s not lying. I can’t count the number of stories I’ve heard about famous singers, people who have been singing for years who still get stage fright. Or actors who can jump right into a character but are shy in real life. I know lawyers who can “perform” in the courtroom—and do well—but feel unnatural doing it.

I agree with Chuck. Speaking as a writer, I know we’re all headcases. Our successes in the past seem to float out of our head. I’ve had moments where all I can hear is the negative voice inside me that says I have no stories to tell, and if I did I’d tell them badly. I’ve written fiction and news stories and magazine articles and now blogs, and people have even said they liked some of those. But even after all the things I’ve written–I’ve written for nearly my entire career–I can still get into a negative space about it. I’m convinced I wrote once but will never write anything good again.

Thank god it passes and I don’t give up. I can’t say I sit down and do three pages every morning or one solid hour every evening, but I don’t give up. What I do have to give up, though, is some bizarre notion that I’m going to be like some other writer. I’m not. I love Charles Bukowski, Henry Miller and Margaret Atwood (to name a few), and I’m not going to write anything like them. Good thing is I can still be brilliant. Maybe I won’t be, but I can be. Their brilliance isn’t subtracted from mine or anyone else’s.

Maybe my words or Chuck’s will help motivate someone else. My head is spinning with ideas and in a little while I’m going to pound the keys some more, say, “F*** it,” finish the story I started months ago or start a completely new one.