Why do I write? Because it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

A per­son I feel very for­tu­nate to call my friend, the suc­cess­ful and tal­ent­ed Kevan Atte­ber­ry, recent­ly wrote an arti­cle in the Chi­nook (the quar­ter­ly newslet­ter from the West­ern Wash­ing­ton region of the Soci­ety of Children’s Book Writ­ers and Illus­tra­tors) enti­tled, “On Being a Fraud.” I won­der if he’s read about the imposter syn­drome, because he described it quite eloquently.
I have to com­mend Kevan for out­ing him­self and for shar­ing feel­ings that we can all relate to, even though many of us might not care to admit it. I total­ly get the ques­tions of tal­ent and self-worth, the irra­tional sec­ond-guess­ing of skills and tal­ents, the yearn­ing to pro­duce mean­ing­ful results that we can tru­ly feel proud of. I cer­tain­ly have my share of those emo­tions, too.
But writ­ing, indeed doing any­thing cre­ative, also feels, to me, like the great equal­iz­er. More years ago than I’d care to admit, I was rid­ing the wave of a pret­ty suc­cess­ful career in soft­ware engi­neer­ing. At its peak, I was the tech­ni­cal liai­son between Intel’s graph­ics chip divi­sion and Microsoft’s Win­dows. Not bad for a small-town girl from cow-town Wis­con­sin! But talk about feel­ing like a fraud. I felt like I was sup­posed to han­dle all the tech­ni­cal details and all the politics—all while mak­ing it look total­ly effort­less. It wasn’t effort­less, of course, but it was a heck of a lot eas­i­er than writ­ing, and I sus­pect I was bet­ter at it, too.
Why, oh why, then, do I write? I write pre­cise­ly because it’s so darn hard. Yes, I like a chal­lenge, and I’m stub­born, and I want to con­tin­ue to improve and find ways to make it eas­i­er. But I also love know­ing that it’s hard for every­body. What joy, what freedom–it’s not just me! How can I be a fraud if we’re all strug­gling in this togeth­er? Even mul­ti-pub­lished, award-win­ning authors (and artists) say every time they sit down to cre­ate it’s the same feel­ing of dread. No one prances around pre­tend­ing it’s easy (if they do, we all KNOW they’re robots!). There is a huge com­mu­ni­ty of like-suf­fer­ing souls out there. And of course, self-pub­lish­ing notwith­stand­ing, one hopes there are some very tal­ent­ed and wor­thy gate­keep­ers bar­ring the path to pub­li­ca­tion until our efforts are ready for prime­time (now THEY must feel some pres­sure, don’t you think?).
I think that the beau­ty of writ­ing, or attempt­ing to mas­ter any oth­er cre­ative endeav­or, is that it is so clear­ly a life-long appren­tice­ship. Even the mas­ters feel there is still much more to learn. We all strive to enhance our skills and per­fect our craft. We are all on a hero’s jour­ney that will not end until the very last breath. We have all been forced (I hope) to switch from a fixed mind­set (tal­ent) to the growth mind­set (prac­tice). Now we just have to work at it, indi­vid­u­al­ly, yet all together.
Many thanks to all my cre­ative friends who are walk­ing this road with me, and to the ones who slap me upside the head and tell me to “knock it off” when­ev­er I feel like giv­ing up!

2 thoughts on “Why do I write? Because it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”

  1. Good post. It’s inter­est­ing that you men­tion the impos­tor syn­drome. I just wrote a book on the sub­ject and I was inter­viewed two nights ago by the Mil­lion­aire Authors’ Club on the sub­ject. Part of the con­ver­sa­tion was how the impos­tor syn­drome plays into writ­ing for authors.
    The Impos­tor Syn­drome is the feel­ing that you are not as smart, tal­ent­ed, or skilled as peo­ple think you are. It’s the feel­ing that you are a fake and have been get­ting away with some­thing and are about to be found out. It affects 70% of adults and is espe­cial­ly preva­lent in high achiev­ing women.
    You can take a 20 ques­tion test to see how much the impos­tor syn­drome affects you at: http://www.ImpostorQuiz.com.
    John Graden

  2. What a great post, Lau­rie — I read Kevan’s arti­cle and had exact­ly the same response. I think artis­tic expres­sion of any kind is one of the hard­est things a per­son can do. Inter­nal and exter­nal pres­sures are both so great, the expec­ta­tions so high, and the inter­pre­ta­tion so sub­jec­tive. I keep hop­ing there is a secret to mak­ing it easy, but I nev­er quite man­age to find it. Thank­ful­ly, we have each other!


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