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!

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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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