Harsh Personal Truths

Months have passed since I began questioning my identity–and my claim–as a writer. Since November, I’ve struggled to write anything, which has hit me harder than it ever has before. Back when I really started writing more consistently (and tentatively say seriously), I’d still always go months without writing anything, before picking a project back up or starting something new.  And it never really bothered me. I never questioned whether I was a writer or not. I got busy. Life got in the way. I was in school, which got harder and busier with every passing year. Not writing for months just made sense.

Then, last year, I wrote four books.

I’ve never been so productive writing in my life. And it felt amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more whole, when writing was my norm, something that I structured everything else around; the main aspect in my life that took precedence. I think that’s why these past few months struggling to write, hating what I’ve written when I do, or–the worse of it–choosing not to write at all out of fear, have been so difficult to me; so difficult, in fact, that I’ve begun to feel false when I claim to be a writer.

How can I be a writer if I’m not writing?

Sure, I’ve written books. Half a dozen of them. Sure, I have ideas for more and plans to write them. Sure, I’m part of a short story blog and have been writing those, but short stories have never been my medium. Novels are. So can I still call myself a writer if I allow months to go by and not work on what I’m most passionate about? If I give into fear? If I choose to do other things instead of write?

I’m not sure.

I know everyone will have their own opinion on this. And if you’ve been in a writing rut like me, I don’t want you to think my judgments I’m placing on myself should also be placed onto you. Each of us has our own definition and parameters as to what qualifies us to be labeled writers. And I’m discovering, lately, that for me personally, when I’m not writing, I feel like a fraud based on my own definition. A writer writes. Period. Maybe not every day–I will never deny the power that life has and its uncanny ability to get in the way. But they try. Oh, do they try. Certainly much more than I have these past few months.

I’ve also discovered I hate feeling like a fraud–especially when it’s associated with the aspect of my identity that I feel is most truly me.

Luckily, I also know how to fix that: by writing.

Currently, I’m about to undergo the first round of edits over ARTEMIS SMITH AND THE VIRTUOUS MARRIAGE QUEST. And I certainly count editing as writing. I’m excited about these edits. But ever since I started planning out these edits–almost a month ago–that fear, that sense of falsehood, that disconnect between my identity and my actions, has still lingered. Even now, as I finish this post, with every intention to go and work on revamping my first chapter after I finish this, m heart is filled with fear. Fear of what? I’m not truly sure. But I do know that I loathe that feeling. And I miss the elation of writing. I miss the dedication I had. I miss creating worlds that I fall in love with and characters that become true friends. I miss stumbling upon narratives that I never planned in my outline, yet excite me more than anything I could have ever plotted. I miss storytelling. I miss the details, the environments. I miss challenging myself. I miss how dark my stories become, threaded with gore and littered with tombstones–just as much as I miss how they are always glistening with stubborn hope and positivity, despite the darkness.

So, please excuse me as I go search for that elation once more. Because I’m a writer, dammit. And writers write, despite.

Cheers.

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About Nicole Evans

Nicole Evans is a writer of fantasy and science fiction. She is currently unpublished and is working fervently to get the “un” removed from that statement. She has five completed manuscripts: a trilogy about destined heroes that fail anyway, a science fiction standalone that pits the natural desire to love against the natural instinct to kill during the extinction of the human race and a new series about a writer who can't get published and gets the chance to live a life that all writers dream. She also has two scripts done. Currently, she is about to start writing the second of a nine book series while planning two more. (If you can tell, she really likes this whole writing thing.) Considering she has run out of space for putting rejections letters up on her wall, Nicole now uses her spare time doing the typical things that nerds do: blogging, dying repeatedly during video games (which she believes is retribution for the characters’ she’s killed), wishing she was the character she is currently reading about and trying to fight off the real world by living in her own head, with varying degrees of success. Nicole has a degree in Creative Writing and a minor in Film and Media Studies, and works part-time as a supervisor in a library at the University of Kansas. View all posts by Nicole Evans

10 responses to “Harsh Personal Truths

  • hsdeurloo

    I like the honesty here. I’ve been feeling similar with being a few weeks from baby two it’s hard to write let alone think. Today I got the worst rejection on my work to date and now I sit here wondering if I’m a writer at all. But you’re right, all a writer has to do is write. Thanks and go get em!

    • Nicole Evans

      Gosh, I cannot even imagine trying to balance writing and a family. Also, on the rejection front: I know it’s hard, getting them, but what helped me is looking at the fact that I am even at the stage of receiving rejections. You can’t receive a rejection on a book you haven’t written. And edited. And polished. And you’ve been brave enough to send it out. That is a MAJOR accomplish, Hannah. Even if it doesn’t feel like it. ❤

  • philcharlesr

    I don’t worry about the labels with writing. Some people have published books that I think are awful/lazily written (50 shades etc). They are technically writers. However, in your case you’re taking all the steps to be proud of. You’re developing your craft, improving your writing, and learning with each step you take. I think calling yourself a writer is good, but I’d also add ‘and Professional Honer of Abilities.’ When you win at all your goals at some point down the line, that’s what will have gotten you there 🙂

  • robertfnugent

    Great post, Nicole. This is something I’ve really struggled with at times as well, and I’m guessing that every other writer has at some point, too.

    Always strive to write when you can. Always push yourself. Always try to be the best that you can be. Always work to make your dreams happen.

    But…

    Take time for yourself, too. That’s something I’ve had to learn fairly recently as well. While it’s important to keep at it and do your best, it’s also important to take a “vacation” (so to say) when you need one. Most of what we do is a mental game, and if you’re running yourself into the ground, cooling off for a bit can be the best decision. Don’t be ashamed for taking to time to focus on other things for awhile, whether it’s seeing friends/family, working on another type of project, or hell, even just playing a ton of video games to get rid of some stress (… that last one has been me, lately).

    You’re a writer. No doubt. And with as little as I know of you, even I’d be comfortable saying, “And you always will be.”

    You got this.

    • Nicole Evans

      It makes me sad that most writers experience this, but at the same time, I would be surprised as hell if any writer didn’t go through this at some point. And thank you so, so much, Rob, for such thoughtful insight. It’s hard, at times, to give yourself permission to take a step back and breathe, yet not feel like a failure. Having someone else tell it is okay is strangely powerful. Also, those last lines gave me all the feels. Thank you so much!

  • Marie E. Stump

    I’ve definitely been in a very similar place a number of times. There have been several times I’ve put my stories aside for a year or even several, and I always felt guilty for it but afraid to pick it back up. It’s a tough situation. You’ve got a great outlook on it! Persistence is one of the things you do well, and I’m sure you’ll grow as a writer from this experience. 🙂

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