It is a truth universally acknowledged that if you’re a writer, you’re probably not in possession of a good fortune. Instead, you are quite likely to possess some degree of self-doubt, low self-esteem, jealousy of and comparison with other more successful writers, and even self-hatred. (Or, alternatively, need to fend these feelings off with aggressive insistence on your own superiority and achievement.)
Yes, there are apparently healthy and wealthy exceptions to this “starving, tortured artist” stereotype. But the modern epidemic of depression and anxiety, combined with a budding writer’s drive towards honesty and introspection, together produce more than enough messed-up wordsmiths to keep the stereotype going.
Writers are probably no more miserable than the rest of the population; they’re just more honest. A good writer tries to represent reality as they encounter it, as opposed to buying into the pervasive social norm of “fake-it-til-you-make-it” happiness.
But are self-doubt; anxiety; compulsive worrying and comparing; inability to feel genuine joy for the success of others; and terrible struggles with perfectionism, motivation, and procrastination really necessary parts of being a writer? Or have we just normalized them to stop ourselves from feeling so bad…
Contrary to our sincere hopes for ourselves and others, we humans are not rational creatures.
At times, this can be an infuriating reality to encounter.
We’re surrounded by evidence that people don’t act rationally: You were the best person for the job, but they hired the dropkick loser who interviewed after you. You loved them to bits, and you’re awesome, but they dumped you anyway. You know you’ll lose your job if you call in sick yet again, but you do it anyway. You had one paper left to finish your degree, but you just kind of forgot about it. Etcetera, etcetera, et-traumatic-cetera. Our real lives are messy, irrational places.
I don’t know where I got the idea that everybody (including me) is meant to act in a rational manner (although admittedly, it would be convenient, albeit boring). Nevertheless, the expectation seems to be there.
How often do you ask for help with your work?
For most people, and especially for entrepreneurs, asking for help carries some stigma — there’s an unfortunate stereotype that suggests we should be able to do everything ourselves, and that asking for help is a sign of weakness or failure.
But in reality, no successful person has ever achieved what they’ve achieved alone. In fact, many of the most successful people are those who ask for help readily, intelligently, and without embarrassment.
I love to read. Whether it’s high literature or illiterate garble, I gobble up words like they’re candy.
I love to read dense 19th-century novels at a leisurely pace, political magazines while I make food, the inflight magazine on the plane, a great online article on my phone, or even just the ingredients on my bag of chips (not recommended).
The first time I found myself in a university literature department, I was overwhelmed with joy to be surrounded by like-minded souls who shared my total love of words. “Yes, I used to read my dad’s newspaper and the shampoo bottle in the shower as a kid, too,” said one of my newfound friends. I had found my tribe!