This week I got the chance to teach at Writers & Illustrators For Young Readers, and while I was there I was able to catch a pretty awesome talk given by guest agent, John M. Cusick. He said gobs of smart things, but the one that stuck with me was this:
"Truth is, no one will care if you stop writing."
He went on to explain that you, the author, will always care more than anyone else if you're writing or not writing. That's just how it is, and that's okay.
This might sound a little depressing to some people. And you know what? I've been struggling with this fear lately—that no one cares about whether or not I keep writing, that no one really cares about the stuff I have written, that my words will just fade into black as time marches on. I think I've been so afraid of it because, well, it's likely true. If I stop writing, a few people might be sad for a second, and then they will find new authors to love and life will go on.
I don't have to keep doing this. I really don't.
So why do I?
When it's hard and I make little profit and I feel silly or whatever…why do I keep writing when I don't have to and no one really cares?
As John was up there talking about this, saying these things that were so very true, an undeniable sense of freedom suddenly came over me. I'd been so afraid of these thoughts, and it was so comforting to hear someone else say them and give them context.
In that moment I realized that, while writing isn't always pretty, I must still love it. That is the only real reason I have to keep doing this thing. Because I care. I care A LOT about my own writing. I FREAKING CARE.
I've been spending a lot of time trying not to care, guys. Because writers are supposed to be tough and take criticism and treat this career like a job and gosh-stop-caring-about-those-rejections. But when I know "no one else cares as much as I care," I realize I am fine just the way I am—doing all the caring about my own work. If I don't love what I do, then there's no point, right?
So today I'm loving my work. And I'm okay with being the only one who care if I keep writing. It's liberating in a way—it takes me back to a time when I wasn't on social media and I didn't know a single writer and I'd never been to a book signing or conference and didn't even know what an agent was. Back then it was just me and the page. I thought after 8 years that had changed, but this week I figured out that the rest was all an illusion.
It's still me and the page. It always will be.