Friday, June 20, 2014

"No One Will Care If You Stop Writing"

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.

12 comments:

  1. I don't know if I believe that for any writer. Sure, readers will probably move on eventually if we stop writing. But for me, if I gave up writing tomorrow, I have a lot of family and friends who would be upset because they know how much it means to me. They want me to write because they know how much I love it.

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  2. Keep up the good work, Natalie! I appreciate your posts--and your books! (Can't wait for the next one.)

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  3. Love! Thank you for sharing this, especially your insights on it.

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  4. Amen. Exactly why I chose John as my agent. He is one smart dude.

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  5. I think in a lot of ways, it's much healthier for us to care more about our work than others, don't you?

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  6. I'm here to write the stuff that won't get written unless I write it.

    Sounds self-obsessive — rings universal.

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  7. The tough writer is a myth we all try really hard to portray. But inside, we're all just pudding.

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  8. You are making me wish I'd gone to WIFYR and signed up for your class.

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  9. Your words have touched my life and I am thankful for your writing. As for me, a write because the stories within me won't leave me alone until I put pen to paper or race my fingertips across the keyboard. It is some sort of sick addiction that I am just compelled to write. I write for me. Yes, there are times I go ages without writing and then bam inspiration hits and I'm off again. Writers have so many different reasons to write just like readers have different reasons to read. Enjoy your efforts and do it for yourself - others will be happy that you did.

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