Thursday, August 23, 2012

Is A Writer Ever Content?

It’s been a while since I’ve had a “Morgan bears her soul to blogosphere” post. Have you missed it? LOL.

I like to be honest in my posts, without crossing any lines. I do think it’s important to keep a solid balance when you’re trying to brand yourself as an author. But it’s a hard balance to maintain. I want to stay professional, but I want to be real, so other writers can feel and learn from my experience, but again, I don’t want to be too open.

I read a post last night I really needed to read. It was like everything she said was exactly what I needed to hear. I love posts that do that. Posts that speak right to your soul and fuel the fire that’s been so low for a while. And this only happens when the author is opening a bit of himself/herself, when they’re willing to push down the barrier and show that they’re not perfect, that they do have weaknesses.

So my thoughts:

I tend to over-think things. Analyze every decision I make. Whether I’m supposed to be a writer. Whether this is the path I’m meant to go down. Are we really destined to do things or do we really just make our own choices and pave our own way?

It’s hard to put forth soooo much work and put yourself out there over and over and over again--just waiting to be pushed down. Whether it’s from rejection, or from watching others succeed, or just feeling like you’re not living up to your own expectations.

In some ways, we’re totally alone. It’s just the page and us. And it’s hard to work when there’s no guarantee anything will come from our sweat. It quite literally is one word repeated over and over again, until you trash all those words only to do it again.

It’s torture.

But it’s amazing.

And it’d be MORE torturous to NOT write. It’s a twisted balance. Writing and immersing ourselves into words and our stories is so fulfilling, and so sweet, it’s indescribable. But at the same time, we’re subjecting ourselves to heartache.

That’s why some say, “You have to do it because you love it.” And yes, for some, just the release of writing is enough for them.

But it isn’t enough for me.

I want to master this craft. Learn how to create the perfect balance of character, pacing, world-building, tight writing, original metaphors, clever dialogue, story arcs, finding the balance of physical tells vs. showing vs. good tells, creating the emotion on the page that will grip a reader into not wanting to ever put your book down, to create something timeless…

It’s the challenge that drives me. The challenge of mastering something that seems impossible.

But what I’m wondering is:

Is a writer ever content? I keep reaching for that place when I’ll feel satisfied with where I’m at, or will that drive to be better always haunt me? I watch other writers, and it seems they’re also in a constant state of wanting to up their game. And I’m not talking about the “I’ll be happy when” mindset, I’m talking about that inner need to reach that next level.

But sometimes it gets to be too much.

Is the underlying angst of wanting better than dropping it all and walking away? Which is more torturous: The constant dissatisfaction of desire and not accomplishing, or giving up and not knowing?

I don’t know. They both hurt. And I think most of you will say giving up and not knowing, but it’s still dang hard to push and push and push and not see results. (The results we want to see, because yes, there is the angle that we are always improving—I get that)

Are “ordinary” people just content to live their lives? I wonder what it’d feel like, to go through the motions of every day and be… content. Or is that just a façade? Are we all secretly pushing, and wanting more? Are people thoroughly fulfilled in their lives without needing to aspire to anything? Is that even possible?

Regardless, I know it’s a choice. And it’s one that I choose to live through. I’d rather be pushing myself forward than staying stagnant. Even though at times it might seem appealing to just be “normal.”  

What about you? What drives you? Is being a writer worth the constant chaos that lives underneath your skin that no one else sees? I’m still trying to work out my thoughts…

Red. Head. Out. :D 


  1. I read a line from Annie Dillard a few months ago, that says: "Many fine people were out there living, people whose consciences permitted them to sleep at night despite their not having written a decent sentence that day, or ever."
    I love that because it is so true - sometimes writing feels more like torture than pleasure. And it's difficult to find a good balance - you want to write, but do you want to try to get published? And at what cost?
    I am going through much of this same internal debate right now, and I really appreciate your honesty...

    1. Wow... I love that line too, Kim... Interesting. Thanks for this :)

  2. I've wondered this same thing! And I think for me, I'd rather be pushing myself toward something and have a lofty goal than sit around doing nothing. I was watching Sword in the Stone with my kids yesterday, and I kept thinking back to the words of the song Merlin sings while Wart turns into a fish: "You must set your sights upon the heights; don't be a mediocrity." I love that! It means so much that even though we haven't achieved the success we're looking for or whatever it is, that at least we're trying, and like you said, constantly improving! :D That's how I see it, anyway! You're awesome, Morg!!!

  3. Yeah, there is a definite level of over-thinking in this post, but that's okay - it's better to get it out than let it lurk in your brain! :D

    I don't think there is ever a time when you stop striving for something new when you're a writer. I think the moment you stop wanting to be better, to reach that next goal, is the moment it all falls apart. But that doesn't mean you can't be content with what you've accomplished so far. :) And you should be because you are an incredible writer - it's just a matter of time, Morg, I know it!

    1. Hahahaha! I'm totally an over-thinker!!!!! LOL!

  4. It's an interesting balance, because of course I'm happy, but of course I also want more. Does that mean I'm unhappy where I'm at? No, because I try to just enjoy where I'm at. I know that one day I'll look back and think that these were the good ol' days because I didn't have deadlines, edits, what have you's. I really am content where I'm at, but that doesn't mean I want to stay here. I don't think I'm explaining myself very well ... LOL.

  5. Sounds like a great topic for the IWSG.
    I'm a perfectionist, so I'm never happy. I just have to let it go.

  6. I'm dying to know what post you read, because I love reading things like that, LOL will you share?

    I don't know, for me, I can't imagine not wanting to always strive to improve at this writing thing, even if somedays I feel like a complete failure. Because in those moments when I look at something I wrote, or an idea I had, and I think... ah, this THIS! and it feels like this is exactly what I'm supposed to be doing with my life. I love those moments, even if they are rare!

  7. This post is absolutely spot on & lovely. And the answer is of course not. We're too self-aware ever to be content.

  8. I want SO much, but you know what? I'm content.
    It does change from day to day, but just reading over your post, I feel good with where I'm at.
    It's not perfect.
    I have anxiety over the MS that just got turned into my new agent.
    I have stress over insight, and if I've revised and perfected enough.
    If people will buy it.
    I'm a little worried over edits, and all sorts of things.

    But jeez, I'm doing it, you know? I think sometimes I do wonder what it would feel like if I wasn't doing the writing thing at all. But I am.
    You will feel that contentment when you get a book out. I know it. And hopefully you'll find places along the way where you can stand back and say - Wow. I'm really happy that I'm on this journey.
    I think this is the struggle of all deep-thinking people ;-)

  9. Great post, Morgan. And I don't have an answer. I have noticed that, as I master (loose use of the word there - LOL) parts of the craft, the whole gets easier. Of course, there's always room for improvement. Maybe balance is the answer. As long as you're getting more enjoyment than grief out of it, keep writing. :)

  10. I don't know... I think everyone strives to achieve more, or else they just wouldn't do anything (literally) at all. Everyone has hopes and dreams, and once they achieve closure with it, it is a great feeling.

    I have huge hopes, and huge dreams, but it gets a bit... scary, sometimes, almost to the point where I try not to think about it (and I am HUGE about "think the thoughts no one wants to think"). I don't know. It's hard, but we have to push on.

    Thank you for this post!

  11. I once heard "contentment is the death of art". Sometimes it's easy to be envious of the people that are content just to live and not strive. (though I would guess they have their own desires I just don't know about) Because it hurts. Every form rejection, every time someone doesn't care enough to request pages it shreds my heart just a little. But I too want more. I want to master the craft. I want people to say "wow, that was brilliant" (ok, so I have a big ego. Shrug) As you said, it's painful either way. But we're lucky we get to choose our pain.

  12. I think you are talking about my post, Morgan - and even if you aren't, thank you for the wonderful comment you left.

    The fact is that writing is a solitary pursuit. The only way we get to share experiences is by opening up in a public forum. I think that is ok. We're letting others know they are not alone.

  13. "Are “ordinary” people just content to live their lives?"

    This post really hit home, Morgan. I often wonder if we are all always striving for something bigger or whether there are people who are truly content. I think there are. I talked to a young lady last night who was gushing about how much she loved her patients. She's a home health nurse, and she says she absolutely loves her job. She spoke as if she could not want anything more in the world than to go from house to house taking care of the sick. She appeared perfectly content.

    I just pray that, as an author, I will someday reach that level of contentment. :)

  14. Wow- great post, Morgan! Really made me think. I've recently come to the conclusion that nobody is 'normal'! I thought I was normal, but it turns out that I am not! :)

    If I time travelled back in time 10 or 5, heck- even 2 years - and looked at myself now, I wouldn't fall into what I deemed as 'normal' at that time in my life.

    An interesting thought though!
    Thanks for sharing- as always, it's a super post and very thought provoking. :)

  15. I will be the first to admit, I'm not a perfectionist and I am perfectly okay knowing I will never be as good as I want to be. I'm enjoying this journey. I enjoy watching myself grow and hopefully my *eventual* readers will like watching that as well :)

  16. Great post! I feel like this sometimes. It's so hard to find satisfaction with something that is so continuous. As soon as you reach one goal, the next goal is set. I try to think of it like parenting. There is no day when all your hard work is rewarded or where you can see all your efforts. It is something that grows daily, like a coral colony, adding thin layers over many years. There is probably points where you can stop and see how much progress you've made, but you have to just keep in your heart that you are making a difference everyday. Everyday you are creating something important.

  17. Love this post.

    I'm never truly happy with what I do. I think many of us have that artistic temperment in us. We torture outselves, and we suffer to get that art up on that page. We're all pretty insecure too.

    But I think getting outside that comfort zone is vital in order to grow - both as a writer and as a person.

  18. Your post reminds me of a quote that was shared on Facebook..

    Essentially it says that (paraphrasing) when you're a beginner, nobody tells you that there will be a gap between what you do and what you want to do, and that the fact that you recognize the gap shows that your potential is still there, it's that dissatisfaction with where you are as a beginner that is your best asset because it is still as sharp as it ever was, and will eventually take you to where you want to be.. provided you don't give up. The quote is inspiring in it's simplicity that it takes a lot of hard work, but that as long as you're not satisfied with where you are.. the potential to improve is still there.

    To me.. that's inspiring.

  19. Hey,

    I love "hanging out" with you because you keep on pushing yourself and you never quit.

    Sure, it gets hard, but shoot if it was easy, the bookstores wouldn't be closing and finding *the* agent would be a doddle.

    PS... Reading your serious side, Morg, is great for me, because you motivate me to continue and press on and not call it a day.

    So. Thanks. For. Sharing.

  20. Striving for excellence is what pushes many of us forward. It's an incredible motivator and something we can all achieve with hard work and determination. And frankly, we should all strive for excellence. But striving for perfection is different, and I think that is what brings us down because the question that plagues us is this: can perfection ever truly be achieved?

    Hang in there Red, and keep reaching for your dream, you'll get your fingers around it soon enough. Bisous! (:

  21. Great post and one I think rings true with many writers. I have those days when I seriously think, "why am I doing this to myself, just to get knocked down again?" Then something positive happens - I nail a piece that's been bugging me for ages, someone leaves you a great comment, you hear you've been shortlisted for a comp, whatever it may be just renews my determination to keep going and pushing myself onwards. I guess, at the moment anyway, I just can't give it up!

  22. I've been writing for 28 years (literally as long as I knew how to write), and there's always something new to learn, en evolutionary milestone in one's development. Even when you think you're finally coming into your own, finding your voice, mastering your craft, there are always new things to learn, ways to improve yourself. Until last year, I wasn't a very good editor, for example, and now I love editing, revising, polishing, and rewriting older manuscripts. It's nice to realize that maybe you just weren't ready for publication at a time when you were convinced it had to happen.

  23. Great post. For me, it's all worth it. I just wish I had more time. Or a TARDIS. Or Hermione's Time-Turner. Or the ability to freeze time.

  24. I think writers are partly masochists.

  25. Great post, but I'm laughing at Vicki's comment. It's easy to think, it's a LOT to put yourself through, not just the effort of writing itself but the knockbacks after that hard work. But just like positive encouragement, those can also have the effect of making you want to work harder. I know I don't want to stop trying to improve. I wonder if anyone ever reaches their full potential? That could be a scary thought, but I also think it's in the creative nature to always be striving, so imagine that ended. Imagine it was easy? Things would get boring quick, no doubt. Keep working, Morgan! :)

  26. love this post! we do seem to enjoy torture, dont we!
    have a nice weekend!

  27. I think it's common knowledge among writers that we are going to fail. A lot. I think for me it gets draining when the end does not seem to be ANYWHERE in sight. Like you couldn't even see it with the world's best pair of binoculars. It can be really cruel sometimes, but then I could never ever EVER see myself not writing. I would probably be put into an institution for the things my mind comes up with.

    I'm really glad you shared this. Have a great weekend!!


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  29. Just found your blog and I love it. Oh, and what a great post! I agree with a lot of what you said. I often feel the same way, I think every writer does. Even if I never got anywhere with writing, I'd keep doing it, because I'm in love with it and I could never stop. Also, I don't think that hope that it could actually amount to something could ever go away or be worn down. Keep at it!

  30. Oh, boy ...

    DID you Say a MOUTHFUL with this post. I think we ALL feel this way. Writers are artists and artists ALWAYS strive for perfection. It's what makes us happy. Beauty is the ultimate goal and we sacrifice so much for it. ALL humans are attracted to beauty, BUT it's the artists who can recreate it through the favored mediums of classic art, music, and literature.

    We see things differently. We crave perfection in everything we do. "normal" people, of course, have desires, but seem to be more content with less. I find this especially in men, give the a sports event and a beer and their are just TOO happy. lol. Not me though. I was born to be a Renaissance man, and proud to be one. Yes, it's hard. Yes, it's painful at times, but the end results of creating a work of art is well worth the struggle. Even if it's only for us to appreciate it. it feeds our soul, and our soul needs to be fed constantly to survive.

    Yet, another rant .... you must bring it our of me, Morgan. LOL. Fear not, you are a Renaissance woman, run with it and let the winds take you as far as they will....

  31. I've also been having some internal debates in the past few days about what I'm REALLY meant to be doing with my life! And as to the question posed in your blog post title ... I don't think we can ever reach a place where we think, NOW I know everything about writing. I'm content with my writerly skills. And even in every other aspect of life, I think I can always strive to know more, be more, do more. I don't think I WANT to reach a point where I'm complacent. Um ... Yeah :-)

    PS - Your blog posts often get me thinking about Deep Stuff ;-)

  32. It's funny how all creative endeavors seem to suffers from the "it's not quite done" or "maybe it needs a little something here.

  33. I think it is worth it as long as your desire is to write. If the desire is to just be a writer, the frustration will end you.
    Great post. It gave me healthy envy ;)

  34. A writer is never content. We would rewrite everything if given the opportunity to do so and nothing would ever be finished. That's just the truth. Even the huge pros admit this. J.K. Rowling said she would change all kinds of wording in her books if they would let her. I guess it's good that publishing puts an end to all that OCD that writers experience.

  35. That's a hard post to read, Morgan. When I read your stuff, I think you've already succeeded.

    There's a fine line (or sometimes not such a fine line!) between entertaining a reader and writing something timeless, evocative and as technically perfect as possible. Sometimes striving for perfection holds people back, although I totally understand that drive to keep learning and continually mastering the craft. I know I'll never write a perfect book, and I'll never find contentment in that fact, but I hope to one day make peace with the knowledge of that fact. (If that makes any sense at all!)

  36. I DO love these posts when you reveal your inner thoughts, because you write down a lot of times what I've been thinking too :)
    I had a couple of people tell me it wasn't believable for my MC to go to the rainforest, and it was frustrating for me, because I did exactly that. It reminds me of the things you said in your post because there is "normal" and there is risk taking. Before I went to S. America, I was surrounded by naysayers who never left the State they lived in, let alone country. I ignored them and did my own thing anyway. It resulted in some painful experiences, true, but the good far outweighed the bad.
    You are driven, you will not be "normal", you are taking a risk, yes, but I believe you will find success. Just keep going and ignore the naysayers.

  37. I have the same fire burning in me, Morgan. It's never satiated. I swear, it would burn me right up if I let it. The angst of not writing enough, writing too much, and wanting to do everything I can to better myself can consume me. But I wouldn't have it any other way. I don't even know how to be normal, and when I try to be, I miss that burning feeling so much. I need it for escape, for release, for sanity, for comfort, for validation that I am a part of something bigger than myself, that I can do great things. Contentment to me is continually striving to better myself, while acknowledging that the journey will never be done. Sometimes I wish it would be over, that I'd reach the finish line, but then what would I do? Who would I be?

    Thank you for sharing this. I needed it today.

  38. It is hard isn't it? I mean you set a goal for yourself and until it's met you don't feel like you're "winning." But I really do think as writers we HAVE to slow down and enjoy what we're doing right now. Or we'll never get to a place where we are actually enjoying "it". And I don't think our brains will ever let us give up either.

    And thanks for letting us see inside. ;0)

  39. I don't know. That's a great question. I think when you're your own worst critic, its incredibly difficult be content. :(

  40. Though I fear not being good enough, I don't consider giving up. I just have a really high bar set for myself and, dang it, I am going to reach it! I won't give up if you won't! *wink*

    I love when you bare your soul, b/c I get to know you a little bit more. And it is pretty awesome knowing you.

    Keep writing, friend. Keep writing!

  41. Contentment is exactly what I tried to escape from my previous job in exchange for a challenging new career and diving full force into my writing. I hope I'm not content for awhile. I want to keep up the drive to continue writing. Very thought provoking post! :)

  42. Boy, there are a lot of comments here! I'm probably not adding much to the conversation (too lazy to read through all the responses) but I don't think any creative type is ever truly content. I know I'm not. I'm always striving to write better, to keep turning ideas into stories. The best example to me of this is my dad. He started off as a picture framer, got into building custom mirrors, furniture, and architectural accessories. Now, (for the past ten years) he's a full-time landscape artist. I'm always waiting to see what he does next, because I know his creative impulses will always get him itching for something new.

    I think not being content is the blessing and curse of creativity.

  43. Great, great post Morg... you know I love a good soul bearing. ;-)

    I keep going because I'm scared to death of failing. I've put soooo much of myself into this writing stuff and wanted it more than anything I've ever wanted. And everyone I really care about knows it. If I give up now, I think I'd have failed my friends, my family--everyone who has ever said, "you're good and you should do it, you CAN do it, if you don't try I'll be disappointed..." I can't give up, because giving up means I never really tried.

    Yes, I believe I can accomplish anything I really try to do. Call it cocky, but that's just how I live my life. Now the level of my success may vary from the next person who "tried", but I think if you work at something hard enough, and long enough, you will achieve it in some form or fashion. In my mind, I haven't achieved squat. And I won't have with 1 book published, or 50. Basically, I haven't even started, so why would I quit?

    And that's the simple answer: Drive. You have it or you don't. Without it, you can never succeed--at anything. With it, you can do more than you ever imagined. The fact you've written a post like this tells me you've got it. Enough to share, in fact.

    And all of this says nothing of how much I dearly love and enjoy writing. :-)

  44. Personally, I think a writer, like every artist, can come to a point where he or she can be content. You look at the work one day and you realize you're satisfied, and you would look at it - or keep reading it - over and over without stopping.
    I guess that's when an artist is content.

    Still, I understand your quest for perfection.
    Fun is not enough to me too.

  45. I agree with Jay, sort of. I think all artists have this need to be better. To always be growing and learning and expanding. But I think at some point, we're able to look at what we've done and feel, at the least, that we're proud of where we are and where we're going.

    I also think, however normal those normal people seem, they all have dreams or desires or an urge to do or be or reach for more. And I think, yes, to give up and wonder would be so much worse. Because at the end of the day, I want to be able to say I gave it my all. I'd much rather lose the game than sit on the sidelines.

  46. Great post, Morgan. But I'm not so sure writers aren't ordinary people. Rob Wells had a great post this week about the work of writing compared to other jobs. I think he hit the nail on the head.

    As for destiny? Nah. I'm doing it because I love to learn and I love to tell stories. Writing is such a process that we have to write and write and write--even when we're being slapped down--because that's the only real way to hone our craft and mature our writing. We learn things from other writers, conference, book on writing, etc. But this is so much a trade that we learn by doing. Just like the surgeon, I want someone who's got lots of cutting experience before he comes at me with a knife. Learning from watching and reading books doesn't cut in surgery either. lol

  47. The purpose is the journey. When you stop wanting, it will be because you've stopped progressing, or even wanting to progress.

    That's when you should quit.


  48. I think we have to be content with the process at times ... meaning: it just takes a certain amount of 'cooking' before it's/we're done. No amount of agitation or spurring is going to make us ready before we're ready, if that makes sense. Just part of the journey.

    But in general, no, I'm never happy with what I've done. I'm never completely thrilled with my word choices, character arcs, plot, etc. I always believe the next 'thing' will be the best thing. When it's not--and it never is--I try again.

    Oh, and ... Hope your Labor Day weekend has been flawesome (flipping + awesome)! :-)

  49. Oh I'm a major over-thinker. i.e. I draft about four times the number of blog posts that I actually post on my blog. Every time I finish one I think, "hmm, is that a professional post?" or, "would I want a perspective agent/publisher reading that post?" With my novels I can relax a bit more, but I still worry that everything isn't perfect when I start to send it out.

    As for what drives me? I'd say it's the carrot dangling just out of reach. I want to be published and I want to know that I've put out the best possible product that I could create. No shortcuts.

    Great post, by the way, I really like your blog!

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