TLDR: It’s not every day that you will enjoy doing what you love.
My story is typical: I have been writing and reading since I was young and always wanted to be a writer. Where it stops being typical is that I was born in a country where my interest in a creative career meant I had failed my family.
If you’re like me, and your story is typical, you know I kept writing. I kept pushing. I kept posting and sharing until I got a little comfortable every day that went by.
I moved to America in June, where I stand a chance of making my 14-year-old self proud of the sci-fi novel he started in 2004 while everyone told him to become a doctor.
I had to fight guilt and fear to believe I can call myself a writer.
I still feel this guilt every day.
Can I call myself a writer if I haven’t published a book? Can I call myself a writer if I haven’t been published in a popular African Literary magazine?
Then, there are days when — yes, my body of work gives me the right to be called that.
Even on those days, there’s still a voice that laughs in quiet discomforting whispers.
Who do you think you are?
The writer who draws — Austin Kleon — says we have a tendency to love the noun without wanting to be the verb.
We want to be called writer, without doing the writing.
With my fear in mind, I poke around. I clear my desk, then proceed to do everything to push the task at hand. When I sit down, it’s just me and the cursor. I stare — I can feel that I have nothing left. No love for something I can see myself drooling over.
I can see myself in 2006, crying with Harry as Dumbledore dies. I can picture the feelings I have whenever I watch Neil Gaiman or Nnedi Okorafor — so much passion. So much fervor.
I know I want to do this — but today — I just can’t.
How can I call myself a writer if I can’t write?
The dread creeps in.
Maybe I will never write again. Maybe I will never finish this story. I should get a job. A ‘real job; at least, I know social media. I know a little video editing. I can be a French interpreter. I can survive. I don’t have to beat myself. My wife is a medical student, I just have to hold on until she starts residency. I don’t have to follow my dreams.
What are dreams?
Who am I to deserve the fruits of a creative life?
This is not the first day I will do this. This is not the first time I have a crisis about my work, and what I love, and how I feel about it. I know this will happen again. I know I am not alone.
It’s very important to focus on this: I am not alone.
We are never alone.
My real life hero, Srinivas Rao, has been there.Overcoming Writer’s Block
Put Your Fingers on the Keyboard and Move Themmedium.com
My other hero, James Altucher, has been there.How do you overcome writer’s block? – James Altucher
How do you overcome writers block? You always find something substantial to say! -@markmccarthyUK I have a post coming…jamesaltucher.com
Heck, I have been here — I survived. I have proof.
On such days, I re-read what I had written. Not in nostalgic reflection, no.
Simply looking at black and white proof of my abilities: I can write.
I am a writer. I can write.
I have written before, and I will write again.
I don’t think it’s possible to have enthusiasm about the things you love 365 days of the year. Even parents know they can’t do the most difficult job on earth all year round. Shae Jackson will agree with me.
I have been writing and publishing on Medium every day for 30 days, and even today that I don’t feel like writing, I wrote this. Definitely not my best output, but it is a part of my journey. I know I will look back at it and smile, proud of myself for doing the hard thing when it was hard: when I had every reason to take a break and leave.
The hardest part of doing what you love is doing all the parts of the process that you don’t love — doing what needs to be done. That’s what I have learned.
At this point, you might advise me to take a break. It’s very normal to take a break. I just can’t allow that for me anymore.A Glass of Work-life balance? For me?
In the past, my breaks snowballed into long periods of guilt-ridden inactivity during which I lost the muscle-memory and habits I had acquired from sheer repetition. I needed jolts of emotions to get back into writing. That may have been sustainable at the time, but no longer.
We can’t do what we want only when we want. You can’t choose to love only when it’s good and sweet.
It is especially when your whole body tells you not to do the important thing that you have to.
Put yourself in that seat. Open that notebook. Write it down. Send that email. Say that truth. Do what you know you must, even if you don’t want to. Do the hard thing.
You will be proud of yourself for doing it. You will grow. You will cross a mental threshold you had no idea you had. You will never look at yourself the same way again.
After doing this for 30 days straight, I know there is no such thing as writer’s block.
There are days you won’t feel like writing. Those are the days you must write.
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