Not saying that’s what this is at all, but I get into about one online fight a year. I do them annually. I keep it to that, because otherwise I’d go insane, since they all go exactly the same way: I see something I disagree with, I look into it to see if I stand to learn something, after which I tell the person I disagree and why, they disagree back, I cite sources and supplemental arguments, they post a picture and call me dumb, I explain why that’s insufficient, whereupon they say that I’m insufficient, and I close with a final argument, a plea that they improve themselves, and a promise to myself to never do that again because it’s fruitless as hell.
It’s dumb because it’s <sigh> too easy. And I’m not saying that at all in an “I’m so much smarter than so-and-so” egotistical way. I’ve gotten into plenty of online discussions wherein someone stakes a claim and backs it up with reasonable evidence and rationale, I try to do the same, and we both come away with an evolved view of our positions even if they haven’t necessarily changed. The problem is that those things are rare as a pink manta ray (look ’em up, biologists have found ONE that exists), and the remaining overwhelming percentage are folks posting pictures, regurgitating easy rallying cries, and slinging insults.
That’s because it’s way easier to do the latter than the former, and that’s so damn disappointing. Ideally, one should either take part doing it correctly, or not at all. Just because you can post an inflammatory picture or meme that’s supposed to summarize your point, doesn’t mean you need to. (Also, if your world view has so little nuance as to be completely encompassed by a rehashed picture and a joke, that may be part of the problem.)
I’ve been a longtime lurker on reddit, too. Always reading and surfing posts, but never posting my own or commenting much. Recently however, I’ve started getting a bit more involved with commenting at least. I stumbled upon the r/writingadvice forum, and that seems to be where I do most of my talking. It’s always great to spread and pick up tips and shared wisdom from other writers, and that’s as good a place as any. It also feels good to have your advice find some small purchase with another person and resonate with them.
That said, I found one bit of advice I’ve shared that never seems to get a positive response. I’ve dwelled on it critically, whether it’s sound advice or if I’m just being an asshole, but I earnestly lean toward the former (not out of defense, either; I’m down to be called out if it’s correct). In a nutshell, it goes as follows:
The OP says they know they’re a strong writer with a powerful voice, but they never find the motivation to finish projects or commit to anything. They have talent, those close to them praise their work and reassure them, but still the doubt remains. What can they do?
Whether it’s right or wrong, this is roughly what I try to share with you now as I have on those posts:
You can’t tell yourself you have talent. It may very well be true, but for the vast majority of us, it isn’t. It doesn’t always come easy, and it shouldn’t. There will be times when inspiration strikes and the words flow, sure, but you can’t just accept that your words will effortless spin gold because it’s natural. It takes effort over time, commitment, and exhausting levels of energy. “I don’t like compliments,” Jimmy Hendrix was once quoted saying. “They distract me.”
Be like Hendrix. Even if you are talented, don’t tell yourself that. Make yourself earn it, time and time again. Celebrate successes, absolutely, but don’t get lost in them. Live, strive, learn. You have to be your own biggest fan, but only while paired with being your own harshest critic.
Doubt, loneliness, some self-loathing, exhilaration, wonder, elation, and all the rest are part of the trade, it seems to me. Having wonderful ideas, observations, and tales to tell is something literally all of us do. The trick- the job is in building a bridge between that realm of imagination and fantasy into the real world.
Y’all, that takes work. Just like a bridge, it needs structure. It needs fittings, cables, hangers, bolts, sub-structural braces, decorations if you’re fancy, and maintenance. It needs all these things before it can work like you want it to. So just like with the aforementioned internet squabbles, it needs more effort than expecting it to come naturally and have people see it the way you do in your mind’s eye. The work is wondrous, lonely, heartbreaking, but uplifting and rewarding.
Can you do it? Fuck yeah. Please, Christ, share your story. But put into it tenfold the energy you expect to see out of it. Will some succeed and find it easy? Maybe. But even ninety-nine out of a hundred success stories you’ll hear about by very talented people are built with insane amounts of unseen work and luck. Enough patience and fortitude is what will make the difference for us normies.
If you’re looking to succeed at an art, at a project, or whatever else, that’s the secret. It’s simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Great artists that seem untouchable are people just like us. The only difference between us and them is time spent. That means time spent trying, spent working, spent failing, spent regrouping, spent learning, and spent trying again. That really seems like the secret everyone wants, but doesn’t like. But if you’re looking for a sympathetic ear and a pat on the back, ask for those instead.
Or shoot, maybe it’s a diet rich with Vitamin A. Like, somehow fifty years from now science will find that’s the trick to creative genius and everything I’ve just said is malarky.
But it’s worth a try.