To Save My Soul

I, and other writers I know, are having a crisis of faith these days. We’re questioning why we continue to write in the face of immense competition and the impossible-to-meet demands of a vulturous social media-based world. And it seems that if you’re not part of some canonized clique of writers, you’re marginalized.

This is something that is happening across the board in all genres and styles of writing, not just lesfic. But what can we do about it?

The short answer is…nothing. Nothing beyond what we are already doing, that is. Sometimes I vow to stop. I tell myself that there’s no point in continuing because no one’s paying attention (and I mean that in both my fiction and nonfiction writing).untitled

Throughout my life, I’ve wanted different things. Career-wise, I’ve looked at different roads, even started down a few. But one thing that never, ever left me was my desire to write. It began when I was a child and stuck with me as I grew and went through the ups and downs of life. To me, writing is like breathing. It’s natural and necessary, even if at times I feel like ripping my hair out and throwing my computer across the room.

So, given all of this, how can I even consider quitting? Those thoughts come out of frustration, anger, bitterness, resentment, envy, insecurity, and feelings of inferiority. Nasty little fuckers who live inside so many of us. When it comes down to it, I can’t stop writing. If I did, I would probably find something else to occupy my time and fulfill my creative needs, but something would always be missing. Something would always be wrong.Self-Doubt_7

I’ve decided—I won’t stop writing. I will continue because I have to, to save my soul from rotting. Readers may not buy my stuff, reviewers may ignore it, publishers may torture me in one way or another, I may never win any awards or contests, but my writing is an expression of me and a salve for my bruised soul.

Hopefully, other writers in this kind of crisis will realize that as well.

I love my writers’ group because we not only get to improve our work in a safe environment, we get the encouragement we need to continue writing. After I wrote this blog, my group met for a meeting. On the way to the train station, I was talking with one of my fellow Penheads, Marie, about this very subject, and I expressed how I’d been feeling, that I’d never really make it as a writer. She replied with this:

The only way it’s not going to happen is if you stop.

I couldn’t really argue with her. Thanks, Marie.

how-to-silence-self-doubt-Be-Super

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29 thoughts on “To Save My Soul

  1. Art is both difficult and necessary. I’m so glad you share your art with the world. It’s hard to keep putting your insides out for the world to see.

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  2. Your writing is excellent and deserves to be read, and the world needs more of it. I certainly know what you mean in terms of how hard it is to reach readers, but as long as we’re reaching some we may be making more of a difference in the world than we realize. (Okay, that’s a self-indulgent mantra, but let’s try to hold on to our illusions.)

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  3. Thank you so much for writing this. I’m new to the lesfic community and am having my first novel published in April (by Sapphire.) I’ve discovered a ton of authors out there whose work sounds really interesting, but I haven’t been able to read even a tenth of them. I have a bunch of books sitting on my kindle waiting for me, and then I read about new ones coming out. And that’s just lesfic, to say nothing of all the notifications I get about books coming out by non-lesfic writers that also interest me. So while my friends and family are all excited about my new novel, I have to take a much more realistic approach and know that I’m just doing this because it’s satisfying something deep inside of me.

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  4. Like Alison, I can relate to this blog article and your comment as well Alison. As an voracious lesfic reader and soon to be published author (June), I feel like I’m about to drop a bathtub toy into the ocean and hope people randomly find it. I’m writing because I have a story to tell and if I didn’t get it out of my head and down on (virtual) paper, I’d not sleep. I’m publishing so that I can have an answer to the question, “What do you do?” following my retirement in May. That’s, of course, the lie/denial I tell myself. But seriously, I do want my novel(s) to be read. But at least for now, it remains secondary to the writing itself.

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  5. Thanks for sharing this blog with us, R.G. I am sure many, if not all, of us can relate . but hang in there and keep on writing

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  6. “… it seems that if you’re not part of some canonized clique of writers, you’re marginalized.”

    Yes, admittedly, there is a ton of competition even when you boil things down to one sub-genre within the genre of lesfic. I’m not the only lesfic mystery writer out there, for example. There are dozens more active writers just like me who release between one and a dozen new works every year. I take exception to the part of your thought’s I’ve quoted above, however.

    I realize you said “it seems” but it has never once seemed that way to me. There are lesfic mystery writers and those who write across genres within lesfic that have written mysteries that are certainly better known for their longevity and their body of work and therefor more popular than me, a late 2014 upstart, but I’ve associated with and spoken with many of these women in the social media forums which you’ve mentioned and found only one competitive, cliquish one in the lot. To a woman, high and mighty in the field and brand spanking new authors, other than the one, they’ve been helpful, supportive and welcoming. I find myself looking forward to the days when I can actually break away from everyday life as I know it right now and attend some of these conferences where I can meet them face to face.

    I know there are demanding potential customers out there all over social media. One has to look no further than the whole ‘Sad Puppies’ controversial group in Sci-Fi to find that. Lesfic, to me, seems to be a kinder, gentler place than some of those others. Oh, it isn’t perfect, but when I talk to authors struggling in other genres to find fans, to network and to just sell books, it brings home just how good we have it.

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    1. I agree with you, Anne, that the lesfic world is a kinder, gentler place than the publishing world at large. It’s much more welcoming to new writers and the community is very supportive. But I think you misunderstood my words. I didn’t mean that the writers themselves marginalize other writers–most lesfic writers I know are kind, well-meaning people. It’s the market that marginalizes us. I’ve been in the business, as both a writer and a professional in the publishing field, for many, many years. This is my observation. In time, yours might remain different, or you may come to agree with me. Either way, as long as you’re happy. 🙂

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  7. Truer words…

    I’m one of those writers in a bit of a WTF WHY AM I DOING THIS NOBODY CARES funk. Some days are better than others. Thanks for putting this out there, because I know that probably a lot of us go through it. Sigh.

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  8. I think you’ve clearly struck a chord here. The bathtub toy in an ocean is a good analogy. But imagine what it would be like for us if we were mainstream writers? At least lesfic is a smaller pond. I’m however slightly more significant–if that makes any sense. Social media is where it hits me–all those happy, successful (who knows if they aren’t just made up) posts. I don’t think more than three people ever see my posts. But I no longer care. My book is now in print. A hundred years from now, someone might find it in a dusty old attic and I’ll be “discovered”! 🙂 In the meantime, I’m writing another one to better my chances. As long as I’m enjoying it and writing what I want, I’m good with all of it.

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  9. Well, I for one, would be very sad it you threw in the towel, so please hang in there. I’m a bit of a Joni come lately to your work, but I’m very impressed. Every short story I’ve read of yours so far has painted very vivid images of the characters and their feelings. I really enjoy your pieces. They’re realistic and well thought out. I know the struggle is real though. I’m dipping my toe in the short story writing pool. Not making much at all, but enjoying taking baby steps on a lifelong dream. I’m drawing inspiration from you and the other great women I’ve been following here on this brilliant page. I’m very glad you all are here. Keep up the great work! 😀

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  10. The fact that you got so many comments should tell you that people are reading your work, know who you are, and can relate to your angst. Just keep writing. On a positive note, there are a lot more choices for us voracious readers out there and I’m just glad your books are among those choices. Keep writing! It is hard to get people to take notice of us newbies, but it sure is fun to write so I think I’ll keep doing it and I hope you do as well.

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  11. Hi R.G.,

    I’m an avid reader and read a.o. your story in “All you can eat”. You’re an awesome writer. Thank you. I’m 52 years old and have read and bought about 600 #lesfic books in the last 4 years. There’s a juxtaposition somewhere in there. In my adolescence I had to dig and dig and only a few books came out that had a lesbian theme. And of course the protagonists died or went back to men..

    You and other contemporary writers give me so much through the stories you’re sharing. I so love the fact that we are living, giving, sharing and caring.

    Keep on writing if you enjoy/want to manage it R.G. This little (in height) dutch woman sure appreciate what you’re doing.

    Linda

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    1. Thank you for your kind words, Linda, and for being such a huge supporter of lesfic! It’s readers like you that keep us afloat. Yes, we certainly have come a long way over the past couple of decades. It’s nice to be able to read and writer about ourselves as “normal” people.

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  12. Typo.. appreciates.. I’m a translator and interpreter Dutch/German and can’t really stand typos whilst working on my desktop 🙂 Have a wonderful evening.

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  13. All true words and your feelings ring true for me as well. The lesbian fiction niche is small. Very small. While there is more competition in mainstream fiction, the readership is double, triple or more the lesfic readership so in a way, lesbian fiction is currently bursting at the seems and completely glutted. Many stories will not be read or authors discovered. It is what it is. Many like to sugar coat it, but the publishing field is competitive. Each book is competing with thousands more for the same reader dollar. The voices become louder and louder of authors trying to sell their book over others also trying to sell their books. Reality is reality. Everyone wants to write a book…and they do. It really can be too frustrating. It really can and many authors I do are on the verge of just cutting back. Sure, we write because we love to write, but if no one can find you or read your words, what’s the use really? Hang in there because you love to write for writing’s sake. It’s reached the point where you should expect little else.

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    1. Good points. And also, lesbian fiction is 90 percent romance. Both publishing and the readers–what they want to read. So any other genre is marketing to the wrong choir–unless it’s science fiction with romance or mystery with romance or [insert genre here] with romance. So how do we find more readers, both for romance and non-romance stories?

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  14. Remember that scene in Desert Hearts, where Cay is wandering around the casino and she passes a woman playing a row of slot machines? The woman, who was played by the director if memory serves, looks at Cay and says, “If you don’t play, you can’t win.” 🙂

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