The Portrait of a Writer (2)

Ever since I wrote my first story eight years ago, I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I self-published a novel when I wasn’t ready. Hell, even the damn thing wasn’t ready. At times I considered writing to be easy. It’s not. No matter how good you get at it, it’s never easy. I even considered myself to be a good writer, hiding inside a cocoon of shallow praise that sheltered me from the outside world. But there’s one mistake. The biggest of them all.

I gave up.

Around the age of sixteen, I just stopped writing altogether. And this self-imposed break lasted for more than two years.

Why did I give up? Because I had reached that point when I realized that writing isn’t fun. Or easy. Writing is damn hard, almost painful at times. Writing requires hard work and perseverance. And I’m notoriously lazy. It was difficult for me to find readers, so it was almost impossible for me to get any pleasure out of writing.

But then something happened. I told a friend of mine that I used to write, and she asked to read some of my stuff. I brought her some of my best short stories, and after she read them, I began rummaging through a folder on my computer I’ve named “Projects,” which was basically a collection of other empty folders, searching for a short story, a fragment, something I hadn’t brought her. But I found nothing worth sharing with her. So I began writing again. Just for one person. And I brought her a brand new story. And she loved it and asked for more.

So I wrote more. And more. And more.

Writing is a solitary job. There’s no doubt about it. But I find that we never, ever write just for ourselves. Whether we build him in our heads or he’s real, there’s always an ideal reader – someone we’re writing for. Just like a letter.

One person. Just one, out of eight billion who inhabit the Earth.

And it was enough to keep me going.

We, as human beings, need a reason for everything we do in life. A motivation, a reward.

And I found out that, oddly enough, what really triggered my creative process wasn’t money, or fame, or glory. What made me happy was seeing one person smile because I brought her a new story.

One person to genuinely like your writing.

Sometimes it’s enough. Sometimes it isn’t. But maybe we should all remember that we can only call ourselves writers if someone is willing to read what we’re writing.

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83 thoughts on “The Portrait of a Writer (2)

  1. Pingback: Award Time – Share the Love « A Touch of the Divine

  2. So true! I've been writing since I can remember, but for me the joy came from the telling of the story. The experience of the pain and the laughter. Later, when I discovered fan-fiction, I discovered the euphoria of having FANS! Some of my fans even called me a celebrity. It did wonders for my confidence and ego, but it never changed the fact that writing is equal parts agony and passion. Like a well-paced romance!

    Today I still write for the joy of writing, but my desire for a perfect piece urges me forward to learn, experiment, and try for something a little bit different. A touch more challenging than last time. :o)

  3. There is a constant struggle indeed between having the confidence to express our thoughts knowing that they could be valuable contributions and publishing supercilious rubbish with arrogance and pride. I frequently waver between both viewpoints, and often about the same piece. For the record, I for one appreciate your writing. Keep it up.

  4. Well, you evidently, are the reader I wrote for when I wrote "A Moment". Thanks for 'liking' it-I am not a serious writer like you are. I just put down whatever comes into my head once in a while. It is scary to reveal oneself, and one always does when one writes–about anything! But, you are right: it is very satisfying when someone LIKES it! Thank you!

  5. Very nice post…For many years my passion was photography–for about 20 years actually. But it got to the point that I was shooting only for money, not for fun. Then I just stopped shooting. I didn't intend to stop, I just did. But 10 years went by without my taking anything but snapshots of the kids. Like you it only took one person to re-kindle my passion…but in my case it was me. Now I love photography again…but I shoot to please myself.

  6. I also "quit" for a while, about 4 years. It wasn't so much because I found it hard, but at the time, I just thought that what I writing was terrible. Also, the craft part of writing wasn't clicking. But I picked it back up by some fluke and now that the craft elements are clicking, I finally realize how hard it is. Perseverance. Show up every day. Write something. Stick to it. Stay with your crap! (http://tracystaedter.com/2012/06/11/stay-with-your-crap/) That's the only way.

  7. You're right, motivation is often found when one single person spurs us on; this is true of all creative people, I think. We're usually the harshest judges of our own work — our own worst critics — so having just one person to give us feedback can make a huge difference in whether or not we continue on.

    I think we, your readers, are certainly glad you picked up the pen — er, keyboard — again. Give your friend our thanks!

  8. I took a ten year break, having only just returned to writing in the last two years. In that two years, I've written shit, then better shit, then not-so-shit, and I've managed to get myself published, albeit in the red-headed step-child erotic romance genre that gets no respect.

    And since being published, I've found myself in the middle of a writer's crisis (oh, I know, poor poor published author, woe is me) trying to weigh why I do this with the idea of selling my stories. I've struggled with my purpose. Am I selling out? Am I compromising too much with publishers who don't have the same vision just so I can get my name out there?

    This post really resonates with me. It's so true, and so simple. I'm not writing because I want to get paid (although I'd love to make this a career) or because I want fame or popularity. I write because I want someone to read my words and be moved by them. To remember them after they've finished the story. And to perhaps have them think the time they spent peeking into my psyche has been well spent.

  9. Thanks for sharing your writing process. Just today I was thinking about all you’ve written on this post. It’s frustrating when you’re putting a lot of work into something and you have no idea if it’s any good, if you’re improving, if it’s even worth it to continue. I’ve also discovered that writing is more than just being in front of your computer alone, it’s also about the readers—even if it is just one reader. However, along with motivation, I think having a strong internal core is so crucial to keeping the focus and not being discourage when it all seems hopeless. Thanks again for sharing all that you’ve learned.

  10. You are so right. If we know just one person enjoys our work, it is enough to spur us on to greater efforts. Always striving, always aiming to be better than the last time. If only we know there is someone who will enjoy our effort!

  11. Sounds really familiar, only I haven't found my 'one' yet. I write because i really enjoy it still. I try hard to give up thinking about where it's going, or who might read it.

  12. So true. Since I was 11 I have been writing. My early stuff is so terrible I cringe when I read it. I have purposely hidden away that notebook in the hopes it is never found (It is filled with over dramatic fanfic-esque type stories that I used to practice my craft and am ashamed of them). It is very soliatary, even writing reviews and articles. But, I enjoy it. I slip into another world.

  13. You gave me pause for thought with that post.

    Up until now, I have written for an unseen and unknown audience. Sure, I have an idea of what that audience is like according to writing genre, but there are no real pictures of them in my head.

    I've always been shy about showing my writing to anyone close to me and watching their reactions. I would much rather they know that my work is 'out there' and that they are reading it at a time I am unaware of.

    Perhaps writing for (and actually showing my work to) someone specific would help in times of self-doubt.

    Thanks for sharing your experience.

    And, like others have said, I'm glad you decided to come back after quitting.

  14. I only wish I had the skill of all of you. At best I wrote but my husband did the rewrite he is dead now and i'm lost I have all of these things in my head and then they become lost the same as he lost forever to me foe me. A true gift is what each and every one of you have may others know and enjoy the written word each of you give us. THANK YOU FOR WHGAT YOU DO FOR US FRANMCOB

    • I am SO sorry for the loss of your wonderful husband, "franmcob". Please stand strong, and know that God's love is always with you, especially with such a tragedy. Know also, that I love you, and I hope my own writings at "zekeblog.wordpress.com" may help lighten your difficult trial. As well as this blog site by "cristianmihai", who is OBVIOUSLY most gifted as an author, and well deserved of all the fans he is now accumulating. Peace and blessing to you, dear heart. If God could grant me such power, I'd bring your lovely spouse back into your needful arms.

      Most sincerely,

      Zeke Krahlin

      • what i miss is the gift most of you have and that is writing. john and had a great life he is out of pain that is a good thing. however when i read and see a question of worth or writing that is a gift not all people are able to do.

        betwarstadt if it is a true friend and has the skill to say ya or na even if what is said is what you were hoping for. better qa is would that friend stand up and tell you to your face you look like sh– and still be friends hold on to the friend they are hard to come by. remember truth is hard, finding a good friend is harder.

  15. And too the line between cowardice and prudence? Bitter and pragmatic? Hopeful and naive? In all such cases, i believe the answer can only be found in community. It lies not within us to judge fairly a work of our own to which we are intimately attached. Only in having the grace and humility to accept criticism on our work can we find that balance, i believe. Then again, i speculate these things and could, of course, be wrong. i humbly submit to the majority. :)

    • I think you are right, and that we are almost never the best judge of how well others will receive our work. Things we ourselves may find less successful can actually be exactly what someone else finds endearing, or poignant, or true. And I guess in the end we just need to accept that multiplicity in the world. Its not always in our control, and the things we give voice to are not the only things in the world which matter. How another person looks out at the world is sometimes an inscrutable calculus.

      So yes, humility seems important. At the very least it can help keep us grounded.

      I thought Cristian's post was great in that it articulated the difficulty of finding the motivation to continue being creative entirely within our own selves. Sometimes we just seem to need more than our own satisfaction with what we are doing. That may not necessarily be an artistic concern, but it is often a very real psychological need. And that may just be the reality of the pressures we sometimes are under. If no one (or too few) gets what we are doing we can sometimes lose faith in ourselves. As much as we might prefer it, our confidence does not always reside wholly within ourselves. We are not always immune to our reception in the world. It is simply not something that a sensitive creative person is necessarily always capable of. And it seems a good thing to recognize about ourselves.

      And the interesting point you bring up is that this can occasionally lead us in the opposite direction from humility. We can take other's opinions too seriously in both extremes. Folks not getting it shouldn't necessarily be the worst thing out there, and neither should the applause be all that matters.

      But as Cristian says, sometimes writing for that lone audience of one is enough to keep us going. Not always because we think they will like what we are doing, that it is somehow connected to our 'success', but because we are often expressing things about ourselves and it is a human need to be understood. It is confirmation and affirmation. It tells us that what we are doing matters to other people. And you'd have to be a cold hard stone for that not to make a difference at least some of the time….

      Sorry to ramble on, but this seems like a discussion worth having.

  16. You got that right. We are more or less "a writer" with or without writing talent. The main thing is that we will find the right "readers" who wish to read our story.

    And when we are ready to start writing? To write a good …

    Never!. For so long we live is developing and we write (photograph in my case) just keeps getting better.

  17. Almost the same thing happened to me. A few years ago I was telling a friend that I write. When he asked to read some of my writings I refused. He told me that writing is meant for others to enjoy. I had probably heard that many times before, but it only clicked then. I immediately started developing a short story. And I've been writing it and re-wriitng it since. Thanks to that old friend, I look forward to publishing it soon.

  18. Really inspiring. I wished I could write really well!! I totally understand the feeling of having that one writer that loved your writing! :D I do hope that more people will come to love mine too haha.

  19. This is so true! I have done something similar to this with my own writing (in the past). Book writing especially is hard work because it takes so long to write and for me anyway, i don't want to show anyone till i am really ready. Hence, no feedback, no reward. I need to think of who that "one person" is again. Thank you for this tip.

  20. Pingback: As if I didn’t already have enough to read… « For Words

  21. Your post rings true, again. For me, too, at least. How true what you have said and expressed. When I have felt it a hard time to find readers or publishers interested in my writings at times, I just keep up with my writing and projects because I love to write and write for myself and not just for myself. Best wishes with yours.

  22. Very well said and thanks for sharing this great post..

    I have repeatedly written and quit and even thrown most of my work in the trash, as the mood struck me, over the years. Writing my blog is the most writing I've done continuously, ever. Just writing, WRITING, is a tremendous reward.

    I'm the opposite – I like hard work, and I put a good amount of hours into some small posts here. If one person enjoys it as much as I have, then I feel validated. My own husband subscribes to my blog post, so there's my one, and the beauty of it, is that we can discuss the writing, with the spoken word.

    For me, writing is like creating my art – I get lost in the process – time seems to stand still.

    I don't write with specific readers in mind. I write because I have to – from my heart and self, my being. I write for fun, for education, for information, for sharing, for laughs and to entertain and that is the first reward, having the words down the way I want to present them. And when someone is entertained or laughing while reading, enlightened or simply interested, that is the second reward!

    Thanks, Cristian.

  23. I agree to this. I have seen this. I have lived it, it is fact an unremitting truth. The question reveals itself by chance, and the answer is only viewed by those unblind.

  24. I find the post & the comments interesting. Initially I wouldn't have agreed but I just needed to think about it from the perspective of it is a Writer with a capital "W" who writes as a gift for others to read. Opposed to me who for my own amusement likes to think, observe & record, and enjoys typing words into literary of forms of sorts. If someone else enjoys the output then that is a gift they give to me.

    • Oh how lucky you are: I hate to write, i can't spell, have trouble reading, but i have been told i have a great mind. If that is true should i not want to be able to do the above list and enjoy it like you and others?? I'm even in a book there are so many things I have done there are books I would love to write. TO ALL OF YOU WHO ENJOY THIS GIFT WRITE/RIGHT ON FOR YOUR WORDS MAY END UP THE ONLY THING LEFT TO HISTORY SINCE THE LETTER WRITING DAYS ARE NO LONGER.

  25. Good post. I agree. Whether we admit it or not, we all have the need for people to like what we write. When nobody comments or says anything about any of my blog posts, there is always that feeling in the back of my head that nobody cares. But I generally write for the personal joy of speaking my mind openly.

  26. Nice thoughts, I can relate to that, not as a writer, I'm not….:) but as a fellow artist painter, some of the things you described apply to art in general I guess…:)

  27. I relate to this post so much. I love to write. I wrote a mystery novel and started going through the process to get it published, got bored and irritable. The whole thing wasn't fun any longer and I realized, I just want to write for enjoyment, for my friends. I did some research on the self-publish route and was pleased with what I discovered. I'll pay a professional to do some editing, of course, but self-publish is the way to go for me, for my temperament. I'm not interested in making a living or gaining massive recognition from my writing. I'm just having fun, entertaining my friends and maybe others who want to check out the book(s). I realize that doesn't work for everyone but it certainly helped my writer's block to realize this about myself! It was interesting and relevant for me to read your take on things, as well as read the comments your post generated.

    Also, I LOVE the picture you chose for this post!

  28. Cristian, you hit the nail on the head for me. Because most of the people in my life do not read in my genre, it has been hard to put myself out there. I have one friend who read one novel and said 'You are an amazing writer." I figured, she's my friend, what else is she going to say? Truth is, she took the time to read and comment in the margins, so I shouldn't slap her in the face by denigrating what she said. I guess a good friend will tell you if you're not getting it right. In spite of my doubts, her encouragement is what keeps me going when I think I'm no good and I want to quit. A good "review" makes all the difference, doesn't it?

    • photos are my world now, i'm still trying to find what makes me jump, smile, or laugh. i also enjoy sharing what i see or look at so i hope i'm in the right place to follow you

  29. Everytime I read your posts, it leaves me with an assurance that I am on the right track. You are highly inspiring, a great motivator and a wonderful teacher………. Keep on typing!!!!

  30. This post really appealed to me, as motivation is something I've really struggled with when it comes to writing. Even though I've wanted to be a writer from the age of 6! I am motivated by helping others, and your story was a perspective from that view – the ability to create something for just that one person you keep in mind. I don't quite agree with the last sentiment, but I do think it's an awesome way to stay on track and keep the momentum, one I'll be including in my efforts in the future.

  31. You sound like a sociologist, recognizing the relationship between writer and reader, and how the concepts are mutually necessary for each other to exist. Thanks for the encouraging words.

  32. Ridiculously well put. I couldn't agree more with this, and couldn't have put it more succinctly. I find that I'm encouraged a bit to read this, actually. Thank you for sharing the experience, as well as the wisdom.

  33. I have been writing for many years, a lot of it for work and some of it for pleasure. I always finish the work and am meticulous about what I hand in. I often don't finish my creative work, re-read it, it makes me feel nauseous, I put it away and don't look at it again. It interests me that so many writers think they are awful at writing and really battle to sit down every day to write. I think it's a mixture of perseverance, self-confidence and discipline that makes a successful writer.

  34. You should try having a pen pal. Mind you, it takes a while to find one who suits yours style. For writers, there is truly something special about connecting with a person over your works. Writing for someone? That's great. But writing together? Well, that's poetry!

  35. I agree that having just one person who can drag you out of your rationalizations of why you shouldn't write, or why something else may be better for you, is important. I just moved 150 miles away from a valuable friend who filled that purpose for me. I think, though, (and this may just be me) I write because I have these ideas in my head and my heart and I must give form to them. Not, as you said, for fame or fortune; but for the good of the idea itself. It always makes me feel like I'm doing the ideas or the flashes of story that pop-up a disservice in not trying my best to get them out on the page. At least to get them out of my head somewhere that they can breathe.

  36. Very true–sometimes even having one person to "write for" (as an audience, I mean–not as the purpose for your writing) can make a tremendous difference.

    Conventional wisdom says that a writer must be constantly writing to improve his or her craft, and while I largely believe this to be true, I think that there is value in cessation as well. Just as any exercise regimen includes downtime, I wonder if your two-year hiatus from writing was of any use to you. Obviously, it may not have been as productive as if you had been writing that whole time, but a maturation can come with distance and reflection.

  37. I must write that this article is good and true. I think most of us write for that 'one' person.

    I know I do, I also write for the other two reasons

    First is for the glory of seeing your name in print or on a website or you hear it on the radio or see it in a magazine or..or..

    The last reason is the money factor. It is not much for me anyways but I work hard for it.

    Can't wait for more articles from you

  38. One person out of eight billion! And it is enough —

    You are very wise, especially as you are so young to be wise.

    It is enough. But it isn't always easy to find the one.

  39. As a piece of advice for aspiring writers Kurt Vonnegut said: “Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.”

    • Writing is one of the hardest things to do. Sometimes, though, it helps to take a step back or some time off from writing. I think it helps build that creative black box. Although writing is difficult, there is nothing as good as when someone enjoys your writing. It makes you feel like you're doing the right thing.

  40. "But I find that we never, ever write just for ourselves. Whether we build him in our heads or he’s real, there’s always an ideal reader – someone we’re writing for. Just like a letter." Love this statement! Angie

  41. My break in writing lasted 28 years – the child rearing years. I find that in order for me to write, I need time to dream, and raising two children while working full time did not leave me enough dream time. I was afraid I would never pick up the pen again, but as soon as the chicks left the nest, the dreams, the ideas and the words have started flowing back. It's wonderful!

  42. Reblogged this on Living Life Fully and commented:
    I have yet to publish a story, but much of this post by Christian Mihai sounds like my life of writing so far. I enjoyed it when I was young, found out how hard it was so I quit and a few years later one young man prompted me to begin this blog. I was happy to have one reader who enjoyed my writing so I began again . . . and haven' t stopped. Maybe he doesn't read any longer, but others do and they give me encouragement to continue.

  43. You have a really admirable, realistic approach here. Love the honesty in your writing, it's very refreshing! Thanks for the like on our blog, we really appreciate it and we're glad you enjoyed reading it. We'll definitely be keeping an eye on your blog, and passing on your valuable insights to the budding writers we know. All the best,

    Natural Mystic

  44. I feel like you have read my mind, Cristian! I was urged by one person to share my writing with a bigger audience and I’m still grateful for that one person’s support. I don’t always like that writing is so solitary an activity, but getting an appreciative smile or chuckle is reward and motivation enough for me. Great post.

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