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Nine months ago, something happened that I’d been working very long and hard for: Beautiful Monster got published. It was picked up by Damnation Books, a wonderful publisher in California that I absolutely adore. There was much to be excited about as Monster went through the process of publication, and I didn’t want to waste any time. I immediately started planning my future as a writer. I began revising The White Room, a manuscript I wrote before Beautiful Monster which needed some work before being an acceptable candidate for publication. On top of this, I began an equally exciting top-secret side project—that I can’t really get into at this point—that I’m totally stoked about. Things were going swimmingly—my days and nights absorbed in the fictional worlds of my own creation—until, about three months ago, something else happened: I hit a brick wall. And it wasn’t writer’s block.

This brick wall was far scarier than writer’s block because at least there are things you can do to lubricate a stubborn story. What I faced was something I never expected to: doubt… and not the doubt that I could be a writer—that’s a given—but the doubt that I wanted to be a writer.

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So, I stopped writing—which given my life circumstances at the time—wasn’t all that hard. I was in the middle of moving—again—and I’d met some fascinating writers from the old-school who made me feel like one of them. It was easy to coast for a while, but in truth, I wasn’t coasting at all. I was thinking. I was wondering how, after so many years of dreaming of this, of working toward this, I could possibly feel this way once those dreams were finally coming true. But that’s where I was at, and it wasn’t very fun.

After a while, the people around me started asking questions. They wanted to know why I wasn’t writing. I never told them the truth. I didn’t want to be influenced in any way because I knew this was something I needed to figure out for myself. I was working, just not in any way that was visible. In those months, I produced nothing that would help my career in any way, but I did strip down the layers of who I am, and I did figure a few things out.

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I figured out that the glitter is gone, the shine has dulled, and reality has cast its shadow over the dream. I have a different understanding of what it means to be a writer now—it’s not a better understanding—just a different understanding. I figured out that writing is—in truth—a lot of time spent sitting in front of a computer. It’s picking up the thousands of little pieces of a scattered story and spending hours, days, weeks, and months trying to fit them together in the most cohesive, relatable—and salable—way. It’s sacrificing a lot of time with friends and family. It’s being asked outright in public settings how much money you make. It’s work. It’s a daily decision to sit down and create something that may or may not ever even see the light of day. It’s the choice to devote a lot of time and effort to an entirely unknown outcome. It’s a risk.

I realized that the glamour of being a writer—if there ever was any—doesn’t shine quite as brightly as the world would like to believe. I’ve met my heroes, and they’ve now become my friends—people I talk to on the phone, exchange emails with, and discuss the most tedious details of my life with. This doesn’t make them unglamorous, this simply makes them real. It makes all of this real—and that’s not a bad thing—it’s just a different thing.

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In the beginning, when this was still a dream, I made some conscious choices. I would steer clear of any unattainable expectations. I would not put anyone on a pedestal or hold my heroes to superhuman standards… and in truth, I’m neither disenchanted by the path nor in any way disappointed in anyone I’ve met. But the dream, as it manifests into reality, is grating and unsettling… it feels a little like walking off a ledge. It made me decide I needed to take stock. I needed to step back and look at writing from a realistic perspective. I needed to then ask myself if this was ultimately going to make me very happy. So, that’s what I did… and the past couple weeks have finally brought things into enough focus that I can proceed in what I’m confident is the right direction.

Ultimately, nothing has changed for me except my approach to it. The dream is still intact. Somehow, I still want this, but now I know that only the love of this—and nothing else—is strong enough to withstand the demands and lack of certainty that writing requires. There isn’t enough ego to uphold this—there isn’t enough money to justify it—and there isn’t enough comfort to sustain it. But at the core of who I am, this is what I do—what I’ve always done—and it gets me closer to happiness than anything ever has before. And perhaps the greatest persuasion has been the incredible and unbearable gnawing, gnashing need to write even when I’ve given myself permission to break from it for a while. If nothing else, this has slowly convinced me that my writing days are far from being over. I’ve made some great self-discoveries these past months, but that hasn’t stopped the stories from tumbling in, the characters from blathering on, or the fingers from seeking the keys.

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I now have what I believe is a deeper, more accurate understanding of being a writer. It’s not pretty anymore, but it’s mine, and it’s real. I’ve learned that even when I’m “not” writing, I’m still writing, and so—at the risk of sounding melodramatic—how can I possibly not write? I can’t, but I do have a choice in how I proceed. I can either gather up the scattered pieces of story, glue them all together, and try to make something out of this that matters… or I can return to the days when jotted-down descriptions, disjointed dialogue, and fragmented portions of plot and poetry haunted me from hundreds of loose scraps of paper that invaded and overran any space within ten feet of me.

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For me, that choice is clear. After giving my soul a thorough strip-search, I’m realizing there isn’t really anything else I can do and be happy. The dream may be over now… the real world may have settled in… but there are still stories to be told.

And I’ll do my best to tell them.

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Comments
  1. That first sale always feels like a fluke, and working toward the second one is the hardest thing you’ll ever do. It’s the scariest, too. You live for breaking into publishing, then find out that being a writer isn’t so glamorous and while you love writing, you can hate it as well. And that’s perfectly okay. We aren’t built to endure constant pleasure. Damn it.

    The thing about being driven to write is that the rewards create an internal joyousness that is beyond anything else I’ve ever experienced. Sometimes I feel these highs daily, sometimes I think I’ll never feel them again — but that’s a lie because I know they’ll return just as soon as I stop indulging in fear and get back to work. And now you know this, too. It’s a hard-won lesson many never learn. Congratulations! You’re made of the right stuff!

  2. Linda L. Bennett says:

    Kind of like growing up, Huh? Write on! 😀

  3. Oh, Jared, there is SO much to be said about this. The life of a writer is at once thrilling, fearsome, glorious, and always — always — riddled with insecurities. One afternoon, you may write what you consider to be the most perfect sentence ever composed in English, and the next morning, you’re wondering what the hell you were thinking. Still, it’s a craft and an art that is so incredibly satisfying to its practitioners that, ultimately, I can’t imagine a better way to step aside from the real world and unleash that special world that’s known only to you. Mike

  4. You had me biting my lip reading this, hoping to hell you weren’t going to quit writing. I didn’t think you could, not the way words belong to you.

    I confess, I get a lot of emails about blog posts every day, and read a lot of them halfheartedly. I am excited every time I see a post from you. It’s the first email I open in my list.

    Keep writing. You breathe it.

    Love,

    Jules

    • Jerod Scott says:

      Thanks, Jules. I don’t think I could ever stop writing either–not really. But it’s so nice to know, that even after all the doubt, I still want this.

      And thank you for being so supportive of my writing. You’re a good friend, indeed!

  5. Bill Hilburn says:

    Very good. When you cfommunicate any story it is at the base always your story. You tell yous story well. I’ve been struggling with writing in that life eats the time for creation. Still always writing something rather than just calling it a day,,,not after parenting, work, a stroke, approaching blindness and so mant personal demons they ride in every day on a bus.

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