When we decide to become a writer we secretly believe it is a matter of time before we are regarded as a literary genius.
It is such an awkward moment for a writer when they finally accept they are NOT a literary genius and are just an average writer.
There are several stages to this creative heartbreak:
- Dreamer. You enter the writing world secretly convinced you are a literary genius. In your head once your first book is written it will be a literary game changer. All the other famous best-selling authors can step aside because you are coming through! You have been threatening to write a best seller for years and now its time for you to show family and friends that you can hit the best seller charts. Off you happily skip over to your laptop with your head full of Booker Prize nominations, book signing queues and that expensive country farmhouse you have had your eye on. All you have to do is bang out your first book and the rest will be history. You don’t have a story in mind but that’s just minor detail. When a relative says “I bet you are going to be the next J.K. Rowling” you give them a cheeky wink back followed by “I know – watch this space!” (For noting I thought this stage was amazing).
- Denial. You start writing some stuff. When you read it back to yourself it moves you to tears. It is pure literary gold. You have done the unthinkable, you have entered the literary world with no previous writing experience, no writing related weaknesses or faults and your writing is world-class. You were right about yourself – you are a literary genius! Once you have typed out a few pages you then present it to a loved one or you stick it on your blog saying to yourself “they are not going to know what’s hit them!” The non-existent to lukewarm reaction to your work is not what you were expecting. Your loved one glanced at your writing, put it to one side and carried on watching the sport on TV. Your blog post only received a handful of views and some comments about watching your grammar. You ignore them all. Huh – what do they know? There is nothing wrong with your grammar. You carry on believing that you are a literary genius. Sigh! (For noting I also loved this stage!).
- Struggle. Over time you start to struggle with the label that you have given yourself, the literary genius label. The world doesn’t seem to be falling over itself to read your work, it took you months to get past 15,000 words on your first novel, the writing feedback is suggesting that you have some areas of improvement, writer’s block is a weekly occurrence, you haven’t won any writing competitions run by publishing firms and even though you hate to admit it – you have read some amazing and earth shattering stuff written by other writers. This was not supposed to happen!
- Frustration. You start to get frustrated with yourself. Surely the world is missing something with your work? In your head it was going to be a lot different. Cue the creative tantrums and low moods, as you battle against the reality of the world not seeing you as a literary genius. After a lot of tears, door slamming, cheese binges, creative breakdowns, spot outbreaks, large glasses of wine, soul-searching, long car drives listening to sad songs, walking around with a face like a bulldog chewing a wasp and screaming “I quit!” on a daily basis you begin to see yourself in a new light.
- Hope. You decide to ditch the label literary genius. No one starts out as a literary genius. You tell yourself that writing is something which needs to be worked at. So you start to regard yourself as an above average writer. It doesn’t have the same ring to it but its a lot easier to live up to. Plus the above average label sets you apart from the rest. Sigh! You have stopped crying over your negative feedback and have started to looking at ways you can improve your weaknesses. You have come to realise that writing a book is hard and not something you can bang out at a moment’s notice. It’s going to take time. You tell yourself that this is the start of your writing journey and you will simply see where it takes you (the expensive farmhouse is still in play).
Be careful out there all you above average writers!