Writing self-doubt
20-something miseries, being a writer

What Am I Doing Wrong? (And Other Questions I Ask Myself at 3am)

Do you ever feel like you’re a million miles behind everyone else, even the people who started the race after you did?

I’m feeling that really hard today. I like to consider myself a professional writer, but when I compare myself to where other writers are in their careers, I can’t help but feel like I’m doing something terribly wrong. I see all these articles about how people monetized their blogs after just 3 months, or how they don’t even need to apply for freelancing jobs anymore after just a year, because people come to them, or how they’re getting all their essays and poems published in these amazing literary journals.

That is, um, not my experience.

I’ve been running this blog for over a year now, and I still struggle to gain followers, even though I feel like I’m posting quality content (cue the hate-spiral of doubting whether anything I’ve ever written has been anything more than absolute garbage). I’ve been freelancing for a year and a half and I only hear back from 10% of the jobs I apply for, and I get even fewer positive responses. I had really supportive professors in my poetry program, but I’ve yet to get a poem published, despite sending out my work as often as I can make myself, given the intense likelihood of rejection.

Most of the time, this stuff doesn’t bother me. I write this blog because it’s fun and I like the outlet and even though I would love more people to see and relate to my work, the act of writing it is usually good enough for me. And even though I don’t have people clamoring to hire me as a freelancer, I have more than enough work considering my crazy schedule with a new baby. As for the poetry…okay, yeah, that one bothers me a lot and mostly I just try not to think about it.

But sometimes, when I see how successful other people are, I can’t help but be jealous.

I don’t want to be, really. Jealousy does not serve anyone, it only drains your energy that could be going toward achieving the goals you’re so envious of. And it makes you lose sight of what matters. Like I said before, when I’m not comparing myself to others, these things don’t really bother me. It’s only when I start measuring myself by someone else’s timeline that I start to feel like I’m falling behind.

Worst of all, jealousy is just a hop, a skip, and a jump away from shame, and that’s where I live, baby. Once my jealousy kicks in, a full-blown shame spiral is usually only minutes away. I am on the precipice of one right now. Instead of turning that feeling inward, I decided to write, to turn it outward, to air it out and see if that might help. So far, I haven’t sunk into the depths of utter self-loathing, so that’s good, but we’ll see how long it lasts.

In theory, I understand that everyone is different and that it makes no sense to measure ourselves against others. But at the same time, it’s really hard not to feel like I’m failing when I see others doing what I’m doing, just, like, way better and way faster.

Writing community out there, are you listening? Has anyone else ever been here? How do you deal? How do you move forward when you have this horrible feeling that you’re doing everything wrong?

2 thoughts on “What Am I Doing Wrong? (And Other Questions I Ask Myself at 3am)”

  1. Oh, I feel you! I don’t have any answers, but the more I look around me, the less anyone seems to. I had a really impressive piece published awhile back, and I’m not saying it wasn’t impressive, but what people don’t know when it comes up at cocktail parties is that I was writing it to distract myself from some family bullshit. I recently dated a freelancer with a very admirable record, but he had the emotions of an adult and the emotional toolkit of a child. My best friend who owns her own business is struggling all the time to figure out what she wants to do. The more I get to know successful people — people whose successes I look up to but also sometimes use to feel bad about myself — the more I realize that we’re all more complex than our Instagram profile and the beauty of our published work. We’re all a mix of successes and “I-don’t-know-what-I’m-doing”. I think that’s okay.

    Liked by 1 person

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