It’s not always the case that we can equate believing that our writing matters with believing that WHAT we are writing matters. It’s a subtle distinction, but some of you know exactly what I mean. You can value your writing life---knowing that writing brings you alive, defines you, is an artistic outlet---and still struggle to believe that a given piece of writing (an essay, a blog post, a book) is going to find an audience, strike a chord, make a difference.
Why does this happen, and worse, happen so often?
Most of the writers I work with experience pretty severe crises of confidence at different points in their writing journey. Sometimes it's part of their process, in fact, totally inextricable from their daily experience. If this is the case with you, take heart. There's a silver lining: It means you care. You have so much invested. You want to make an impact. You understand how important it is that your writing resonate with your reader, and above and beyond all else, you care about impacting a life, sharing your truth, and being able to communicate exactly what you mean in a voice that's articulate, clear, and sometimes even beautiful.
In my coaching I've found that there are typically two reasons people decide to write a book: (1) To give back to their reader---either through teaching or sharing an experience. This generally stems from being a reader who didn't find what you were looking for when you went through something painful or transformative. (2) To record what matters---either through fiction or nonfiction. These writers have a story to tell, sometimes one they've been sitting with for quite some time. This may be the story they have to tell before they die, the story that will not let them go.
If you're compelled to write because you want to give back, to help others, or because you must, then it's no surprise that this sometimes comes with pressure to deliver. On some level you've made a promise to yourself, but also a commitment to your future readers, or to the people who read you often. Writing happens in isolation, but the result of your writing---putting it out into the world---is among the most public and vulnerable things you do.
To connect with what matters you can only listen to your heart, and not be too hard on yourself. Not every line you write will be amazing and perfect. Sometimes you just have to move the story along. If you are blogging, writing essays, or publishing in a regular outlet, you will start to gauge what gets a good reaction. This takes practice, and it takes wherewithal. Know that the voices that tell you it doesn't matter are devious little SOBs that don't like to keep quiet; also know that you can find ways to lessen their impact, and if you're living with a chorus of voices in your everyday writing, try to find support to identify what they're saying. Face them rather than internalizing their negative messages.
If you have made a commitment to write, you know the joys and the struggles of your chosen path. Share what works for you, please. We'd love to hear how you connect to what matters; how you know when you've written something that sings; how you keep your own SOBs at bay.