To endure, one must persevere against something. Whether it be against pain or ridicule or even just time, to endure is to face something with patience and come out ahead. Many things in life require endurance—to withstand physical pain to complete a marathon, to compete against social pressures, to overcome the emotional strain of poverty, to stay true to a difficult marriage, or to hold oneself together in a mental health crisis. Such things require resolve and forbearance that are not natural to most of us. We learn them through hardship and hone them as we suffer. Not that we become stoic, but we learn to bend where we would break and soften when we would shatter. To learn to endure is to learn humility.
Writing, too, takes endurance. What are we enduring against? Many things, and each writer’s struggles are different. For me, it is a deeply entrenched impostor syndrome, a profound self-doubt, and simple weariness. I grapple with the intense fear that I am not an actual writer, that someone somewhere is going to find me out, that people already have found me out and are just playing along with my act to make me feel better. These thoughts might sound silly, but they skitter anxiously through my mind, and God forbid they take hold.
I also wrestle with self-doubt, which is related to impostor syndrome but focuses more on my innate abilities than on people’s perception of me. Do I know how to put together a plot, how to even string words together into sentences? Is what I write worth anything? All these thoughts of insecurity and self-berating are exhausting, thus my struggle with weariness. It takes a lot of mental stamina to withstand these attacks, for that is what they are—attacks on my self-image and self-worth, and they are no less agonizing having originated inside me. I get tired from fighting so hard to keep going, to keep writing, when all this is going on in my mind.
How do I continue, then? What is it that pushes me to keep writing, that drives me to finish what I started? What is the secret to endurance? I would suggest it is rooted in memory. There are three things that I believe one would do well to remember in order to endure in writing—inspiration, joy, and purpose. Each one of these focuses on either the past, the present, or the future respectively. Inspiration is about what struck the first chord in your mind to compose your symphony of sorts. Joy is the present enjoyment of writing, and purpose is the why of your writing, what you hope to accomplish with it. Let us look at each in order.
Inspiration is different for everyone—the spark that sets the passion to write aflame. For me it was two-fold. First, I had recently read Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones and had become enamored with the story of Sophie and Howl. Second, I was working at a bank, and a small, local publisher came in to make a deposit. We struck up a conversation, and for the first time, it struck me that I could write a novel.
Of course, the kindling of this fire had built over time, from the stories I wrote in grade school to my first, secret attempt at writing a novel sometime in middle school to the poetry to which I retreated when I became overwhelmed at the thought of the discipline it would take to write a book. Even so, without the spark I experienced back in 2016 as a bank teller, none of that would have meant anything. It took a special set of circumstances to inspire me to first start plotting my novels.
We writers cannot take for granted what it took for us to take the first, decisive step on our journeys. In remembering the magic of those moments, we can recapture some of the initial drive behind our writing. It is the foundation upon which we have constructed the rest, the launching point for our voyage, the home we always long for as we wander far our in the reaches of our imagination, the thing that tethers us back to ourselves. I hope never to forget that initial thrill and exhilaration in thinking, Yes, I will write. It is one of those things that can carry me even through the most trying times.
In the present, we have the joy of writing. There is the satisfaction of putting to the page the ideas swirling in our minds, the catharsis of having expressed something long stored within our hearts, and the simple pleasure of feeling the pen scrawling words on paper or the delight of hearing the keys of our keyboards clacking rhythmically. There is something in discovering what we are trying to say as we say it that brings deep gratification. Writing is a beautiful process, not without its struggles, but when it goes well, what joy it brings to the soul!
It is hard to feel this joy while contending with the difficulties of writing, though. It takes sitting down and summoning the memory of it most times. It is not automatic and is hardly effortless, but it is worthwhile. To remember the simple joy of writing, the rapture that brings one more fully into the present moment, contributes to one’s strength to endure even the most difficult of times as a writer.
One’s purpose in writing is forward-looking but differs from an agenda. It is the reason you are writing and is not always as simple as a message or a theme. In fact, it could be something other than the content of the writing itself. For me, it started with the spark of an idea for a plot and a desire to prove to myself that I could, in fact, write an entire book and not just poetry. With time, it morphed into exploration—an exploration of ideas and personalities, of relationships. One’s purpose is what one hopes to accomplish by writing. By the time I reached Book 3 of my series, my purpose was to find out what happened at the end of it all. Of course, I had ideas of plot points and the outline of how things ended, but I had no idea how the interpersonal and especially inner conflicts of my series would resolve. I am still discovering, in fact, and I am eager to learn and experience these resolutions. It is part of what drives me forward as I write. It is part of the reason I insist on enduring to the end, on seeing the whole thing through.
In the same way, we writers can use our purpose to propel us. We might want to illustrate an idea or explore a relationship, or we might hope simply to write an enjoyable novel that satisfies our desire to create something beautiful, but whatever our purpose, by remembering it, we can find the resilience to go on.
Of course, there are other methods one might use to endure in writing or in life, but I believe there is a reason we cherish memories and stories so much. They remind us both of what was and what can be—they draw from the past to reveal what could be our future. Many find comfort in certain memories and find inspiration in them to create a world where they can recapture the best things of life. Memories give us hope to go on, and it is hope that endurance most needs. May you find encouragement and endure to the end because you remember!