Last week, Mika Doyle made me cry.
I had just finished reading her guest post, and I couldn’t help but think “She gets it.” Because she does. Mika, whose introductory note to me included this post (thank you again, Paula), knows what it’s like to struggle with feeling worthy in a world of people telling you otherwise. Her words took me right back to those times when the negativity came from clients, family, you name it. You can’t help but be moved by it.
Thanks to Mika, I’ve had both tears and revelation of how far we can come when we don’t give up.
I’m a Worthless Writer, but I Keep Writing Anyway
By Mika Doyle
According to many of the people I’ve worked with over the years, I am completely worthless as a writer. One coworker told me he could introduce me to an English major so he could explain to me why my writing was so bad. At another job, my boss made me have one of my news releases proofed by his son’s college professor because my boss took one writing course during his undergrad and was sure I’d made some major grammatical errors. When I started my first management position, one of my employees, who was recently hired after a six-month internship, did not believe me when I told him that the Oxford comma was used in a series of three or more, not a series of two as he kept insisting. He made me Google it.
Worthless writer, I tell you.
Despite my complete lack of knowledge of how to correctly form a complete sentence, I have continued to write. I’ve tried to stop. Really, I have. But every time I tried to make a clean break, my heart would start to shrivel and dry out. It’s a medical condition, this writing thing. If I don’t write, I’ll surely collapse from atrophy to one of the most important muscles in my body.
Seriously, though, I don’t need other people to question my worth as a writer because I question my worth every damn day. I’ll read an article or an essay or a novel and I’ll think to myself, “I’ll never be that good. Why do I even try?” I’ll take a look at my life and wonder why I’m still working marketing and communications jobs instead of spending my days writing fiction that’ll be taught in college literature courses one day. Or I’ll see a Facebook post about a friend who’s going on her first book tour, and I’ll wonder how the hell she did it. And, more importantly, why haven’t I done it yet?
Worthless writer, remember?
When you’re a writer, you face criticism and rejection far more than praise and accolades. Everyone’s got an opinion, and in the age of anonymous internet comments, those opinions can be brutal. Or, if you’ve experienced anything like I described (which all really happened, by the way), you know some people are not even remotely shy about telling you how untalented you really are. Top that off with being your own worst critic, and it’s a wonder anyone ever puts pen to paper.
It’d be completely disingenuous to say writers shouldn’t let the negativity get to them. I remember each of those instances vividly and how worthless that invalidation made me feel. My hands and voice quivered, betraying the confidence I was trying so desperately to project, and my lips turned downward as if controlled by some deranged puppeteer. Then came the tears, and the shame that almost always seems to accompany them. That negativity enveloped me, smothered me until I’d lost my ability to think rationally. Negativity can swallow you whole if you let it.
But negativity, whether internal or external, should never stop you. Go ahead and feel it. Have a good cry if you need to. But after you let it all out, get back up and let it go.
Let the world think you’re a worthless writer. Just as long as you keep writing.
Mika Doyle is a writer and communications professional whose writing has appeared in Bitch Media, Role/Reboot, Everyday Feminism (under a pseudonym) and The Good Men Project. She writes about gender, rape culture, trauma, and relationships. Follow her on Twitter at @mikadoyle. To see more of her work, visit mikadoyle.com.
Writers, what instances in your career have left you feeling worthless?
How did you overcome that feeling? If you haven’t yet, what keeps you in that mindset?
What advice do you have for others who are feeling worthless?