I am yet to come across a writer who is absolutely satisfied with their work, so satisfied that the nagging, incessant voices of dissatisfaction are silenced. There is always that feeling that something more is needed, a final polish to make the work a classic piece of art. There have been days when I have entertained thoughts of getting my very own ghost writer, someone with a spiritual connection to my soul so that I could easily channel my thoughts and emotions to them. Then they would write on my behalf.
I have come across other people’s work and thought to myself “that could almost pass for my work! How did the writer convey the message so succinctly, and in such beautiful words?” And almost instantly, my yearning for that priceless ghost writer resurfaces! But we can’t walk through life wishing someone else would tell our story; we have an almost divine mandate to have the world hear our story. We have to write, we must write. Sometimes it is the only way some people stay sane.
If you are one of those writers who aren’t particularly fond of your work, you’re in good company. It isn’t strange at all to hold in doubt the perfection of your own work. There have been prolific writers who disliked their work. Ian Fleming, Anthony Burgess and Franz Kafka are a few of such writers. Kafka’s death wish was that all his works would be burned!
One would ask what use there is in this attitude of pervasive self-doubt. Why make a life out of writing if you can’t love every bit of what you do? The answer I have for this is in a quote by Martha Graham.
“It is not your business to determine how good it is or how valuable it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You have to keep yourself open and aware of the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open… No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatsoever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and making us more alive.”
It is this queer divine dissatisfaction that makes extraordinary writers out of ordinary ones. It is what causes us to make a vocation out of writing. It is what shifts our writing from a mere hobby to a calling.
By Dede Williams