“Writing is a Bad Idea”
I got this note a few days ago from a writer named Kati Reijonen. I have no prior acquaintance with Kati. In a raw and quite brave way, Kati’s letter expresses the “heart of darkness” that all of us as writers and artists carry around in our guts. With Kati’s permission I have reprinted the entire note below. If you like, please respond to Kati in the Comments section. I’d be very interested to hear what we all think. I’ll post the answer I sent to Kati next week.
Dear Pressfield and company,
I am a Finnish writer, just submitted my 3rd manuscript to the publisher.
I have been reading Steves blogs and also books. They are very encouraging and uplifting but I have to say I disagree with Steve.
Writing is not for everybody. It is really hard, lonely and above all, financially disasterous.
I am a great example of things gone wrong,
I left everything to pursue my dreams. I wanted to write and so I did. I got book deals. Great. But the fact of the matter is that writing doesn’t bring you income, particularly if you write in Finnish, only spoken by 5 million people.
So the situation is that at the age of 60, I am broke. I have spent whatever I had saved and owned to support myself while writing and its all gone now. I have no idea what to do next. Writing another book seems like a bad idea.
There are no jobs for a person my age in this country.
I would no recommend anyone to do what I did. I am stressed sick. Only the tough and resilient survive this. Others, like me, fall. And fail.
So here I am – a victim of the creative path so many self help writers recommend walking. I wish I hadn’t.
My Muse has left me. I guess I wasn’t worth hanging around with.
I feel sorry to have written this but what I have written is my truth. Failing is really hard, particularly when you are too tired to get up anymore…
I hope I am the only loser. I really do. I want everybody to succeed. Maybe I am just a sad exception…
Anyway, all the best to you,
Writing is not a job, writing is an activity.
If you are a good writer, you can make an income from it. But most people are not, and they still can write. Writing is never a mistake. Everyone can write and there is no reason not to. Most things we do for fun don’t make an income. That doesn’t mean we should not do them.
The idea that people should not create art because its not profitable is one of the worst perversions of capitalism.
No doubt all you said is correct from your subjective perspective Martin, but you missed Kati’s point, in my view. You didn’t address the main components of her plight, which has much merit, even, I would think, to a casual observer.
When the crying on the floor is all done, stand up and get back to work.
Steve never said that writing is for everybody. Clearly it has not turned out to be what you anticipated when you “gave up everything.” Yet, you had faith in yourself at one time. Have faith in yourself again, and figure out a way out of this. At 60, you still have good years left, and contributions to make. Will those contributions come from your writing? Only you can answer that. Your muse is still there, but her voice can’t get through the desperation you are feeling as Resistance has taken control. I wish you well!
If you write for the sake of income, you shouldn’t write at all.
If you write for the sake of writing but suffer from a lack of income, you should get a job to pay the bills and support your writing. Every aspiring writer wants to write full-time, but life is full of challenges, hardship, and compromises. If you choose to burn all bridges just to write, it’s not only not smart, it’s dangerous.
If you want to write, you can write. You don’t have to quit your job and put everything at stake to do it.
Must say, this was not what I expected to read this morning. I am not a writer by vocation or avocation, but a creative nonetheless. I come here each Wednesday for inspiration, wisdom, camaraderie, and a dose of reality.
Today was a dose of reality. Usually tastes like shit.
My heart broke as I read this. I know failure–maybe not abject, living in a dumpster failure–but that may only be because my pain tolerance is lower than others. So I’ve learned to pivot. Not a conscious, well-thought out pivot, but in hindsight, I realize that I’ve pivoted numerous times in my life.
I appreciate what others have written before. Some compassionate ‘hard advice’. Kinda like my coach telling me if I want to run faster–then I better run faster.
Something just occurred to me this week. I started a consulting business to teach resilience. I do love being in class, meeting new people, creating new relationships and connections. But my attention span is limited. I am now 5 years from the Army–and to call my business ’boutique’ is utter fiction. I have one client.
What occurred to me is that I actually prefer building businesses, programs, and employment opportunities for others. So I need to put on my big-boy britches, and build a business in which I’m forced to hire others to do the actual training. I can then poke my head in and out – very similar to demonstrating ‘command presence, or leadership by walking around’-gaining the connections I desire–but having served others in the way I’m uniquely gifted.
Is there a pivot within reach for you? Are there lines of effort, services that are tangential to writing in which you demonstrate unusual competence–but have never really appreciated?
Short example. I read Gladwell’s “Tipping Point” in 2004. Great read. I identified as a ‘connector’ — in fact on the high end of that spectrum. I know people. Tons of people. And I stay in touch. So what? How does this pay the bills?
I have never known how until about 20 days ago. I have a new strategy to build a business around facilitating organizations build/grow their membership via programs that build community within the organizations, and finding new connections for the organization.
Will it work? Fuck, who knows.
This I do know. It doesn’t really matter. I’m inspired. I’m working harder than ever–and their is joy. Maybe flow is more accurate. Oh, and I’m no spring chicken either. I turned 50 last summer.
My financial situation hasn’t changed–but my energy levels, creative thoughts, and the hue of the world has gotten lighter along with the lengthening of days. I am emerging from a hibernation.
Lastly, this all coincided when I realized a victim narrative I’ve held for the past 30 years or so. This left me believing I am entitled. Rather gross and disgusting, but it was soooo seductive. I didn’t even realize it. Was the idea for a pivot born of this insight? Not directly. It came when I decided to take this shit seriously.
I want to thank Brian for his thoughtful and personally focused reply to Kati’s letter.
I also didn’t expect the contents of the letter Steve posted.
As a creative and small business owner that has doubtful moments tantamount to despair as Kati has expressed I understand. It happens. When I began my business I lept. I did not know the time and amount of money it would take. I did not know the journey I had stepped into. I was not aware of the wilderness ahead and there are times I also am lost in the forest and despair of finding my way. It’s easy when you are high in the air looking down to give direction, but much harder when you are on the ground and finding your way through your own life’s difficulties (and joys).
I don’t read Kati’s letter as a giving up or need for a ‘coaching’ moment. Be a better writer and then you’ll be successful (uh, … not. There are many excellent writers that are broke), stop wallowing in self-pity and be stronger (have you not experienced that pain and introspection are integral to the writers’ trade?), be better, just do it, write more. All good advice – for the person who wrote it – and not necessarily for Katie or what she was asking for when she wrote Steve her letter.
What I hear when I read this letter is a woman who has been a warrior of her craft. She just submitted her thrid manuscript to a publisher (like a real publisher, not a self-publisher like Amazon or Lulu press)! That is no easy task. Submission takes grit determination, creative acumen, and being a pro.
I also hear someone who had hoped for something more from her writing than she has received. Don’t we all? Don’t we all hope to have some acclaim or recognition, or at the very least some income from the ‘work’ we do – because what we do IS work. It takes extraordinary stamina and self-management. Cudo’s to Katie for having done her work well.
And I also hear someone who might like to hear about our successes and struggles. To know she is not alone at this moment of despair and has the support of others who bear her craft as she finds a way to what she would like to have happen next.
A path has been taken and paths by their very nature have forks and splits and changes of direction. A creative mind and diligent spirit have reached a place of fatigue and in that fatigue, it is hard to dream and re-vision, difficult to see the way forward on the path.
My question to Katie and this is not for an immediate answer or ultimate solution, but a question to take in, to contemplate is:
When you have written three books, are 60, broke, and you are too tired to get up anymore, and writing another book seems like a bad idea, and your muse has left you, and you wish you hadn’t taken the creative path AND YOU DID take that path … when all of that, what would you like to have happen now?
When all of that, Ja mitä sinä haluaisit että tapahtuisi?
My heart is with you Kati
???????? Thank you, Sharon. For Kati, and for all creatives who are going through a harder, dryer moment.
As a writer and business owner who’s just starting to see the tide turn back, after much struggle and despair (and at 38, I expect more twists and turn to come), your message touched my heart and resilience and hopefulness. Just as Kati’s touched my fears and anxiety and helplessness.
Both are two sides of the same life force. Creativity, to me, is the ability to find solutions where they’re not apparent, non-obvious.
The place where you’re at, Kati, is a perfect place to experience more of your ability to create solutions for yourself, and as you’re tired and exhausted and you have no idea what to do next… I wonder what new, unexpected, untried path your creativity will open up for you to experiment with.
Brian and Sharon, your comments are so refreshing, thank you!! Sharon I must quote you with triple underlines!
“What would you like to happen now?”
Kati, while tough to answer, worth the effort to explore. A coach asked me this when I was in the depths of despair as a creative person myself. She gave me permission to let myself off the hook for past mistakes and things I did that I couldn’t change.
“Who is the person that I want to be now?”
I was finally able to admit my truest truth. And now I’m rebuilding one step at a time. IF for you the answer is: “all I want is stability,” there is no shame or judgment in that! As long as you have a purpose you can clutch to your heart in order to move forward, that’s all that matters now. And please know, you’ve got a collective group of fellow creative folks here that are sending their absolute best your way. Please keep in touch somehow!
First of all, I should preface this with the comment that I adore Steve Pressfield because of the hard-hitting cosmic 2×4 delivery of his experiences and life and sharing. That being said, I must admit I would not use that approach with Kati. So…
Amazing string of content right here. As I read through Brian, Sharon, Anael, Katie, I recognized the expansion of a theme of compassion, love, and support. My knee jerk response to Kati is to want to take her in my arms and just hold her and let her cry it all out. There is nothing more shattering than a dream lost.
The expressions of compassion, love, and support here are soothing, like that hug.
THEN, my thought is, don’t stop now! You’re almost there! Do whatever it takes to keep moving, and I don’t know what menial job you could take that would feed you, but there must be something.
And if there is no one to ask for help, then ask for help from within.
Thank you, Brian, Sharon, Anael, Katie, for your heartfelt responses and words of support. I find that a part of me echoes what Kati wrote, and I feel those responses as if they were to me, too. And yes, “Who is the person that I want to be now?” Good question for all of us.
I am really interested in what Steve has to say to all this!
Kati, a virtual hug, support, and love for you.
Finally someone who responded to Kati with some sense. The previous “kick in the pants blah blah blah,” clearly written by those who are not 60, broke and exhausted or have ever been they could not make such idealist statements! You are the only one worth reading for so many reasons. It would be your response that I would find most encouraging and inspiring.
I think that artists in general need to be honest with themselves about what they are willing to give up. If you jump off a cliff with no means of support other than your writing, you are taking a huge risk. Some artists are not willing to give up any kind of financial security and will somehow figure out a way to earn a decent income and create art. I have known some of these artists and I admire them greatly. In Finland, at least you did not have to worry about how you were going to secure health care for yourself, which is a major barrier that artists in the US have to deal with. I took a middle ground and brought in come income while depending on my family and my husband for some of my support. This is also tricky, because I always wanted to be more independent than I was. These are hard facts for all artists to face. BTW, it is my understanding that Steve took time off to write but always went back somewhere to earn income so that he could write. I do not think he ever advocated jumping off a cliff.
One of my favorite authors, Ishmael Reid, says writing is fighting. I agree. And I would add, it is fighting for your life. You have to somehow fight through depression and use it to get to the next level. It’s hard work itself and requires honesty about money, as Susanna says, compassion (for yourself) and a kick! I was surprised to hear that in Finland which I have always thought of as a social safety-net kind of place has few jobs for a 60 year old.
A taste of the reality – true. I have written and published two books and they have cost me ‘everything’ – still I feel the urge to write another one, and so I seem to be dealing both with my sense of insanity and having to keep my head above the waters. Full time writer I guess you become when you have the financial situation to support your life – be it because you’re trust funder, married wealthy, got inheritance, or happened to hit it mainstream big … may we all find the balance and have some moments of success, may we all continue to do what we love, in whatever way we can.
Sweet blessing at the end. May we all find the balance to do what we love in whatever way we can.
Thank you for that.
Thank you, Kati and Steve. It’s a real world out there and speaking truth is valuable and precious. I’m 70, I’ve 14 books under my belt, and I’ve never made a living from it. I see the stats from the self-pub hustlers and green envy can well up in me till I remind myself their game is not my game. What I do is what I do and I’ve only been able to do it with wild abandon since I hit 60. It’s a magic age when we’re old enough to know how to live and young enough to get right on and do it. If you want to write, if it depresses you and destroys your joy in living in living when you don’t, then write. But be wise. Like me you may have to find sources of income that chime reasonably well with your skills and your time and your ethics – part-time, free-lancing, lowering your sights. There’s a lot of juggling and trade-offs, but if writing is part of who you are and you have something you want to say, I say go for it. Find a way. Don’t give up…
I really appreciate your thoughts. Both wise and kind.
Well said Dorothy
Yes! Well said!
Kati, this is the exact time you should be writing. Use this pain and turn it into a hero’s journey story. Also, practice gratitude – you can breathe, you can think, you can see, you have hands you can use to write. I hope my two cents helps a little
Kati, thanks for your courage, honesty, and true confessions. I’m a singer-songwriter who performs Christian music. I support my family and music ministry with a scientific writing job. It’s a different side of creativity, a bit more structure, fewer car chases, love scenes, or spectacular explosions, but it makes a difference for patients. Maybe you could map out your transferable skills and look for an employment opportunity that supports (not drains) your writer’s soul? Sometimes I fall prey to “what if” thinking – what might have happened if I’d taken the leap into music full-time? Where would I be? Well, I’d be thinner and a lot more hungry, but my musical circumstances may be exactly as they are. Don’t give up on you – you’re the best friend you have! Lift your eyes up from your shoelaces to the horizon, and look for the next adventure on your path! You live in the land of fire and ice, and your heritage is one of toughness, resilience, and courage. Keep in touch through Steve and take us along on your journey!
My heart goes out to you. Take a breath, look around and see what surrounds you. As much as this is a really tough place to be (and you don’t want to be here too often), it is a place that many never reach. If you can find the reality of this moment, you will have found something of true value to others (and yourself). It may not reward you directly in a financial way, but it is of huge value to the way that you understand life. The letter your wrote to Steve is testimony to the fact that you have the ability to understand this reality without it completely overwhelming you. There are good days and bad days and there are those rare days when you are right on your edge. Take what you can from your experience.
You are not alone, you got this.
I am a working artist that’s been making art since forever. Now at age 68, I find myself more creative in many ways. I’ve always had to work a “day job” in order to pay the bills. Yes, I’ve sold work and had exhibitions in galleries and museums. Not enough money to survive by any stretch of the imagination. The need to create supersedes making a living. It gives meaning to my life. Writers write, artists make art, musicians make music, dancers dance, because they have something to say/show that no one has done in quite the same way that they can. These are not words of “yes, everything will be ok” just keep going. When I have stopped drawing and painting because I have thought “why bother” and other excuses, I have always come back to making art.
Also at my age, I realize I have more years behind me than ahead of me. For the 60 year old Finnish woman, there are things that only you can express in your writing. Take a break from writing and see if you can get a part-time job, sell stuff, make stuff babysit, old people sit—anything to pull you out of the financial hole your are in.
If the feeling of wanting to create/write again comes to you, that means that the muse never left you but took a break while you get your financial house in order. Good luck!
This is me! And Kati is me! And here I was complaining because I’m 44. Wake up, Jill. Stop the pity party and realise you’re not the only one ~ there are others like you who feel the same way and have kept on going.
Big, big hugs for Kati and everyone else who feels the same. Don’t give up. FIGHT! Because nobody else can make what you do. Only you. And since what you create is one of a kind, doesn’t that make it worth fighting for?
My experience has shown, that whether you are a writer, a musician or artist of any kind, making a living at it is rare. Most of us have a job of some sort to support their art activities. This is not being a “sell out” we all have to eat and live as best we can, and with luck we can also simultaneously enjoy our art.
My heart goes out to you. Steve’s Do the Work calls out some activities that rob us of willingness, clarity, and common sense. His work is popular with us(writers) because we identify.
The issue is simple, add writing at all costs/self detriment to his list of maladies. Which include several addictions. Then take next right/write steps for you.
We are only trapped by our own devices. The edge of the universe, the source of all energy has never been seen.
Reach out to me, [email protected]
Lovely and allowing. My concern for you ,Kati, is the level of fatigue and despair you cited. Other advice I read here might have seemed cold and judgmental, in that state, but could be an expression of the writer’s fear of finding themselves in a similar place. Turn to and take in what nurtures you now. My own resource is nature, but my hope is that you find a source and re-source yourself. The hard realities will still be there when you are ready. All the best.
Wow, Kati. I’m sorry it’s been so hard.
But, writing probably isn’t for everyone (I’ve been trying to get myself to write fiction for 70 years and still can’t get anything finished – yet), but I’ve made a good living as a technical writer for 40 years and been a food blogger for fun for 5 (with no ads or sponsorship – keeps the design clean, my opinions my own).
Story writing is a lover, not a mate. Expecting to get an income from it is risky, unreliable, and a distraction from the actual creative process. Most of the author names you know were not instant or financial successes.
But, please pick yourself up, find a way to make a living, and get back to writing for its own sake.
All the best, Barbara
I feel for you, Kati, I really do. And I know the feeling that you describe very well.
What you describe has, I believe, to do with the concept of “sunken costs” in behavioral economics.
It is a complicated concept but I translated it into something simple for myself:
– Do never look back at what you lost doing something
– Never try to make up for your past losses with current gains
– Start each new project (each new book) with a balanced account.
– Do not allow your new start to be burdened by your past mistakes
It’s hard, I don’t often manage to follow my own rules. But deep down, I know it’s right to follow them. Start something new, Kati. Let go of the past. Look ahead. And if you are tempted to look back, then force yourself to see the good things that have undoubtedly happened in your life.
I wish you all the best,
Lot of “tough love” in these comments, but “get up and keep working” is a heartless response to such vulnerability. There are no easy answers. Some of the most prolific and profound writers in history died broken, in poverty, or surrounded by vultures more concerned with getting a few more bucks from a literary estate than anything about art.
The reality is, for many of us, if our wildest dreams came true and we became full time writers we would be faced by serious financial issues, insurance worries, and other practical but serious concerns. Gloss over Kati’s experiences at your own peril. If you can’t accept the reality of her situation, if you want to dismiss it as self-pity or proof that she’s just not a talented enough writer, then perhaps you lack the courage to be clear-eyed about the reality of the situation.
As Tim Waggoner wrote in his great essay “Writing Dreams and Harsh Realities,” not all salmon get to spawn. Kati did nothing wrong. She pursued her dream and got to a level of success most of us would envy. And this is her outcome. We should at least acknowledge that and thank her for her bravery in expressing her truth in an age when so many people are obsessed with image and the appearance of success.
So much truth in this Alex.
I always try to remember that ‘winning’ is self defined and I have the choice to define ‘winning’ in the way that is best for me. Not that it always feels good, but that I can still get the most out of a situation.
Thank you Alex. This is a heartfelt message.
The truth is here : artistic and financial success do not always come hand in hand. As long as you’re doing everything you can, doing your best with your circumstances and dreams, and with as much clarity as you possibly can, then you’re good. Results may vary. They’re out of your control, and say nothing of your worth as a writer or a person.
Rather, they encourage you to adapt, whether happily or with the sting of frustration. And hopefully, while you adapt, you can still find joy and a space to make your art.
This is a hard road, the road of artistic expression, and for many of us here, it is a road very worth taking, despite the hardships, despite the sacrifices, and despite the sentiment of failure we sometimes experience.
Just like Alex says, though, Kati, yours is not a path of failure. You’ve gotten published, you’ve finished books. Financial struggle is its own problem, with its own set of solutions. It doesn’t strike me so much as failure, as it does as an accident, a twist in life’s narrative. A stressful one, sure, but just a twist, not an end.
It is Saturday morning (Feb 15), and I awoke early. I have come back to this page a couple of times since Wednesday. Thursday I marveled at the response, initially thought the site was hacked–bots or robo responses. Did not have the time to read them all.
This was the best response/counsel I have read yet (still early, as of 0626 15 Feb it is 112 responses). After reading your post, I copied it to begin a manuscript of how to respond to others’ pain. I know there are gems below, but I’m starting with yours. I don’t know what you do–kinda wish you’d hyperlink your name so I can find out–but one thing you are a fountainhead of mature compassionate counsel.
Miss Kati will be the best judge of which comments are helpful or “heartless.
Kati, I am the other side of that coin. I am 69, nearly a decade older than you. I’m a trained painter, and aspiring writer. I wanted to paint full time, but I couldn’t figure out how to pay the bills and support a creative spouse. I’m kind of a low-energy person, and my job was draining, so I made excuses for not devoting more time to my avocation. “When I’m retired,” I thought.
I’m retired now, not wealthy but living comfortably on a modest retirement income, painting and writing, but the poor choices I made when I was younger haunt me too.
I wish I had tried harder, devoted the time I should have to my dreams. You at least gave it everything.
“Do what you love and the money will follow” was always a lie. The history books are filled with wonderful artists and authors whose work is now famous but who were failures in their lifetime. Certainly many others are lost to history.
I believe it was Desmond Tutu (or perhaps the Dalai Lama) who said, “While there is life, there is potential.” You are only sixty. You could have another twenty years of creative life ahead of you. If you can keep body and soul together you can create. Maybe you have it in you to tell your story in a novel—from the comments here, certainly seems to strike a chord with many. Maybe there is another way to carry on, writing or teaching what you have learned, or another way your experience can bear fruit.
Don’t lose heart. Do what you love anyway. That is the essence of courage.
What a thoughtful, kind, compassionate response! As I read Kati’s note, it wasn’t immediately clear to me how Kati had gone all in and left nothing. It is so courageous. Thank you for finding a slice of truth that I initially missed–and I’m sure Kati hadn’t realized this either. Well said. You are wise.
I’ve had some success writing for magazines and newspapers–aka “freelancing.” I don’t write for a living, but I know people who do–generally they aren’t making a living from story writing though–at least not at first.
If I lived in Finland and spoke the language, I’d probably take an adult education course (hey, isn’t university free in Finland?) in “feature writing,” and I’d figure out where my interests lie (for me it’s architecture and urban design), and where the publications are that intersect with my interests. Then I’d start writing for those publications. It’d be a way to put some cash in pocket, and might even lead to some writing that wasn’t about “me.” Worked for Ernest Hemingway, George Orwell, and lots of others.
Here you go: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Finnish_magazines
Get to work!
Or, Kati, you could teach creative writing. With published books, you certainly have the credentials to do that.
I’ve been writing for 40 years. I wish I could tell you that I have made a living from writing, but I have not. I have augmented my income and used it to invest for retirement. My books have given me a credibility that is hard to achieve any other way.
Truth is, sometimes I am just driven to write whether the book will make money or not. I helps me get my thoughts in order. I can’t not write. Maybe somewhere down the line, one of my books will take off, but I’m not relying on it.
At a book signing decades ago, Clive Cussler (novelist) told me: “Just keep writing.” And I do.
When you study the path of most successful writers, they had a job and wrote at night and on weekends. They didn’t quit their jobs to write. They write to be able to quit their jobs if their writing takes off.
Wow, what a writing prompt this morning. Thanks for sharing the reality check, Steve.
I’m not a “writer”, but I write. My profession is music, and I’ve really been through the ringer with it. Things are finally starting to level off.
I can’t definitively say why it’s starting to get better, or that the upward curve will continue. But I wake up each day with a spirit of surrender and of service. If my work does not serve somebody besides myself then I will get no joy from it. I only realized this after I hit bottom.
If you are at the bottom, Kari, then my heart is with you. You are also not alone there.
Folks are bringing some hard advice here, which may or may not be helpful. I’m getting some heavy military vibes in this thread, but I myself was (more than) once on the brink of suicide because I just couldn’t see a way forward.
Such tones might have pushed me over a tragic edge, especially if delivered by strangers. The outer world does not have that same luxury of structure, it’s not just about “Bring it or don’t” and this kind of message can sometimes be costly for the rest of us.
My case was not a failure of discipline. It was a creative failure.
I hadn’t run out of grit, I’d just run out of ideas. The only idea left was to call it the end of the line. Reach for the bookend. Thank God I lacked the courage.
If you’ve run out of ideas, it’s a chance to expand your vision. This is not just about good book ideas. But writing books has taught you much about how to work through puzzles and complete projects. That’s all most of the world requires from you in order to get paid.
I made the shift and you can too. It doesn’t have to mean the end of anything. I still write songs but I make my living producing media for people with a budget. It doesn’t have to be big money, just get me through the month.
People are out there who need your help. Find them, and then agree on a fair price and get them to connect you with more people who also need your help. There is so much bad writing out there! People definitely need you and they will pay you fairly.
Writing IS for everybody. Being a “writer” is definitely NOT.
You are a verb, not a noun.
I wish you luck.
Thank you your courage to open that Kimono. I’ve saved your comments as well. You are a verb, not a noun.
I’m stealing this. This is brilliant and wise. Well said, and again, thank you. I, too, have been in some of the darkest places my mind is capable of going. Maybe it is part of the human condition, or maybe creatives tend towards the extremes.
I am in a similar situation as Kati and I am reminded of something Elizabeth Gilbert wrote in Big Magic. She suggested we measure our worth not by our “successes” and “failures” but by our dedication to our path.
I’ve read your letter to Steven twice, and I am compelled to respond.
I’m 42, so you’ve got a number of years of experience and wisdom on me. I hope you don’t think what I write in response here is facetious or simplistic in any way. I do not intend it to be.
I will write in bullet points, because I think it might be easier to scan and digest.
– Are you healthy? Physically and mentally healthy?
– If the answer is no, I send you my sympathy and I wish you well in finding the support necessary to recover, at least so that you can experience and view the world with some optimism again. (I’m sure there was a time when you viewed the world with optimism. Can you remember it? What was it like?)
– If the answer is yes, then you still have time. I am also in the European Union (Ireland calling…) and we are fortunate here that our life expectancy is generally into the 80s. So looking at this objectively, given an average run of luck and a small investment in your own physical and mental health from this point forwards, you could easily have 15+ years of productive life left. This is perhaps more than 25% of your entire working life.
– I don’t want to pre-empt or otherwise predict what Steven might write, but it seems to me at least possible that your letter is in its entirety a manifestation of Resistance. (I wrote a blog post recently on this topic, called A Reason Not To Do It. It might be somewhat relevant to your current struggles: https://www.shanebreslin.com/blog/a-reason-not-to-do-it/ )
– Have you considered another way to make a living, a way that would allow you to come back at your writing from a different angle? You mention that you write only in Finnish and only books. How about other ways?
– How much money do you need each month to support yourself while you find a way to re-dedicate yourself to writing?
– Can you get this income another way? Writing remains a valuable profession and there are many businesses, social enterprises, nonprofits, NGOs and Government organisations that need people who are able to write well to better tell their story in written format. Never before in history has there been more words published than now, in 2020. Of course, many of those words are badly written, confusing or misleading or “clunky”. This is where a good writer can come in and add value. (Not everyone will value writing in this way, but that’s okay. One of the beautiful things about the world is that there are many different points of view. You will find people who will value your work and will become your client.)
– This income could quite quickly get you to the required amount per month that you need to support yourself (Upwork is a decent place to start. If you go there, two tips: 1. Don’t get caught in the price-per-hour race to the bottom. Set a price you’re happy to work for. 2. Demonstrate your value at all stages. There are many people who only want the cheapest person, but there are many others who also want the best. Aim for the best, then be active, be responsive and be patient and you will get the rewards.)
– Once you have your monthly income catered for, then you can carve out the time you need to dedicate to your higher work. This could even prove liberating. When you are freed from the imperative that your writing needs to bring in your income to make a living, perhaps then your writing will find the breath of the Muse on its neck again.
Finally, I wish you well in your endeavours, Kati. All of us are, I think, somewhere on the same path that you are currently treading. Perhaps there is wisdom that you can share about your journey to this point to date. If you can, try to embrace the uncertainty of where you find yourself right now. And if you can face it, I strongly recommend that you write a long (2000-3000 words) article outlining all of your story to this point, what you’ve learned, and where you’d like to go from here, and post it on Medium.com for people interested in writing to see.
Good luck Kati.
I know where you’re coming from, Kati. I’m sorry it has been so hard for you. Writing isn’t easy. Writing for income is that much harder. You’re not alone. Writing for a career brings with it great uncertainty.
There is a myth that you have to be a full-time writer to be a “real writer.” Don’t believe that lie. Stephen King even had a job teaching. Einstein had a day job too. Look at Steve’s story, working in orchards for months and months then quitting to write for a month or two then finding another job.
Resistance tells you that you failed, but you haven’t. You have so many opportunities out there. Find something to pay the bills, and then keep writing. Filling the page is a great place to find rest. Again, you’re not alone. Keep sharing stories.
My heart aches for you. I too have felt the pain of what I thought was a failure. Please know this, failure is your path to greatness! because you had the courage to follow your dreams, you have learned the cost. Writing another book is not a bad idea, it is a brilliant idea. You must press through this! Write about this experience, it is guaranteed to be a bestseller with the proper marketing because it is so relatable to all who have followed a dream. This is real and raw and people relate to what is real! Turn your pain into purpose! Your Muse has not left you, she is here, cheering you on and calling you back to your pen.
Sending good vibes and support across cyber-space Kati. I have no witty advice to give, but there are support groups, counseling, and wisdom out there just waiting for you. Many blessings to you, Kent
Thank you for sharing. So often we hear persistence is key. Without hindsight it’s difficult to tell if what we’re persisting is worthwhile. I would love to learn more about how to evaluate this in the moment?
Writing is not a vocation or an occupation (even when paying) — its an affliction. I know Johnson said no man but a fool writes save for money, but I do it because I have no choice. Sure, I make a good living at it but I’d do it if they didn’t pay me. It’s like breathing –it’s autonomic. True, they may not be paying you NOW but your note proves to me – you’re a writer. ‘Writing is a bad idea’ — proves it. Hell, that’ sounds like the first line of a book I’d read.
Buck Up!! You will never gain anything with this kind od thinking. If you have been reading Steve’s work, you would realize that this is normal. Yes Normal!!
So, from me to you -> I Love you and support you to take the next step to get your Muse back. He/She is just waiting for your attitude change to be with you again, for good.
You must convince your self to believe in YOU. You can do it. Ive been through several missteps and survived. We only fail when we quit for good. Enough of the slober victum energy, now is the time to get BACK IN TH? GAME.
Love Peace and JOY
I put $500,000 dollars over the last 25 years into my voice. I still owe $120,000 to the US government for music school loans. I am an opera singer that took 35 years to master Bel Canto technique and it took me 8 years to overcome stage fright and 35 years to overcome addiction, sexual assault and psychological abuses. I used to write all the time as a kid and young adult. I had dream journals, books of poems and short stories. I am on Lexapro for anxiety and went so far as to smoke Toad venom on from a Colombian Curadera living in a high rise off 5th Avenue. The Toad sent me to the ER in an ambulance believing I was dying of a heart attack at 2:30 am on my 50th birthday. I have been so depressed in the past that I couldn’t shower for days on end and my apartment looked like it belonged on a TV show about hoarders. Luckily, unlike a friend of mine, it wasn’t reported to the health department. She has hoarsed garbage so many decades in her apartment that they had to bulldoze the entire structure! Talk about being embarrassed in front of one’s neighbors. Maybe you should try and get on some antidepressants! Maybe you can get a waitressing job or pose nude in art classes and maybe if you forget about writing and what your life should be and actually is, the muse will come back and inspire you to write a story that blows you and others away…or you can write a dark and depressing story about a woman who failed miserably and became insane and poked her eyes out with a stick like Betty did in Betty Blue. I recommend you read the book called: Manual of Psychomagic, The Practice of Shamanic Psychotherapy, by Alejandro Jodorowsky or you could watch his film Santa Sangre instead?
Dear Kati . . .
First, congratulations on submitting your third manuscript. I hear how disappointed you are that it did not sell.
I have discovered over the many years I’ve been writing, that it is a journey. I am still on the road, despite many disappointments and rewards. Other writers, much better writers than I, long ago gave up. You are at a crossroads on your journey. Do you give up? Or do you quit? In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy encounters the Scarecrow and his advice is to take one road or the other. It does not matter.
Do you love writing?
Do you love writing enough to become willing to do whatever it takes to keep writing?
Have you gotten feedback on your writing, in order to make it better, worthy of being read?.
Do you love writing enough you get a job to support you in continuing to write?
Do you have fun writing?
Do you have a community of other Finnish writers that you can turn to for support?
Rather than quit, I have done all of the above.
Other people have decided they did not love it enough. They loved other things better. Some of them are now earning their livings doing other things … things that are in alignment with what they love love love.
You are at the crossroads. The choice is yours. Take the advice of the Scarecrow.
And go in either direction . . . but do whatever it takes, whether you turn right or left.
That is what I have done.
I wish you much love on your journey.
having visited your country of finland, i was left wondering how anyone but the rugged could possibly live there. it was a nice visit, a beautiful country. as well, it’s my bias that anywhere one travels for the first time is worth the effort.
with that writ, maybe if you can–> move! shake up your life is my point! a move to italy or greece would be my first recommendation. having been to each 5 times this century, i find these countries very much to my liking as might you.
maybe your muse is hiding if not awaiting your discovery in one if not both?!?
while maybe coming to this decision to move, if not to italy or greece but somewhere you choose, do write about it. in other words, literally walk the walk as you chronicle what you experience.
i write about the financial world, almost daily. been doing such for over 20 years (im 70). but before i wrote anything about what is my expertise, i quite successfully walked that walk. and that fact allowed me to chose to write– not having to write. and i write in order to pass on to others what i know– which should be the main motive, at the heart (yours) of anything, about which you write.
i know me. i know if under pressure to write i couldn’t do that well enough to satisfy my hitting the “send” button!
i start my writing day at 6am. i know me, and i’m a morning person. i have my coffee with my muse each morn– maybe you’re the same? or maybe you’re an evening person. whatever, best to know which!
and, as steve teaches and preaches, writing is a discipline; probably like none other.
key on what you know, what you feel, and especially what you can pass on to others who will only then choose to spend their time and energy reading what you will offer them in order to better their lives.
such a change takes courage. but what in life doesn’t?
The comments remind me of what Phllip Roth said in 2009 about the novel being “a minority cult” within 25 years.
This letter was signed off by some Kati, but it has Resistance written all over it. Resistance is fluent in human emotion and human rationalization as well as fluent in Finnish. The Muse is there, but she sees that you are distracted by Resistance’s allies. And what powerful allies they are. Resistance is seducing you, Kati. We all been there. But, the good news is that the Muse is seating on the corner with her arms crossed waiting on you to get over yourself. Waiting on you start doing your work. Waiting on you to Finnish your work.
Perhaps you’re right, writing is a bad idea. You’re broke. You’re depressed. The Muse seems to have abandoned you. At this point I suggest you stop. Do something else for awhile. Find something tolerable to do to earn some income, or better yet, fun to do. Writing will always be there and it can wait until you can give your full attention to it when you can sit and do the work with a clearer head. Resistance, of course, will raise its ugly voice even when you aren’t broke. And Resistance can even pressure you to write when you’re not in good state of mind. Step back. Assess the situation. Yes, the income from writing would be nice, a cookie. Yet you have no idea what influence your writing will have on future generations, even if it’s in Finnish. If your creation is meant to be brought into this world, you will make it happen and the urgency will nag at you until it does.
It’s the same in any creative endeavor. I am a classically trained trumpet player. Many years ago, when my four children started moving out of the house, I made a career change. I took my trumpet out of its case, practiced as much as possible, took lessons with a world-renowned trumpet player, and started taking auditions. I lost audition after audition. The truth – there are many, many competent players out there and a lot of them are half my age. To make things worse, I live in a very rural area. My neighbors are cows and alpacas. What was I to do? I got depressed. I got angry. I became stressed. These responses started affecting my health. These are not strategies for success! So, I reevaluated. If opportunities are not offered to me, then I will make my own, so I started a brass quintet.
After getting some training, I am now a certified mind-body health coach. Nutrition and wellness have also been a life-long passion of mine. This, too, is very fulfilling to me, but I am now taking a new attitude and approach. Relax. Learn. Grow personally. Reach out to others. It’s not about me. I love what I do. I still play the trumpet. Every day, whether I have a gig or not. Why? Because I love it. It gives me joy. It gives me a creative outlet. I am trusting God with the outcome instead of forcing what was never meant to be in the first place. AND, I’ve learned a great deal about life along the way.
It’s unfortunate that Kati was unable to look at writing as fun, as an escape instead of a burden. I was fortunate to have found Heinlein’s Rules and a technique called writing into the dark. I was also fortunate to understand that the conscious, critical mind is for learning, and the subconscious, creative mind is for creating.
But most of all, I am fortunate in that I’ve learned to trust myself and what I’ve learned about writing over the years. Now I drop a character with a problem into a setting and start writing. This attitude enables me to allow my characters to tell the story that they, not I, am living. As a result, writing is the most fun I can have with my clothes on. (grin) And I’m making a pretty good living at it.
In short, if writing were work, I wouldn’t write. I’d find something fun to do.
Financial risk is the reason so many American writers turn to careers in academia – writers teaching writing. My concern has always been that this lifestyle impoverishes writing. What are you going to write about eventually, but teaching writing?
I take inspiration from Chekhov, who wrote, ironically enough, to support his career as a country physician, the source of many great stories and insights into human nature. We could do worse as writers than choosing a life that is an interesting source of material – and financial stability. Having said that, it is certainly impossible to “have it all” at any one time. Mothers of young kids, especially, will find the balance tricky.
One of the wisest things I’ve heard is that writing the book is 20% of the work and marketing it is 80%. I think truer words have never been spoken. So, while writing (for me) was an excruciating, soul bearing, high pressure, fear inducing experience (as well as liberating, surprising, and victorious), and I thought it was so very, very difficult to do, it is true – it was 20% of the work. The marketing is relentless. Someone said, “Well, you knew what you were getting into.” Nope. Like a new marriage. Not a clue. I have to be willing to talk about my book. Like Steve says, check my motives, make them for the world, not about me. How will my book benefit others? Another thing that is true -and I laugh to think it, yet it’s true, “no one wants to read your #$it.” You have to help them want to. Congratulations on being brave, on being vulnerable. Shoot lots of arrows to hit that bulls eye and never, ever give up – but do be willing to switch directions. Believe. “How to Live Forever; A Guide to Writing the Final Chapter of Your Life Story.”
Kati, your despair is aaWonderful example (I think) of the state of All is lost. And useable for a story! A reminder from Rilke….no feeling is final. ????
I like to say: “Do your work, do it well, then let go and let God”.
If you have something to say, say it. Put it out there and then look away.
Some will love it, some will hate it and some will be disinterested.
They aren’t the judge.
Get a part time job and keep writing. On the good days and bad days, keep going. Don’t let the negative voices get the best of you. I imagine if you’d have stayed working you’d be regretting not perusing writing. Just because you did not get the result you wished for does not mean you failed. Get some new scenery, change up your routine, this will inspire new writing. Stay away from the what-ifs and focus on “what could be” if you keep creating.
You walk the path until it becomes you and then you are it.
My perception with what you wrote and maybe feeling are SIMPLY THOUGHTS where RESISTANCE has gotten the upper hand. As Steve has said “put your ass where your heart is.”
Three questions. Why did you start writing? Yes, I understand it was your dream, but why? Second, when did you start and what is your idea about the acceptable length of the journey to fulfilling your dream? And third, is the dream big enough to continue despite your current obstacle. If not, was it then a dream worthwhile pursuing?
Dear Kati/Steve/Fellow Warriors,
I must say that I read this blog every week and this is the first time I have ever felt the need to respond. First Kati I want to congratulate you not only on your journey as an artist but your enduring struggle to find a place for your muse in this world. I would say that you are now in possession of what Mark Mclaughlin refers to in Cognitive Dominance as “Terrible Knowledge.” To quote the book here “(I have a sense) of really knowing the truth in a way that other people don’t know it. And all the truth is harsh and impossible to really accept, and yet you have to go on and function.” I salute how much you gave to your muse. The lengths you must have gone to. The depths of commitment it had to take to remove the people from your life that were holding you back from bringing your gift to the world no matter how much heartache it brought you.
I thank you for writing what you did because while I am not in your exact circumstance I too have failed and failed again while continuing to find a way to stake everything to bring my gift to the world. You may be broke and broken but you are not alone. There are others out there who are suffocating in the belly of the beast and may have been there for years. Your post gives me hope that I am not alone in scratching my way through the side of a whale.
So I ask you this. Can you remember what it was like to write and truly tap into the core of the universe and bring your gift to this side? To quote Cognitive Dominance again: ” But we also have life experiences when we are perfectly in sync with our environment. Our “having” goal is perfectly attuned to our “being” goal. We “feel” like we can’t miss, like we are exactly where we should be at exactly the right time and that our personal skills (agency) are perfectly aligned with our specific environment (arena). If we’re Ted Williams and we come to the plate for the last at bat of our career, we :know” we’ll hit a home run. And we do.” I can say that with this post that you shared with Steve you may not feel like you have done anything with your gift but it hit a home run for me.
If your muse has left you and been gone for years did she leave a note? Do you know her and love her well enough to know where she might have gone? Is there any trail or clue to find your way back to her? Are there small things that built up that she hated that you refused to change?
Of course I hope you find a way to make some kind of money whether that be through telemarketing or some kind of desk job that is not too labor intensive for you. I ask that you keep going. If there are people that you need to connect with then do that .At least give yourself permission to search for the inspiration that will help you find your way again. I wish you the best and good luck.
Loved what you wrote. Your comment’s made my list. Checked out your site as well–good stuff.
Oh my dear, I feel for you!!!! I can understand the hurt and sense of futility!!
I write for the enjoyment and sense of fulfillment it gives me.. I write blogs about life’s situations and love the activity and hope that loads of people will read, enjoy and “praise” me!!!!! In my own case, I write and hope others read my work and appreciate it. But, I really do it for the pleasure and self satisfaction.
Your situation is not unique and certainly isn’t limited to “writing”. I ran businesses in the United States and Middle east for years. I saw many people who aspired to be top level managers, technical wizards or some other dream of theirs. BUT… many times it just didn’t happen.
Perhaps you disappointment and discouragement comes from wanting a CAREER as a writer. MANY writers have had their hopes dashed by rejection of manuscripts and lack of interest by potential readers. And, in life, many others have had their dreams crushed when their desired careers didn’t pan out.
To be brutally honest, the only thing to do is to keep on trudging forward. Try to enjoy the “writing” as something you love doing… and if someone then wants to publish it, WONDERFUL!!! But the real joy is in the writing!!!!
I always wanted to be handsome but at 81 years old I realize it probably “ain’t gonna happen”. But i didn’t let that unfulfilled desire keep me from enjoying life and just doing the best I could along the way!!! Patrick Collins
My first thought was of Steve’s book, “The War of Art.” Resistance will win every time, if you let it.
I was so touched by your letter. It comes deep from your soul and it’s a very tender place down there.
First, I give you a big hug. As a writer in my 60s I know and understand on a very deep level the isolation and fear that comes from getting older without a clear financial means of taking care of yourself. It’s scary as hell.
But I’d like to point out that based on what you said, you are anything but a failure. You’ve been published and you’ve had the grit to keep going. Don’t confuse failure with the market you were born into.
I mean someone selling cheese to mice is only going to do so well financially if their city only contains three mice.
I also want to point out that you’ve done something else miraculous. You’ve reached out across the water to others and shared your situation.
Which leads me to my big question. Are any of your books translated into English? If so, I’m wondering if there is an agent or manager reading Steve’s blog that would be kind enough to take a lot at your work to see if by some chance there could be a market for it over here.
We’re all in this together and we all need to reach out in our isolation and help each other. What’s good for one is good for all our souls.
When one is worried about life, health, and money, it’s easy to not hear the Muse anymore. But she’s still there waiting for you. I promise this.
One thought that I do have. Can you do anything to change your location temporarily? Visit some family or a friend, get out in a new town amongst people and expose yourself to new everyday things? My guess is a spark will occur on many levels and a new perspective can help in so many ways.
A huge, big hug to you and lots of love.
This, along with everything else, is only temporary. But your beautiful spirit is forever.
Commercial exchange and art mutually exclusive.
As artists we are not guaranteed the fruits of our labor. Usually art, in itself, is the only object we’ll see. Not money. So, in that sense, your situation is similar to most.
I think, this worst case scenario is noble. You go for what you want. If you fail, you fail. The alternative was: remaining what you were before.
Imagine being 60, having not gone for something you knew was right for your soul, and wondered…
… “Remember that novel I wanted to write? Yeah, that’s just a pipe dream now. I’ll go back to work tomorrow in my safe little existence, the one that 99.99% people are living.”
You went for it. You’re either going to continue, or stop.
On another note…
As a productive person, I challenge your assumption that being 60 makes you unemployable, or that there’s a lack of opportunity.
You’re actually within the top 2 most Prost productive age categories… Coronal Sander’s was taking out social security when he started KFC.
So… Put on your big girl hat and kick some ass.
Let the people in the stands watch you, the one in the ring, play full out. Don’t let it bring you down.
I sense a “Best Seller” coming. Part of Harry Potter was written on coffee shop napkins! I am a painter who writes and just when I thought I would “starve to death” and literally didn’t have a quarter to finish the laundry cycle, I sold a painting. This is a pretty common “art phenomenon.”
You have to suffer for beauty. It doesn’t come free. Life is not fair. Keep going. Write your angst. Write your irritation at having”wasted your life.” (NOT REALLY!Your just afraid. I am telling you that you can live on rice and beans.) I just got through writing my fury at myself for reaching seventy-five and leaving so much undone, that I NOW cannot do. But I still can paint and I still can write. The human condition is always in need of explanation or explication. Keep going and keep us informed. Blessings, Julie Ressler
As a musician and general creative, I’m not the least bit surprised by this letter from Kati. Many of us are told that we have to be laser-focused, give everything to art and that having a “plan B” was a bad idea because having an escape hatch will keep us from being great. OMG was that a load of B.S! When I’ve relied solely on music as a living, I end up getting burned out. I start to dislike the thing I love because it’s difficult to be compensated for art that is gratifying. We’re also given success and failure benchmarks that aren’t applicable to our particular lives or circumstances.
As artists, we’re usually our worst critics and we forget that we have to be the ones who define failure and success. I still play but not as my primary source of income and being free from the pressure to make money has made music pleasurable again. Does that mean I’m not a musician anymore? Nonsense. My identity isn’t tied to how I make a living. Have I failed or succeeded? That’s for me to decide. Maybe the industry opportunities will change and I’ll do it full time again, but that season it’s now.
I guess the point I would posit is that writing is for everybody. Anything that is creative is for everyone. Whether or not you can be compensated for it is another matter entirely, but that doesn’t take away from the idea that you can be active in creation. Sometimes our hearts get so full of negativity and self-doubt that we can’t hear our daemons talking loud and clear (resistance = earplugs). That happens to everyone, even those who appear to have everything “going right.”
To speak to a more practical (money) point, I don’t know what it’s like in Finland, but in the U.S. if you hustle you can make some money doing something. No one is just “one thing” and opportunities do exist…but that also means there’s no time for wallowing in self-pity and pride. Maybe taking a step back and doing something different can relight the presently-smothered spark?
I have found that words from Winston Churchill are comforting for me.
“Success is the ability to move from one failure to another without losing enthusiasm.”
I am sorry it is hard for you right now. Naming your difficult feelings will help you move through them. Who knows what might come next for you?
Well,first of all, Kathleen: Churchill was clever, but his failures usually costed other people their lives&health, and not him. So… uhm.
And for Kati: Failing is necessary to all of us, sooner or later.
You obviously haven’t learned to fail up to now, so it came.
I live in Serbia. Only that is a big enough failure. Everything you do here (if ‘clean’) is a failure.
But you do learn to live with it, or you give up your life.
So, since we have many empty villages here, you always can borrow some money to come and start making your own food and living in the nature.
And then, I think, you might ‘connect’ and write good stuff again when you do learn your lessons.
I’m so sorry to hear about everything that you are going through.
I’ve always hated the “Leap and the net will appear” school of thought (which Steven isn’t a part of).
It’s more like “Leap and the floor will appear.”
What I think Steve has advocated isn’t a leap so much as staying power. Don’t give up on your dream, keep pursuing it, stay in the game and don’t be driven out of it by fear or Resistance or self-sabotage. Heck, even Steven went back to advertising several times to put food on the table, replenish his savings, etc.
Do what you have to do to take care of yourself. But don’t give up on writing out of defeat. Find a job either totally unrelated to writing or tangentially related to writing. Say, sales rep or, civil servant, or I don’t know, technical writing. Write in your off-time. An hour a day.
Set yourself up that you can continue to push through a marathon, rather than sprinting, collapsing, and then sprinting again. Others have succeeded at the sprinting approach, but as you’ve written, it takes a tremendous toll on a person.
I think the real question here is: if you never get the big break. If your books maybe get published but don’t ever develop a big readership, would it still be worth it?
If not, then quit and rebuild a career from now. And, sure, forget writing.
If it would still be worth it, because of what writing does for you and because those stories need to be told and need to be told by you, then set yourself up for the marathon by figuring out how to keep yourself in good enough shape — financially, physically, mentally, spiritually — to stay at it, year after year.
You are living your own Hero’s Journey, and right Now you are facing your Darkest Hour, the moment where All Hope is Lost.
This is your defining moment.
This is where you Die.
This is where you are Reborn!
Only through death can you be reborn.
You are walking your Devine Path, but this path is for your steps alone. If I could walk it for you, I would. If I could show you the way Home, I would.
It’s ok to be scared. We are all scared.
You have something Inside of you that is Bigger than your Fear.
Remember, you ARE LOVED, and you ARE LOVE.
LOVE is your Guiding Light; it will show you the way.
Your #1 Fan!
As somebody who can feel and empathize the depth of your pain/sorrow/loss/failure let us all see the moment when you hit rock bottom and in your “all is lost moment” with the help of Jung, Pressfield and Joe Campbell turned this shit around and headed towards the light. God Speed Kati, your courage is an inspiration.
“They thought it would be a disgrace to go forth in a group. Each entered the Forest Adventurous at the point he himself had chosen, where it was darkest and there was no way or path.
You enter the forest at the darkest point, where there is no path. Where there is a way or path, it is someone else’s path; each human being is a unique phenomenon.”
More than Resistance, to me this sounds like Depression. Poet Jeff Foster suggests that to be depressed is really a call for “deep rest” from an identity that no longer suits you. The person you thought you’d be by this point in your life is not who you are – if you define that person solely by financial success. However, you haven’t failed as a writer – you have pursued the craft. Many seniors here in the U.S. worked hard in conventional jobs and are also finding themselves broke through no fault of their own. Better to be angry than despairing, if possible. It’s so hard, but your viewing yourself as a victim is the road to further despair. From the comments here, I’d say many of us view you as an exhausted warrior in need of support, not a failure by any means. Sending you courage. All the best, Catherine
You wrote a letter Steven Pressfield described as “raw and quite brave” that inspired his community to (1) rally behind you, and (2) thank you for the reminder we’re not alone in wondering what we’re playing at.
If that’s being a loser, I’ll take it every day of the week and twice on Writing Wednesdays!
Thanks for putting yourself out there, Kati.
Are you this Kati Reijonen? Or are you someone sharing the same name, as well as, several other details as this Kati?
If this is you, I am even more shocked by the correspondence sent to Steve. This web site, etc. conveys “success” and creativity, however, the words spoken to Steve are communicating something altogether different. My heart aches as I read the note, but at the same time I find it refreshing in its raw, honest openness. I can’t wait to see how Steve answers!
good find, Michael Grant!
This letter made me sad. All the responses should provide some inspiration for Kati. As a youth when I would have a not so good outcome with school, sports, etc. My father would say stop feeling sorry for yourself: adapt, improvise, get off your ass and get moving. Looking forward to Steve’s response.
Congratulations for finishing your book/s. You are in a hard place, but I think part of the journey. Is it time to market them?
Do you interact with other writers on Facebook etc.? It is lonesome writing if you you haven’t find a tribe to hang out with.
If you understand English as well as you write it you might benefit from a dose of realistic optimism from Joanna Penn. She is my go to person when I forget what I’m trying to achieve. https://www.thecreativepenn.com/podcasts/
Please let us know how you are
I applaud you for facing your reality, I applaud you for sharing your truth and your piece of humanity. I applaud you dear Katy. Thank you for showing this part of your world. I’m with you. Warmly.
I’m sorry to say, but your letter reeks with self-pity and self-indulgence. Tell me you don’t disagree? And I recognise it because a vast amount of that toxic nonsense has spewed from my own lips and pen over the years (I’m 50). I expect, and sincerely hope, that you regretted sending the email to Steve the moment you hit return? This is the kind of self-talk that leads to a downward spiral.
Writing isn’t for everyone, you’re quite correct. If you can happily imagine not continuing to write, then don’t. If you continue to obsess about the creative act of putting words on a page, like everyone else who has chimed in on this thread…then write.
Please remember the main lesson from Steve’s favourite piece, the Bhagavad Gita: that you are entitled to your labour but not the fruits of your labour.
Have you read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, where she speaks of her friends with writing ambitions saying that they will renounce their jobs to write full-time? She points out that this would be madness. I guess that doesn’t help you, but you can only think now about where you move forward from here.
So, ditch the self-pity to which we creatives are extremely prone, and decide whether you want to continue writing. If you do, and that means one haiku a day – great! Sometimes that’s all I manage, or even less.
It’s only important what happens from now on. Find a way of managing financially, and write or not. Those two should be independent activities!!
If you love writing, then continue, in whatever form and however little. But going forward, don’t sacrifice health and home for writing.
What wonderful, uplifting, strengthening, courageous, uplifting words so many writers have given you. Fill your backpack along with your writing skills, and keep right on going.
I understand some of what you are experiencing. I’m working on my third manuscript now. The first two probably brought in ten dollars u.s. between them. Part of that was .06 dollars from the KDP fund. I didn’t start until I didn’t have a day job, but did have the safety net of our Social Security and funded pension.
I’m only 71+ but wouldn’t think about jumping into writing or any vocation with a highly variable income stream at any age without a safety net. All the books on writing warn of this, except those that want to sell you their wonderful can’t fail system.
You came to the right place. People like you are here.
Take care of yourself. Get mental and physical health information- help. Our conditions all have been treated many times in the past. Stay in touch with people you trust.
Ask for what you need or want. Do not question if it is possible or if it will work. Keep asking. Change how or what you ask for as needed. The absurd or unexpected can happen.
Muses don’t seem to die or leave easily. They may change form or even have no words. Keep your writing safe during this time.
Pay attention to what happens. The chances or opportunities you may have won’t be what you expected or planned. Look and listen to them anyway.
Kati, I don’t mean to pile on. Most of the points I wanted to make are represented here already. i can’t imagine who told you it was a good idea to quit your day job and write — in Finnish — with very little upside potential. The question is what now.
From a distance, it appears that this is the defining moment of your life. You failed at your goal. So what? It’s what you do now that matters. Untold numbers of people have been in your circumstances for more reasons than I can count. Some figured out ways to reinvent themselves and arose better, stronger and ultimately more successful. Others let self-pity, self-loathing and poor self talk crush them.
These paths are not imposed, they are a choice and they are the choice you now face. Which will it be Kati?
I think of your writing career as opening a small business. It’s a risk but that what us entrepreneurs do. And if after we’ve left it all on the field it’s time to close shop we take our pencils and move on to the next venue loaded with insight.
The global marketplace is hungry for writers and age doesn’t matter. Once you get through some of your grief I urge you to look into other ways to keep the heat on and the words flowing. Freelance writing jobs supported me for years and improved my skills. If that feels like too big a lift right you may want to look at offering writing support to a non-profit you believe in. They welcome the help and it feels good to be using words to unify our passions again.
I can say when my business closed and I was stuck in the gray rut volunteering got me back on the road. Good luck!
For starters read the book of John in the bible.
You are worshiping the wrong gods.
I would say that is a great start to the best book that Kari has yet written. And if the arse has already fallen out of this person’s life, what is to lose by keeping on writing.
Best of luck Kari.
I’m late to this game–my comments will be lost in the shuffle–but I can’t resist my two cents. My partners and I run and own dozens of businesses–restaurants, motels, entertainment.. I’ve been writing on the side for a dozen years. Kati is correct. Writing books for a living is a terrible business–for endless reasons. I know of no worse enterprise..
Generally, “Grace” above has it right: “making a living at it is rare. Most of us have a job of some sort to support their art activities.”
What keeps me writing? Faith, discipline, self-satisfaction, and the ability to withstand misery.
So, Kati– Some tough love here. Get up earlier, work harder/smarter, find something else to pay the bills… and most of all, lose the victim mentality (you’re a “victim of the creative path”). Come on, man… You might want to re-read some of Steve’s non-fiction.
But in the end– I wish you nothing but the best. Don’t give up, sister.
I’m sorry to hear about your situation, and sorry to hear how frustrated you are. It is never a waste of time to pursue your dream, to pursue art, so it’s wonderful you followed your heart to do what you love. A piece of advice I wish someone would’ve given me as a young person was that you’re not a “failure” if you need to work at a steady job to support your art . When I was young, I thought that being a “success” meant that your art had to 100% financially support you (and I wasted many years with that erroneous thinking). As it turns out, many work while they pursue art so that they don’t become resentful during the times when their art is not supporting them (and for those able to earn a good living solely from their art, congratulations!). Are there things you can do to find a bigger audience for your work? Are you marketing yourself? Are you networking with people that may be able to give you suggestions on how to get your work out there more (maybe in front of bilingual readers, which will broaden your readership)? I don’t have an answer to your situation, except to say that if you really want to be a writer, keep doing it. The fact that you’ve already written and published is an accomplishment! I don’t believe your muse has left permanently. Sometimes, our muses get bogged down when our hearts are heavy. I second what others have said…we don’t write “for the money”; we write for love of writing, and we write because we have a story to tell. I think the pressure of finances sometimes scares the muse away, too. Hemingway said to write the truest sentence we know, and Bradbury said to write about the things that we fear, so those are two thought processes that might tempt the muse’s curiosity. Whatever you do, don’t chase the muse–you’ll scare it away. Just try to relax, and it will come back to you. I wish you the very best.
I’m gobsmacked at the volume and variety of support here. Well done, people.
I read this post earlier and thought about it all day. When I came back I was floored by the number of comments–so much support for you! Your letter certainly touched a nerve.
So, here’s my addition to the outpouring…
Thank you for writing such an honest letter and thank you for giving Steve permission to share it.
If you were at my door, I would welcome you in. I would get you a soft blanket to wrap up in and recommend that you take a seat in the big chair, the upholstered one with the high back and sides, because sitting in it feels safe, like being in a cozy fortress. I would ask you if you would like some tea.
I would want to understand what this experience must be like for you, let you rage or despair or whatever you felt like feeling. I would do that because we have to know we are heard before we can hear.
Then we would seek to problem solve.
“What is the problem?” I would ask.
If you said, “I am a loser,” I would say, “You are not the problem, the problem is the problem.” We would keep working with the question.
If you said, “Other people are not buying my writing,” I would say, “Other people are not the problem, the problem is the problem.”
Eventually, we might come to something like, “I don’t have enough money to support myself from my writing.” Now we have a problem we can work with.
And please do not beat yourself up for getting yourself to this place.
You said you have had book deals. That’s wonderful and rare and may be what contributed to your current condition. You got advances so you assumed writing could pay your expenses, first through advances and then through the sales that followed. But the sales that follow are typically not enough to support a writer, at least not the majority of writers.
Please do not call yourself a loser. You are no different than the professional US football player who is employed as a pro football player for the duration of the average NFL career—two years. The player thought his football would support him, but it did not. He is not a loser. He is simply someone who needs to find another job.
You’ve said there are no jobs for people your age in Finland, and that may be true. And I believe that there is always work for good people who do good work. So, what good work can you do? Can you be a caregiver? A driver? Can you sell something on Etsy or a talent on Upwork? My friend Anna Suomi in Helsinki is a poet, but her poetry doesn’t pay the bills. She is a yoga instructor.
I don’t believe the Muse has left you. I believe she is by your side, waiting to speak to you, waiting until you can hear her words without the pressure of needing to make money from what she has to say.
Wishing you well and looking forward to reading your story because as others have said, while this may be the All is Lost moment, the story isn’t over. Not yet. Not yet.
Dear Kati, I will be 60 in June and wish I could give you a hug. Your muse is in you and you will find her again! In the meantime, seek other sources of income. I know you think you’re old, but we likely have at least 20 years to go and how do you want to spend them? Where were you 20 years ago? I know nothing of the economy of your country, but can you teach? Can you engage in “content creation” (marketing/public relations) for pay? My best skill is writing and I use it every day as a paid freelance writer. (Often I don’t have time to do my own creative writing, but that’s because I spend too much time on social media. And replying in comments to notes that are none of my business 😉 Reach out to your network! Tell everyone you know that you are looking for part-time work while you continue to write. Could you teach a creative writing class? You could share how you got the book contract and remind your students to KEEP their day jobs! Offer some basic grammar lessons and help people understand the arduous process of writing: re-writing, editing, and starting over. Read Pressfield’s non-fiction books about how he would work, save money to spend his time writing, spend all his money failing at writing, and then start over. Writers write because they have stories and ideas they need to share. Read “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert. She says, “Never ask your art to pay your bills.” Find a good friend, maybe form a writer’s group and share your frustration – I’m glad you didn’t bottle it up and shared it with Steven. But keep working and READING. They are the only cure.
My heart goes out to you. Many people here have some wonderful advice. I noticed that no one has mentioned any therapy. If Finland’s health care system offers you therapy, take it. It may help you to come to terms with your sadness and frustration. It could also help you ask some tough questions of yourself, instead of just beating yourself up.
If that isn’t an option, here in the USA, we have support group for everything. When my daughter died, I went to a suicide survivor group, then later to a grief group. I also go to another self help group. I like the last one because no one gives you advice. You get to talk without interruption. That’s a gift in itself. Then you get to listen to others talk about their problems. It sounds sad and terrible when I write it, but there has been magic for me there. Listening to others speak about their pain and confusion has helped me identify much in myself I wasn’t aware of. Listening to them talk about how they found their way through a problem helped me find my way through some of mine. I will say I tried several different meetings until I found one that I connected with.
No matter what you do, I send you love and peace in your journey. I applaud you for reaching out. I’m sure you’ve helped others by doing so.
I am stunned for what to say. Then I notice the tears on my face. Gathering pace, I cry and I cry. Bugger !
A frozen long moment, with words useless to explain.
But as is said above, you are not dead yet and either am I. So thank you for another more interesting day. And the reminder for me to have breakfast and stay well.
I’m reminded of Elizabeth Gilbert’s philosophy towards her writing. She wrote that she made a pact with her writing that she will never expect it to pay the bills. She would pay the bills doing whatever she could do at the time (and she had many different jobs) and the writing was free of responsibility. It does alleviate the pressure of thinking that the writing has to produce an income.
Hi Katie, This sounds so hard. I’m don’t want to throw pink paint on your distress, it sounds like a true dark night of the soul and that is crushing – I’ve been through my fair share of them. Your pain is real and should be honored as such. I think the only thing I would consider is getting help, not being alone – that can be the hardest part – the lonliness of it all. There is so much help out there now, therapy, or even just a 12 step group – free and available for almost any issue (maybe Debtor’s annonymous). This is no joke, people can give up the will to live in your situation. I would also caution against the idea that there are “no jobs for people your age.” That sent up a red flag , a job , no matter how menial, could be just the thing to feel safer, get out, be around other people, and getting some income. We can’t be so romantic as to go homeless “living our dream.” Lastly, it may not be your thing, but God is my savior in the Dark Night of the Soul, and God does have a way to help you, I don’t know what it is, but I do know that to be true. You are in my prayers today. Blessings on your journey.
Wow. I can’t believe how much support Kati is receiving. I have NEVER seen so many responses to a plea for help. I have read all the comments and am internalizing them to help me make a huge life change. Given my all to a 54 year marriage. Done all I was capable of doing at the time. Given in faith and trust. Been in the resistance mode of denial all this time. Have gained new wisdom this past year and a half. Stepping out in new trust and faith. Time to look forward to a happier new life. Take a breath. Relax and allow the muse to return home. That resistance can kill us. Take your rightful stand in life sweetie. Believe me, it’s right under your nose. 78 years and still learning. ????
I see you 🙂 You are not alone. A completely normal response to a manic episode of our ego – struggling for recognition and acknowledgement. We humans are so very limited in our thoughts sometimes. This, too, not only shall but will pass for you. Just breathe. The ominous monster of despair will soon pack it in and leave once it knows that you are on to it. Writing is just a portal. Who said you have to stay in that portal? Perhaps you are being beckoned by something deeper that wants to surface and/or be explored. And money…is an energy. Just as you are. Every single bit of money you have had is a result of your energy. It will come again. Broke is verb, and a moving target. So is Rich. Aim for a descriptive adjective of “satisfied” (in your soul). Something is awakening inside of you…let it. The greater the difficulty, the greater the gift.
Your ally in the trenches,
Now that you have shed all pretense, write.
Kati, I appreciate your heartfelt letter you allowed Steve to share on his blog. First, let me say your letter prompted my first comment to this blog since I became a follower several months ago. I believe this blog packs authentic ideas about creative people and their individual journeys. Since I am near your age I definitely feel anxious about my own struggle to be an “accomplished creative” — I write software instead of stories. In Steve Pressfield lingo, I accept the possibility that I may never make a dime with my creative gifts but I am giving the world all I have to offer. I still hold a shadow job until my software gifts become lucrative — if that ever happens. I also have resolved within myself that I would rather die trying to develop my true self instead of pretending to enjoy my shadow jobs. Although I live in America — the land of milk and honey — I know too many unhappy Americans who distract themselves with addictions (as Steve has illustrated many times) in order to cope with their unhappiness. Therefore, I want you to know that you are not alone with your struggle to develop your creative gift. I might add, optimistically, you may be closer to delivering your masterpiece than you think. In other words, the Muse might be in your midst and you just do not recognize her. So hang in there and keep writing.
You wrote “ I feel sorry to have written this but what I have written is my truth. Failing is really hard, particularly when you are too tired to get up anymore…” thank you for Expressing the truth of your story. Sometimes things don’t work out.
The cost of moving toward a dream can be great. The warrior spirit faces death often. I know.
this is Kati who wrote the letter.
Thank you so much for all your comments!
I sent that email to Steven at 4 am, which, of course was a bad idea. I was totally fed up with everything and experienced a sudden need to just yell at the Universe. But there was no one up there, so I yelled at Steven instead, which was unfair, of course.
Unexpectedly Steven replied while I was still awake and said he wanted to publish my letter. Go ahead, I said, still mad.
(Btw, I am a Finn, from Finland. We are honest folks. When things go wrong, we say it. Out loud.).
I felt bad and so I said it. Out loud.
Was my feeling justified? Yes and no.
No because I live in a welfare state and have really nothing to worry about.
And yes because of course we all have the right to feel what we feel.
Maybe sharing these feelings in the internet is not such a great idea because our feelings change. Constantly. The state of mind I was on Wednesday,February 5th, at 4 am, is gone. But what is released into the world wide web stays, if not forever, for a very long time.
Do I regret I sent my email?
I don´t know. But if there is someone out there, reading these words, feeling lonely and lost, I just want to say: you are not walking this journey of trials alone. Because a journey of trials it is. And it is OK even if it sucks at times.
And when it sucks, go ahead and yell! You can yell at me! Steven has my email address.
At 4 am, last week Wednesday, while staring at the bedroom ceiling, I decided to write a book about failing. Because failure always comes at the heels of success. It is an essential part of creative endeavours. I know you are not supposed to use the f-word, but I dont care. I think it is healthy sometimes to look the devil in the eye and call it whatever you want to call it.
Is writing really a bad idea?
I guess it is a bad idea the same way having kids is a bad idea. Your heart will break and there will be tears and you are so tired all the time. And yet. There is also bliss. Unimaginable joy. Euphoria.
There is LIFE in all its twisted glory.
So please dont listen to me. Keep on writing, you guys – but not for success. Write to tell us your truth. Because we need to hear it. I need to hear it.
Don´t give up.
With love and blessings,
Kati, thank you, for responding, for more information, for your message of hope. Your analogy made sense to me, that writing “is a bad idea the same way having kids is a bad idea.”
I’m intrigued by your book about the f-word (failure) and look forward to reading it.
Love and blessings back to you,
Up above in the comments, somebody named Michael posted a link to this page: https://katireijonen.com/en/books/ and asked it that was you… I’d guess if you are that person you have been through a lot of shit already… and I see on the page a reference to the author’s “next book,” to be called “irrestistable…” with its implicit recognition of “fighting resistance…” obviously a leap from Pressfield’s conceptualization.
My suggestion to that person would be the following: Write it in English!
Hey, worked for Joseph Conrad, right? Then, if they wish, they can translate it back into Finnish afterwards.
Hell, that might even be a fun project.
This reminds me what Louis L’Amour once said, Kati: “There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning.”
Or the change of heart our daughter had after she found out we were Santa. At first she was despondent. The next morning? Fine. “What happened?” I asked. She shrugged and said, “Got some sleep.”
And Steve, kudos for so thoroughly capturing the imagination of your readers! I wonder why we find your invitation to respond to Kati irresistible. I look forward to reading a good story here every Wednesday, and now I feel like we’re helping you write the next one.
Kati… you’ve sparked something in the hearts of all these people. Rarely is there such an outpouring here. My wife and I have been watching some of the talks by Brene Brown, and so have a greater appreciation for the risks of vulnerability you’ve taken in allowing this part of your journey to be shared here. Thanks for that. Your story clearly means a lot to all the people who’ve taken time to respond.
My prayer for you is… LIFE.
After death, after burial, on the third day
The tomb is empty
Switchfoot – Dare You To Move
Welcome to the planet
Welcome to existence
Everybody’s watching you now
Everybody waits for you now
What happens next?
What happens next?
I dare you to move
I dare you to move
I dare you to lift yourself up off the floor
I dare you to move
I dare you to move
Like today never happened
Today never happened before
Welcome to the fallout
Welcome to resistance
The tension is here
The tension is here
Between who you are and who you could be
Between how it is and how it should be
I dare you to move
I dare you to move
I dare you to lift yourself up off the floor
I dare you to move
I dare you to move
Like today never happened
Today never happened before
Maybe redemption has stories to tell
Maybe forgiveness is right where you fell
Where can you run to escape from yourself?
Where you gonna go?
Where you gonna go?
Salvation is here
I dare you to move
I dare you to move
I dare you to lift yourself
To lift yourself up off the floor
I dare you to move
I dare you to move
Like today never happened
Today never happened
Today never happened
Today never happened before
Switchfoot – Dare You To Move
“Dare You to Move” as written by Jonathan Foreman
Lyrics © CAPITOL CHRISTIAN MUSIC GROUP
Moved me to misty eyes. Thank you.
… Thank You!
Thank you for the uplifting reply that you shared, truly I am refreshed by it and grateful… grateful that you have shared “what happens next”. You have a beautiful story to tell. Can’t wait to hear it!
I read all the posts yesterday and after years on the sideline was moved to respond, respond to your story … however, I did not read today’s post (your post) before I posted the above. Had I read your note first, assuredly I would not have replied because I know you are going to be more than OK. For years I had thought about sending those Switchfoot lyrics to Mr. Pressfield but never did. Guess that arrow was intended to fly today… maybe someone will be encouraged.
Your audience is not just in Finland
Your specific struggle as evidenced by all the other respondents strikes a Universal Chord.
(See How to Make Your Novel Universal
By: Steven Pressfield | Apr 06, 2016 01:09 am
May The Grace of The Resurrected LORD Jesus Christ be with your Spirit,
Your muse hasn’t left you, she’s given you all this suffering to work with. You’ve mined deep and come out with raw ore in need of polishing.
Don’t feel bad about writing that e-mail. We all have those moments where we’re shriveled in the corner thinking– ‘Is this book really a good idea? Or is it just a rock I keep lugging around, weighing me down?’ It’s good to know we’re not alone. You gave us that gift by writing your frustration. But remember, you’re not alone, either.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve yelled to the open sky that I was done. I give up. Who would notice if my stories were out there or not? And you know what? No one does care. The chickens still want to be fed. The garden still needs weeding. The bees keep making the honey that I’ll steal at the end of summer. But I care. I can’t not write. It’s a miserable existence and the stories that run through my head might swallow me whole if I didn’t exorcise them to the page. Remember why you write and forget the rest.
Now get to polishing.
Kati – The pain you feel is an indication that you HAVE TO WRITE.
One thing I know is that some of us have to do this. When I finished the final edits on my first book in time to meet the publisher’s deadline I had a feeling like never before. I didn’t care if anyone bought a single copy, or so I said to myself at that moment.
You have to do this. Find a way to make it work.
Write about how to make it work financially. Somebody needs writing in your language and is willing to pay for it. You just need to find them.
Feel that pain. Somehow it will connect you to the way out, the way through all of this.
Your post resonated with emotion, despair, and courage.
You can write. That’s clear.
Try to imagine a different Kati. The one who never had the courage to step into the unknown. To follow her heart. Who is still in her office job, and has some money in the bank, but whose inner flowers are all dying.
Time is non refunable and it passes no matter we do with life. If an inner self is dying to see the light of day, it has to see the light of day, otherwise, it will turn against it’s owner, and the owner will get ill. Seen it many times.
All seeds grow in the dark, and my feeling this is your darkest hour, but it will pass.
I’ve just finished reading Balylon Revisited. An exquisite piece of writjng by Fitzgerald. When he died, his books were either out of print or gathering dust in a warehouse. Yet we now clasp them to the heart like precious jewels. We pay a price whatever we do or don’t do. It’s natures way of balancing everything.
As long as we face the unknown with discipline, dedication, and integrity, we win, whatever the outcome in the material world. Be stoical, which I think you are anyway. Reconnect to your gift, be obedient to it. It will take you where it’s meant to take you. Don’t compare yourself to others. Give without the idea of reciveing.
Onwards to your destiny …
Ps. I’m where you are. In the same place. Facing the same abyss. We just have to go on. Or not.
Dear Kati, you are an inspiration for us all, because you try everyday.
One place where you maybe can get paid for your writing is on https://medium.com/.
Man that was real af
Kati, I am sorry things have not gone well for you financially. You have however conquered fear in at least trying to pursue what you feel you need to express. Maybe the34 financial decisions you made were not as well thought out. You did complete manuscripts and have provided the world with your voice. Please keep going you need to keep it moving forward but as you state you also need the finances to live. Maybe try to get work into screenplays and submit them for TV or films. There may be options there as the streaming business has exploded. I have written one self-published book and am working on the next. I am 57 years old and am struggling with the fears of full commitment to my writing. I don’t want to regret “not doing” things. Good luck in the future and 4reach out to us here for support. Fellow writers need to stick together.
I think it is apropos to post “Man in the Arena” here not just for Kati but for all of us with the Audacity to expose our thoughts and bare our souls….. our inner critic and the outer ciritics be damned…
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt
I am an engineer facing the writing of a PHD thesis, at the age of 43, after 20 years of working hard in my profession, which I am almost determined to abandon. My motivation to keep working is to save money, so that in my spare time, I can write and research. Sometimes I think I’m being sacrificed for a cause that I don’t know who will benefit. But if so, everything is ok. I usually come to this blog to look for strengths and motivations to move on. I don’t know if you realized the connection power of your few lines. It would be the beautiful beginning of a book that I would love to read to the end, especially to know how you dealt with this situation and especially how you got out of it. We go through this every day. Give yourself your forgiveness and turn your pain into power.
I am also a woman in my 60th year. I, too, sold my soul for my dream. I had the kind of stupid faith that Steven talks about in his book, “Do the Work.” My destiny was calling me to something greater. I took the creative plunge and thought that I could be a Fine Artist. I believed I could master the craft of painting and drawing and start a children’s art school that would “Restore Art Education for Future Generations.” I knew I would have to go back to school to achieve this goal so that I would have the skills and credibility of promoting myself as a culture changer in the art world. I began this journey in 2009 after the housing bubble broke and left me jobless.
I went back to school. I started a nonprofit school. Somewhere around Easter in 2018, I turned to my husband of 37 years and said, “Look at the student registration’s pouring into my website! I am finally going to be able to pay back my student loans and maybe give myself a salary!”
He looked briefly and replied, “This is why I have not been sleeping with you for the last six years! Your success has completely emasculated me. You make more money than me and have more degrees…” and a bunch of other nasty narcissistic things.
At that moment, I lost everything. I had a panic attack that lasted over four months. Three of my four daughters agreed with him. They wanted me as a babysitter, not a successful artist, art teacher, or entrepreneur.
I wrote to Steven at this time, and he said the ONE word I needed to hear. “Congratulations!”
I thought that this was what it means to lose everything. I was wrong.
I thought I had no hope for the future. I was wrong.
You’re mistaken too…
Everything you have done to this point is an investment.
You will get the payback; you will not remain as you are now. This point is the AWAKENING. This truly is your hero’s journey.
If anyone were to tell me now that I couldn’t do what I feel called to do, I would be STUBBORN, and I would stay STUPID. For if I had known what this creative journey would cost me or what the fantastic result would be, I would not have begun nor believed them.
Kati, what you wrote is very readable….as evidenced by the flurry of comments, the most I’ve seen since I joined this inspirational forum. Thank you so much for sharing your story.
You write from the heart and connect, I bet you touched a nerve with so many who see something of themselves in your writing or who are aspiring writers dreaming of getting their first novel out there (I am one of those and you’ve not put me off, but encouraged me)…it’d be easy to contradict you and say you are already a winner in so many ways, not a loser. Despite your hardship and flagging I sense great strength in you.
I have an anecdote for you. In the new millennium,in January 2000, when the clocks changed, I flew to Helsinki on a business trip from the UK via Brussels (where promptly my luggage was lost) to meet a genial Mrs Marple type lady, a business partner selling menswear to Finland’s two large department stores, one called Stockmann the other one Sokos. I loved the bus ride from the airport into town, my first time in the country. It was dark, very cold and snow everywhere. I stayed in a hotel by the central bus station, imagine I had to sleep with the windows open because the room was so hot yet it was freezing outside. The next day I had to attend the business meeting at Stockmann in my casuals for which I apologised, but the Buyers were laid back about it. As luck would have it, they said they liked the very jumper I was wearing and subsequently placed a large order for that, I couldn’t believe it. On the way home I had to dodge diggers who were racing zig zagging the streets bordering on the dangerous for pedestrians and I learned from Mrs Marple that if the snow wasn’t cleared by a certain time the digger drivers would not get paid. Those memories will stay with me forever, what a wonderful country, what a special people.
I wonder and cannot wait to see what Steve’s reply will be to you. He has opened a wonderful curiosity gap making us wait to see. My thinking is have you had or thought about having your work translated into another language for example to reach more people?
I’ll close in saying I too have felt the “heart of darkness” (not least in my performing as an amateur stand-up comedian dying on stage more times than I care to remember, never getting paid either but carrying on pursuing happiness as I make ’em laugh) , which I put down to being a form of resistance, which you will know and have beaten so many times.
As I said, can’t wait to read Steve’s reply to you.
All the very best,
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I’m in the same boat. I’m turning sixty this year and I’m struggling to make rent (in a very expensive city).
But the thing I remind myself every day is that I chose this life. And I’ve loved and continue to love every minute of it. This life has given me the freedom to grow and live on my own terms. It is true freedom and I can’t imagine me living any other way.
I tried the conventional route and failed – miserably! I’ve lived many unconventional paths and enjoyed them and learned from all of them.
I am and you are who you are because of these choices.
Are you still making progress?
I am, so I’m sticking with it. With a beginner’s mind. I have the craft down, now I am learning the other parts to make it work for me so I CAN pay the rent, and more.
You did it! You lived and are living life on your terms. Lean into that.
Clearly you have more to learn. So learn it.
This is so close to my heart that I am at a loss for how to respond. Some of this could have been written by me, in a few years’ time, if things dare to go badly for me as you feel they have for you. I am sad Kati, that you feel in such a straight, harrowing space right now, with the threat of financial duress and the sense that doors are closing in on you. But I hope that with this flooding of responses you see, (and I could see too, perhaps), that sometimes the answers come from unexpected places. I don’t consider myself remotely as strong as Steve was when he turned Pro. I want nothing more than to turn Pro… but I am in the chamber, still wrestling with Resistance, and getting beat up; not happy at all. Do you think you can be happy without writing? I don’t think I can.
60 is not old; maybe you need a REALLY GOOD REST, and to create space in your life and mind, and see what comes in.
With much care, and wishing for magic to visit you in great abundance,
I would like to contradict a point you made in ‘War of Art’. You wrote there is no tribe. I would argue that Kati’s letter, and this unbelievable response proves that assertion wrong.
I do understand your point, but maybe there is an ante to this tribe. The ante is suffering. The ante is going for it. The ante is silhouetting ourselves on that Ridgeline open to snipers. The Man in the Arena.
Whatever it is, you’ve built a community here. No, you set the conditions for this tribe/community to emerge. You led with your vulnerability (when talking with Soldiers, I’ve always used ‘exposed or silhouetted’ as to not shut down my boys…try to use language that isn’t so damn threatening).
If you never write another book that sells, your impact here will reach eternity.
I copied a number of these posts. The entire gamut of advice, counsel, and connection is real–and it is powerful JuJu.
Lately I’ve been thinking back to high school chemistry. Why is carbon the only ‘essential element to life’? Because is can bond with others. 4 covalent bonds…whatever that means–it was 35 years ago. All I remember is that Carbon is capable of more bonds than any other element. Maybe that is what art is–it is a way to bond and belong. These bonds are as much for the reader/watcher/consumer as much as it is for the artist.
I am just so damn thankful that I found this place. This is my church, my AA table, my place to connect.
I probably overshare too often–as an extrovert I have to say/write things outloud to understand what the hell in going on inside my own mind. I finally had time to read all of these posts–and visited many of the sites of everyone here. It is amazing.
Lastly–and this is probably bordering on inappropriate, but I am thinking about how much I can afford to begin purchasing stuff from everyone here. Will likely take a few years–but it is probably the best way for me to offer thanks and respect courageous suffering from this tribe.
Your letter speaks volumes. I am 55-years-old and still working on my first book. It’s a tough job and I’m still learning the art. I have two questions if you don’t mind answering please:
1. You mentioned that you had a book deal. I assume you have an editor. What does he/she say about your work?
2. You stated that your writing is in Finnish which limits you to a 5 million person market. Why can’t your work be translated into other languages such as English for a broader market?
I’m curious. I’d really like to know the answers. I’m NO pro, but from one writer to another, I am here for you.
I just want to send you love, that is all.
So much love to you, Kati in Finland, from Katie in Australia
As a Bulgarian writer in a language spoken by 8 mil (most of whom are literate, but few of them will use it), I share some of your issues. I am wondering: since your English is so fucken good in it’s ” raw and quite brave way” (thx Steve, have you tried that larger market? If so, do you have and advice for someone who might be in the same position 45 yrs from now?
whoa, heavy post, this is what comes to my mind in no particular order
1. with a letter like that, i say, holy. what have you written? can we get your books in english?!
2. i would be super curious to see what you write next, my gads, that’s gonna be potent, where can we follow you 🙂
3. ‘if you find yourself going through hell keep going’ – churchill i think
4. maybe this is an ‘all is lost’…
5. 4+ decades of writing ahead
Take heart Kati, for you’ve used your days in what you believed was the right thing to do. As such you did not destroy for meat the oxen of the most exalted Sun, therefore the Sun-god will not blot out the day of your return. Your job was to do what was within your power and to this day this power still remains with you. I have been there too battered, bruised, bleeding and feeling cornered, we all have. My only question to you would you rather not have made the journey, would you have it any other way? It dawned on me a long time ago that part of living my dream included living through the frustrations of pursing the dream, that living the dream did not start when the dream was realized but when the journey started. However, most of us have been conditioned to believe that living the dream is when you’ve hit the best seller list. Our duty is to walk up to the altar and offer our sacrifice and leave the rest up to the Gods. Does it happen that at times we feel that the Gods demand from us more than we can give, or that they have shunned our sacrifices, yes of course. It happens all the time, even then you must remember Kati that the day of your return awaits you for the Gods have not forsaken you.
I agree, writing is not for everyone, but if you were doing it with passion for so many years, I think it was and it still is for you. The cruel reality of economics can devastate one’s dreams and hopes, but I believe happiness and purpose in life are intertwined so if we can find something in life that’ll fulfill us even in dire circumstances as you have found yourself in, writing may be worth taking up after all.
I chose teaching over writing and then low level corporate work over teaching. When I found that I love coding and that I could do that for leaving, it became clear to me that by choosing doing that over corporate work I would deny myself any time I have left for writing – which I do mostly in the evenings. So I’m not pursuing the “career” any further and just staying with what I’ve got now, struggling with keyboards at night. The mind’s not as clear and the words not as neat but I try, read, rewrite, read and rewrite again, until a morning comes when I’m satisfied. That’s writing too, and I think everyone can do it – but with realization that something needs to be sacrificed. I self published three eBooks, the fourth one and a short story are pending friends’ comments. Now I’m turning to short stories as my family takes most of my time – it can be done and I believe one can be better at it with time, maybe even turning a pro. It’s just a matter of price we’re willing to pay.
Kati, thank you for sharing your experience and if you find a way – please don’t give up your dreams.
Was it Steve himself who wrote this once?
The biggest resistance comes before the biggest breakthrough.
All the best for you, Kati!
Dear Kati, I’ve been reading Lewis Hyde’s, The Gift. He gives several examples of artists/creatives who take on a primary-hustle in order to have their art/gift-hustle in order to give them solace. Like Walt Whitman, take on a job that’s going to keep you alive, just enough so you can live for your art. At 58, that’s the path I’m trying out.
For what it’s worth, I don’t think failure has anything to do with money.
Bad writers don’t understand this, which makes them bad writers. They believe that their writing has reached a certain level of excellence UK business assignment help, so they are often prohibited from editing or rewriting. They seem arrogant, arrogant and arrogant.
This is proof that there is love in the world, that good things happen, that there are reasons to hope.
I have no wisdom to offer. I have never had the courage to give everything to my writing. In fact, I spent most of my life ignoring my desire to write. At best, I viewed it as a virus I needed to be rid of. I wish that someday soon you can look back at your journey and see some good. I can’t imagine how difficult it is to feel such real uncertainty as being broke. Thank you for writing truthfully and I wish you the best of luck.
I admire your courage to go on this journey. I see you. I see you and the wonderfully complex and creative person you are.
I also see your story. The one you wrote with your life. Day by day. Action by action. I wonder where you – the hero of the story – will go next? As you step away from story, you become the editor. There is an opportunity to see the pieces and the whole. You’ve done this so many times before with your writing. I wonder how you might use this skill with your own story. I wonder where the hero will go next? How will the hero use what they’ve learned to navigate to a new place? What’s the next chapter of the story? Is there an unexpected “Ah-ha!” coming? What’s the first sentence of the first paragraph of the next section?
What’s the next action (verb + phrase) the hero will take? For every action there is a reaction, I wonder what information the universe will send back to you? How will the hero use this information?
I see you. I see the hero in your story.
You are courageous. I admire that about you.
My parents were born in Helsinki and emigrated to Canada. As a fellow Suomalainen and older writer, here are some practical advice. When the Muse leaves, and bitterness or depression arrives, it’s easy to forget our gifts and resources. You have more options than it appears. You live in the most expensive city in the country. Would you consider a change of scenery in a less expensive town? Muses are fickle but they don’t disappear forever. There are dozens of artist grants and residences with free or low rent. You don’t say what kind of work you did before so I can’t comment, but Finland has some of the best social services in the world. Pick it apart to find help. Being older offers amazing value in experience including your adventure in writing. I have no doubt you can write but agree about publishing in Finland. It’s very limited but you’re not. What’s stopping you from publishing in the U.S.? I know a Finnish literary agent in New York. Dm if you’d like speak.
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It reminds me of Rolf Dobelli’s book “The Art of Thinking Clearly” in which Rolf begins with “why it is important to visit cemetery”. We don’t see failure because failure is silent. We don’t scream about our rejections, blunders, missed wins. We filter our reality to only see success and show success, and we condition ourselves to believe that all we need to succeed is just to try with all our might.
I think we need more stories like this so that more people could have a normal life in which you don’t have to make an extraordinary effort just to make your ends meet.
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Man, this is harsh, maybe especially so because I carry that fear within myself. Pursuing this crazy path of my creative calling, even though I know that I’m years and years away from ever being able to make a living with it IF things go well.
Sometimes I wake up at night and that thoughts creeps up at me: What if one day I’ll end up old and frail, a failure, full of regrets about the choices I made.
It’s been more than 2 years since this post has been published, so I don’t think Kati will ever come back here to read this comment. But I hope she somehow found a way to make peace with her situation, or maybe she even turned it around. It’s tough to read, especially since she DID get a book deal and yet still failed abysmally.
And reading this was just soul-crushing: “My Muse has left me. I guess I wasn’t worth hanging around with.”
I hope things have gotten better for her. Maybe things turned around. Maybe she went back to writing, or whatever her calling is, and reconnected with her Muse. Maybe she shook off that idea that writing another book was not a good idea and did write one, and it turned out well for her. Who knows. But I definitely know that there are no guarantees on this path—just like there aren’t in life.
Alright, enough of this. It’s time to get back to work. I’m trying to do the “be a full-time writer one hour a day” move Steven laid out in Put Your Ass Where Your Heart Wants To Be.
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