Fellow writer – are you in a writer cave?

You and I have a lot in common. We love the craft of writing. We delight in reading-hearing-absorbing-sharing stories. As writers, we dream of becoming successful and making a living with our writing. Maybe even becoming famous or winning an award someday.

We imagine the writer lifestyle we would lead. Free from the burden of a day job to unleash our creativity and write better novels—to invent new worlds, change lives, and lead a life that matters.

And we are pragmatic, knowing that we’re not on easy street. We put in the hard work. We write more days than not, and read books by other authors soaking in their knowledge. We buy courses and learn how to market our books.

Savvy and business-minded, we build our author platforms: websites, blogs, newsletters, social media. We invest our time in learning and using the tools that help find and engage with readers.

We do the hard work. And yet we struggle.

Most days we don’t feel good enough. Or we wonder why we only sell a few books. Or we look at others’ success and think if only that were me.

If only I had more time…

…more money…

…greater talent.

Seeking shortcuts, we learn that there is no escaping the hard work. Most overnight successes took years upon years of hard work. This is true in every industry.

On really bad days we don’t write at all. Then one day of no writing turns into 4 weeks, and we get depressed and crawl into a cave. The cave helps us avoid the real work.

The cave becomes everything else we can do besides write—errands, excuses, day job, courses, research, Facebook. Inside the cave, time flies—days become weeks become months.

The cave fosters a return to normalcy, to life before writing. Mom/caring friend/coworker is relieved when you stop talking about becoming a full time writer. You slog through your day job, getting things done. You no longer lie awake at night thinking about your plot or bolt out of bed to record a character revelation.

But the cave is also desolate. You’re not writing and it sucks. You feel empty inside the cave.

Don’t go in the cave. And if you’re in there—scratch, kick, crawl your way out.

Your words are too important to keep inside. Get it out. Keep fighting.

In the words of Cheryl Strayed, author of Tiny Beautiful Things

We get the work done on the ground level. And the kindest thing I can do for you is to tell you to get your ass on the floor. I know it’s hard to write, darling. But it’s harder not to. The only way you’ll find out if you “have it in you” is to get to work and see if you do.