Can I Be Honest About a Struggle I Have With This Writing Life?


Can I be honest about a struggle I have with this writing life? Because recently I went from typing happily to realizing my forehead was flat on the desk.

It went like this. My agent asked me to write up a book proposal for an idea I’ve been toying around with for a long time. She sent me a template to use, and this template was a book proposal recently written by a very popular author for a book the author proposed to write. I’ve been working on my proposal for the last week or so, off and on, going back and forth from this author’s template to my own proposal. I wrote the summary, the bio, and the chapter-by-chapter synopsis.

At one point during the chapter synopsis, I started to get really excited about the book. The chapters felt compelling, the narrative smooth and intriguing and fun. This could be good, I thought. This might just work.

That is the typing happily part.

Then I got to the part in the proposal about platform – you know, how many Facebook fans, how many people read my blog on a daily basis, how many Twitter followers. That kind of thing. But the problem was that I was using this other writer’s book proposal as a template, so I got to see her platform. Her numbers. Her following.

It was probably twenty times bigger than mine. This is the part when my forehead hit the desk.

You know the flubbery, spitting sound a balloon makes when you blow it up but release it before tying it off? That’s basically what happened to me when I saw those towering platform numbers. How can I ever compare to that? What publisher would ever want to publish my book when that author’s numbers are so much higher than mine?

I love writing. I’m a decent writer. I’m so far behind where I should be. I suck.

That was the basic progression.

* * * * *

I’ve learned something, though. At this point in my life, when I start to feel that frantic, chaotic voice invading my head space, I know what to do.

Sit in silence.

Go down deeper.


You know what I heard in that silence? The first thing was that comparing myself to any other writer is silliness, a fruitless exercise. I am who I am. I write what I write. I have the audience I have. And, today, that’s good enough. What a relief.

Then, a second thought – when I bemoan my own platform, I’m saying that you guys, my readers, aren’t important enough. When I give into this thinking that my audience isn’t big enough, it’s like I’m wishing you all away for a different crowd. And I wouldn’t do that. I love the crowd I write for. I’m honored that you folks show up and read these words. Sometimes I can’t believe how many there are of you.

Thank you so much for doing that.

* * * * *

All of this to say one thing: the work that each of us is doing is enough. Keep going, friend! Do what’s in front of you to do. No comparisons allowed. One more step. Then another. We’ll get to the top of the mountain soon enough.

20 Replies to “Can I Be Honest About a Struggle I Have With This Writing Life?”

  1. I’ve made that exact flubbery, spitting sound. The difference is, I tend to stop there. Thanks for going beyond that and sharing what that looked like for you. Your humility is encouraging and your honesty inspires me; I’m glad you’re exactly the writer you are.

  2. I do hope that one of the proposals you end up doing has to do with Silence. This theme has been riveting, challenging and even transformational. I’m glad you’ve been learning to listen because it’s reminding me to do the same!

  3. Isn’t it funny how a month ago, a year ago, you would have been thrilled to start a sentence with the words “my agent.” we move so quickly from mountain to mountain. Forgetting it’s not the summit that defines us, not the mountain. Thanks for your vulnerability Shawn.

  4. Thank you so much for these words, Shawn. I needed to hear them today. Although I am a lay person, I taking a course for hospital chaplains, and I am feeling I have so far to go to get up the first trail on the mountain. So thanks for the encouragement! You spoke directly to me.

  5. Silence and breath. The foundation for life. Learning to trust in The Source. It will provide what we ask for. Have you asked? Do you believe that you will receive what you have asked for and live your life in anticipation of it?
    I admit, easier said than done, but thankfully it’s possible if we choose… If I choose. I write this to myself as much as I write it to you. The leap of faith has been taken, the free fall has begun, all the options are laid before us, seen and unseen… We are blessed to be in this position. I’m afraid to NOT live life fully. :)

  6. Hi Shawn.

    I’ve been following your blog for about a month now, and that’s saying something. I am a writer as well (far greener than yourself), and feel like as a writer, I really should read more. As for blogs, most of the ones I subscribe to don’t stick. But yours is sticky. I can’t flick it off. Here’s a reason or two why.

    I like the way you write. I love that you go beyond just putting good words on a page. There are many good bloggers out there, but not all of them are gifted writers. You are a gifted writer, which makes the time that I take to read whatever the heck you wrote about that day a pleasing experience. I am always intrigued in some way, and often come away better for having read it.

    Beyond your writing artistry, you are real. Transparent. You have insecurities in your writing that are a thousand percent relatable to me. Also relatable is how you come back around to knowing who you are, what you are called to do, and just doing it despite the occasional mind melt. Is that a thing? I just decided it is. I can’t tell you how many mind melts I’ve had recently had about my writing and soon to launch website, which will hopefully result in a “platform”, which I have yet to even create at all, so that the eventual books that haven’t been written can be known about and read. But following your blog inspires me. I can do this. I can write to whoever my sphere of influence will be, and hopefully it my posts will be sticky too. ;)

    Thanks for writing. Keep doing it and I will keep reading it. (By the way, looking forward to reading Building a Life Out of Words soon … and probably other books of yours.)

    1. You can do it, Jenna. If I could offer one word of advice, just make sure the platform doesn’t become your primary motivation. Remember it’s about the writing. Thanks so much for your kind words. It means a lot.

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