I have known that writing was a constant interest of mines since as far back as middle school. I started writing my first book when I was in high school (and then I realized how crappy it was and chucked it aside). I even have some of my old writing projects stored in google docs so that I can look back on them and see how weird and legitimately awful my work was when I was sixteen-years-old, still figuring life out, and naïve about the future—what I wanted to study in college, would anyone buy my work, and so on and so forth. Now that I am twenty-one and about to graduate in a year I am constantly feeling anxiety about what happens once that degree is in my hands and the professional world hits me like nobody’s business because right now my writing is more focused, more serious, and I legitimately want to make a career out of writing, editing, and publishing. I know what I want my future to be compared to ten years ago but I still have all of those same feelings from before. When I sit down in front of my laptop and start clicking away at the keyboard I have a million little thoughts in my head that pound away at each other until I go crazy from the back-and-forth.
“Is my lead heroine inspiring or relatable? Maybe I will make her a black lead!”
You know what, nobody is going to care. I should just quit now!
“Is my writing compelling enough? She and this guy should be saying this to each other—Yes! Perfect!”
Now that I think about it…this line sucks!
“Is anybody going to actually buy this? Will I ever be like Rick Roirdon, Octavia Butler, or Cassandra Clare? I just have to have faith that my work will stick out.”
I really don’t want to be a starving artist. Please God, don’t let me fail!
And when all of these thoughts are in my head it’s hard to concentrate on writing the way I want (and I am a perfectionist by nature so believe me when I tell you the struggle is real.) And then the big thought is always lingering in the back of my mind: I am a black girl trying to make it in the YA fiction and fantasy business. Do I belong here! Will anyone enjoy reading about the fantasy world of a black girl. I see adaptations for all of these white writers but has Octavia Butler ever had any of her work made into a movie that is a part of our cultural reference? I am so scared all of the time that I will never be good enough and I know that I am not alone in that but sometimes I still feel it. I want to succeed in the goals I have set for myself but I always revert back to this point and I really want to know if anyone else has felt like this when trying to make it as a writer?
And then there is the whole other can of worms…finding time to read and write while I am a anxious student and work a part-time job.
Being the perfectionist I am, succeeding in school and earning my money is like an instinct and as much as I fight to find time to write and read one of the many books untouched on my shelf (and I have two shelves of untouched books so far) I always prioritize my academics and earning my way. I wonder if anyone in my boat finds it hard to do this too.
All of my struggles and all of my fears get louder and heavier as I actually sit down and write because I know that there is always a chance that someone will not connect with what I put to paper and that is the most terrifying thing of all. Failure is the thing that I always fear will come true and is the thing that I struggle the most with overcoming.
By: Nayirah Muhammad, Red Cedar Review Staff