I’ve been writing since I was 13-14. I have tons of written work that is lost to the ravages of time and technological advancement. Notebooks full of stuff I wrote when I was younger, the ink and pencil now faded, and tons of 3.5 disks which can no longer be accessed because the technology I wrote them on is archaic (ah, my first Brother word processor!). I’m mostly okay with that because my writing back in those days was unwieldy and unpracticed and truly awful, and if I read any of it today I’d cringe. But I remember writing it, and so it still exists in a metaphorical way.
There’s also tons of writing I can still access: uncountable stories, books, half written things, chunks of unused work, abandoned writings, and writings that were finished but never followed through on. Those are on my laptop, or in a cloud, and I can still go look at them any time I want. Many of them will eventually end up on some lost trail behind me as I keep on writing and producing more things, but they exist too.
The point is, I’ve probably literally written millions of words in my writing life. Millions as in plural. Two million? Three million? Maybe more. I’ve written a lot. There’s no way to know how much. Even if I counted up what I have access to, there’s still all that stuff lost in the past. Sometimes I’m quietly impressed by it and give myself a little pat on the back. Most of the time, I don’t even think about it. Churning out all those words is just who I am.
If you’ve been writing for a long time, you probably have just as much in storage, be it literal or theoretical. If you haven’t been writing long, you probably still have more words behind you than you realize. Most of us writers have a half-formed, clunky body of work that follows us around forever, most of which will never be seen by eyes other than our own. That’s okay, because that’s what being a writer is.
I’m using this as an inspiration today, and you may need it too, because right now I feel like I’m in a dry, bitter, fallow period with my writing. I feel like I can’t get anything down on the page and I’ll never produce anything of worth again. I’m having one of those dramatic, hubris moments of I WILL NEVER BE A REAL WRITER. The well is giving up just a few ounces of muddy water and I will never write much again.
But, if you’re feeling this way too, here’s what you should do along with me: look at that big, ugly, misshapen pile of work behind you and ask yourself, do you really think you’ll never be able to write again? Do you really think you’re not capable of producing more words? All those words in the past seem to disagree.
Now, get back to work, self. And you too.