The Writer Alone

I am doing my part to keep this economy afloat, that’s all I can say.

In addition to trading in our car last month, I have bought a new washer (which isn’t working yet. We may have to bring in someone with a baseball cap.) AND a Temperpedic mattress. You know, the mattress you actually take out a mortgage on? To summarize the matter, we have a full flotation water bed, it gets harder and harder to work with a water bed in the not so psychedelic 21st century, and we wanted a similar sleep experience. On the upside, this mattress has a twenty year warranty, so what looks to be a crazy buy actually averages out to be a very wise purchase, considering you might buy four mattresses of a standard sort in twenty years.


Lately I have been feeling isolated and dissatisfied as an artist. In the long, dark teatime of novel drafting, sometimes you feel like no one really gives a damn about what you’re doing. And you know what? That’s true for the most part.

It’s also true when you knit a sweater or make some cookies. I have no idea why artists crave that pat on the head. I really don’t need people telling me that they’re interested in my writing to make me a worthwhile person. Heck, I got a call from a guy in Sudan last week that went something like this:

Guy: “I’m coming to Kirkwood next year.”
Me: “All right. Let’s get you started. Have you taken your placement test yet?”
Guy: “Not yet. I’m in Sudan. Who am I talking to?”
Me: “This is Dr. Catherine Schaff-Stump.”
Guy: “Oh, Dr. Catherine! You’re a good person! We’ve heard of you over here!”

Yeah. I’m an ELA rock star in Sudan. 😀 I don’t need writing to validate me. True story, by the way. I could make this stuff up, but yeah.


And yet, yet why do art if it’s in isolation? Especially if you crave validation, a pat on the head something, anything. When you feel like this, you sort of do the artistic spiral. For me, it’s not this spiral

Why am I getting rejected no one wants my work I’m not any good maybe I should stop I am worthless.

For me, it’s this

Why am I getting rejected I’m not sending much out my writing is not that bad rejection is natural even if writing is good it would be nice if just one thing would garner some good feedback I am really busy and tired is it worth this effort god how will I stand writing novels where there will be no feedback for YEARS at a time?


So, let’s kick the subsequent underpinnings in the butt, shall we, and address some of these things in turn.

1. I’m so alone! So not true! You have writing buddies, are a member of writing groups, and have a vibrant internet community of writers you can look in on. Any moment when you need to talk to someone about anything, even gasp! writing, you are just an instant message away. And you go to workshops and see people face to face.

Nope, I’m sorry. This myth is busted.

2. No one is interested in my writing! That one is also bullshit. You know right now Bryon is enjoying the chapters you’re sending him, and he’s giving you feedback and suggestions. You heard him laugh out loud in the den last night. You have loads of people who want to see what happens next when the draft of your current WiP is done. Many people are asking you when you’re getting back to those Klarions.

So what? You’re not publishing hand over fist. That’s because you’re writing things that take time to write. But people are interested, even if they are not yet professional types who think they can exploit you for money join you in a profitable business venture. Give yourself time, but don’t assume that a lack of publication doesn’t mean no one wants to read your stuff.

Myth busted.

3. This is not worth the effort! That’s an interesting one, but it’s still poppycock (I so seldom get to use the word poppycock, so let it go. Notice I slipped in another poppycock, by the way). Let’s try this out, Catherine. Do you remember when you were costuming and working and wringing your hands that you didn’t have time to write? Well, clearly you want to write. Do you note how you feel when you don’t write? Relive the stoppered sensation! Do you measure the worth of something in the amount of praise it garners? Didn’t you do therapy about that?

Are you writing for yourself? Of course you are. Are you writing to do the best you can do? And to have fun? Yes. I can’t hear you! YES, YES I AM!

So, what you’re saying, then, is that it’s nice to have some positive feedback, but you need to do this anyway. Since you’re generally intrinsically motivated, recognize this as a phase and move on.


4. Could it be that you are tired because life has been hard, and you’re making a crisis out of your writing because you feel tired and unsatisfied with life in general? Well….*sheepish*….probably. So, shouldn’t you stop being in crisis, because that saps vital energy from, I don’t know, everything?

Sure. Myth not busted, but problem noted. Let the prioritizing and the saying no commence.


I don’t know. Maybe, as readers, you see yourself in here. It certainly helped me figure some things out.

Okay. I’ve got to work on chapter 4. Roller rink antics. Limbo contests. Vampires. Hop to it.


Author: Catherine Schaff-Stump

Catherine Schaff-Stump writes fiction for children and young adults. Her most recent book, The Vessel of Ra, is the first book in the Klaereon Scroll series. She is currently working on its sequel, as well as penning the middle grade adventures of Abigail Rath, monster hunter.

6 thoughts on “The Writer Alone”

  1. ::sending hugs::

    They’ve got a forum over at Codex regarding Rejection Count, and I’m shocked by how many submssions some people have. I haven’t even hit 100 yet, after 6.5 years.

    But hey, my average story length is closer to 20K than 1K, which is what a lot of people are sending out. So I try to put it in perspective.

    It takes 20 times as long to write those. Perhaps more.

    So don’t compare to speed of others. I’m with you in the slow car, and it’s OK for us to be there ;o)

  2. You don’t know me, but I recognize myself in all four of those myths you busted. It’s surprisingly comforting to see it in black and white on someone else’s blog.

    I have to bust some of my own myths, clearly.

  3. Definitely not alone! Definitely writing stuff other people (me!) are interested in reading more of! Definitely must keep going and keep heart!

    See you tonight for our writing date 🙂

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