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The Landlady

I don’t think I’ve ever met a writer who has not:

  1. Had a rejection

  2. Felt like an imposter

  3. Thought about giving up

Correction: I don’t think I’ve ever met a creative person who has never had any of the above. Take Arianna Huffington. 

Years ago, I took in a panel featuring her through Women Who Tech. This was right at the time Huffington Post was slaying old media online. Her web empire changed how news was delivered. You couldn’t escape think pieces about her and her work. Her name on this particular web conference roster was the biggest draw.

So, what did she answer when asked: “What is your biggest challenge?” 

It was the “evil roommate” who lived in her head. The one who told her she couldn’t do it. It was still a daily struggle for her to quash that inner-critic and do the work.

I call my inner-critic The Landlady, after the Margaret Atwood poem, “she slams / my days like doors”, killing my ability to create anything when I’m consumed with self-doubt.

If you don’t have a name for your own inner-critic, I recommend trying it. I find it helps to think of it as someone you can negotiate with or talk back to. Because, without years spent meditating in a monastery (miss you, Leonard Cohen) we can probably never kick this particular roommate out or swap for a new landlady. But we can negotiate the terms of our living arrangements—get a reduction in the price of rent, make a schedule doing the dishes.

All writers must at times quash the voice that tells us, maybe it’s easier to give up.

I'm reminded now of yet another workshop I took years ago, this one with Vancouver writer Nancy Lee. Most of what she said about fiction I’ve forgotten (sorry!), but her words about writing careers really stuck. She said, “writing is a career of attrition.”

It took me a few more years to see it, but now many people I considered the rock stars of workshop have slipped away, many succumbing to a hypnotic voice saying, “maybe this just isn't for you.”

I think it’s important for all creatives to seek out and listen to voices that encourage you and your writing. Because success in writing—as you define it—does happen. And it can happen for you. I'm sure of it and I'm rooting for you. (Tell that to your landlady!)