Every once in a while, in the midst of writing all sorts of prompts and small pieces, you strike gold. It’s a rare thing, when you write a piece you can’t seem to outwrite for a long while. When it does happen, you at first don’t realize it, either. Typical, I find myself turning in these pieces, or reading them for a class, and that’s when I realize how much potential the piece has. So, being told how much people like the piece, you begin to submit it for journals and reading it at performances, with everyone sending their compliments your way– You know it’s a good piece, no matter how humble you like to consider yourself. And it feels good, to have a poem or story or play that everyone, including you, can read and think “That is a good piece and more people need to see it.”
Your doubts about your writing fade into the distance for a small while, as you use the piece with every chance you get. But very quickly, that triumphant glow fades as you try to write another piece. You start to think “How do I write something just as good as…?” and you try to, but it doesn’t seem to work. It feels like you only get worse from there, like you’ve peaked, like you’ve stopped growing as a writer, which is the most frightening thought of them all.
Whenever this happens to me, writing my way up when I feel I’ve already reached the top of my metaphorical mountain of progress, never works. It’s hard to keep writing afterwards. You know you will be unhappy with those next few completed pieces, but you know you have to keep writing. The worst part isn’t even sitting down to write something new afterwards, nor is it reading it aloud and not hearing the same excited swarm of comments afterwards. What’s most difficult, I’ve found, is accepting that you won’t always write things you are happy with, and this is proof.
But I like to think these downfalls of trying to write after a piece you’re proud of are what truly show your skill as a writer. Even after you’ve seemingly peaked again, you find you aren’t finished, and there is a taller mountain for you to climb. The climb up is grueling with drafts and drafts and disappointment and almost giving up and more drafts, and you’ll come to see that you never really stop climbing, and writing never really gets easy. I’ve found you just learn to work with the mountains with each piece you write.