Why I Was Writing the Wrong Novel

I nestled into a bean bag on the floor and surrounded myself in pillows, partially in self-pity. I connected my computer to the bigger screen, ignoring the words of loathing in my head as my spine was crying out at me from the intense strain I put on it by sitting in strange places to get work done.

I clicked on the beloved winter classic of Little Women. With my eyes transfixed on the screen, I remembered why I loved the book so much as a child. The words are painfully still relevant to women’s issues and the ability to achieve in a patriarchal world.

Societal expectations still run rampant, they have only shifted with time. Yet, something struck the writer in me with a breakthrough of realization.

In the story, the character Jo brings a finished manuscript to the professor and asks for his honest opinion. Being fond of him, she values his insight, but his response to her writing was not what she expected. She was writing what everyone wanted in the publishing industry, not from the heart. She was limiting herself in writing the story that needed to be written.

She was ignoring the idea to write from a place of vulnerability. The raw material that creates a novel that not only entices people, but it shifts perspective on real issues.

Sitting wrapped up in pillows and blankets, I realized why I could not finish my novel. I was not writing from the heart. I was ignoring the real issues that I wanted to address with my writing.

Why We Limit Ourselves As Artists

In a conversation with a friend, I realized how much we limit our potential as artists. We replace it with fear, doubt, and the feeling that we are completely alone in our journey. We ignore writing and addressing the real issues of today because of negativity that has been beaten into us over time. We fear the backlash of what we really want to say, and what we really mean when we say it.

For the past month, I was writing the wrong novel. I created a sequence that did not have my heart in it cause I was writing what I thought people would expect of me. What the industry would expect of me. I was not creating the depth that as I writer I know I am capable of.

When we limit ourselves, we let fear control our decisions. We let doubt creep into our artistic potential for greater things. The negative voices that speak to us seem reasonable, practical, believable. Yet, being an artist isn’t practical, nor is what any parent has encouraged their child to pursue.

Being an artist takes vulnerability that the world often shuts down. Not everyone will understand the depth you try to reach with your writing. Yet, the novels that have impacted me the most are the ones that write from a powerful place of vulnerability that force us to pause and think about our own actions that perpetuate negative narratives in society.

We limit ourselves as artists, full well knowing those negative perspectives will hurt us. We know the internet trolls, the uninformed opinionated comments, and the world will try to crush the very thing we put our soul into. The very thing we carefully created with our heart’s understanding.


What Could You Do With the Absence of Fear

The more I curl into myself, the more fear surrounds me. It is a darkness that traces my steps that no one else can see. While I smile and talk to people like I know what I am pursuing, the truth will always be that I simply don’t. I write thousands of words a day, but they do not always say what they need to.

What could you achieve as an artist without fear?

We grew up with people telling us we had a nice hobby, but it could never become a “real job”. Perpetuating the negative narrative towards artists is detrimental to their craft, and disheartening for people who work tremendously hard to make their dreams a reality.

The negative narrative spins many artists into a dark depression that few return from. They work multiple jobs trying to make ends meet because society beat them into submission, making them believe they could not achieve greatness in their daily life.

The fear remains because we have been told to justify it our whole lives.

Why I Was Writing the Wrong Novel

For weeks I sat down with other writers, chatting about various grammar rules and word use, all the while staring at a looming word count. I do not consider National Novel Writing Month to be a failure to me because I did not make it to the finish line. I choose to see it as an opportunity to shift to writing the novel that needs to be written.

The one that I was afraid to dive into because of social barriers to vulnerability.

I was spending too much time thinking about others comments and beating myself up about my career to actually listen to the novel that has been spinning in my head for years. I spent the whole month in my head, but not in my heart.

Watching Little Women reminded me that it is the novels that dive into the essence of humanity that make the most incredible impact. Moving forward, I intend to dive into the issues that need saying. The stories that have not had the opportunity to be heard, until now.

In the new wave of feminism, we need more women writers, artists, and filmmakers that talk about the important issues of our time. The stories that need to be said.

To my fellow creatives, create with vulnerability.

The world needs your art.

Your soul.

Your courage.

It is through such vulnerability that we can begin to shift the negative narrative about what we do, and the fear that keeps us from reaching our potential to create things this world needs.

Will you join me?



Follow Bethany Jane Writes to learn more. 



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