Writing, success and unrealistic expectations

It’s often been said that every person has a novel in them, but they never write it. This month, I’m on a one woman quest to come to peace with my fear, create healthy expectations, and do something I’ve talked about doing my whole life. Since I was about six, it has always been my ambition to be a writer. I always wanted to write novels, and I have many novels that I’ve started and never finished.

I remember going through pages and pages of a4 lined paper, having folder after folder of started stories and character ideas.


I’ve always been able to write well, and was never shy of telling my teachers, my parents, basically anyone who was willing to listen to me, that I was going to be a writer.

And, as often happens when the talents we have as children are recognised, the compliments and reassurances started to come in. ‘You’re going to be the next [insert great author’s name].’ or ‘I look forward to picking up one of your books from a book shop one day’.

As well meaning as the support was, I felt a huge amount of pressure. I internalised the pressure, and the biggest source of pressure came from myself. As I’ve written about before, I have really high expectations of myself, and have lived most of my life having binary views.

I was either going to be a bestselling author, or not bother.

I spent a good ten years trying to write and not producing anything. Every time I looked at a blank page, I panicked. If I wrote a paragraph and it wasn’t right, it was going in the bin.

Frustration about not being able to write quickly turned into shame. I felt embarrassed that I hadn’t achieved what everyone thought I was going to.

That blocked me even further.

And then I really felt like a failure.

It got to the point that I knew something that to be done. I had to take a really honest look at my belief system. Did I really believe that there was no point in writing if it didn’t produce a bestselling novel? Did I believe that in order to be a writer you have to produce stunning works of art, or writing as a form of expression was perfectly okay?


Did I believe those things for everyone, or did I believe them just for me?

It turned out that those were expectations and beliefs I put just on myself. They applied only to a bubble of one.

After re-evaluating what success looks like for me, and starting to journal, I found that the blank page was no longer like looking down the edge of a cliff. Blank notebooks once again became an opportunity, and I started to believe that even if I only write for myself, that is enough.

So, this year I’ve decided to take it one step further and this month, I’m going to be writing a novel. As part of Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month), my aim is to write a 50,000 word by midnight November 30th.

I’m not going to lie, it scares the shit out of me. 

But, because I have so much to write in so little time, I haven’t got the option to start ideas and stall on them and I haven’t got time to listen to the voice in my head that’s telling me not to bother.

This experiment is about so much more than writing a novel.

It’s about putting my beliefs into practice and having realistic expectations; what I write is not going to be a masterpiece, and that’s okay. 

And right now, I’m 2,000 words behind on my word count, and I’m okay with that!

CreativityMeg Kissack