Maya Angelou has, perhaps, the absolute most perfect description of what it's like to be a writer.
In her book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, she writes, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
Preach it, Maya, preach.
It's tormenting for writers to feel like the world is passing them by and that there are stories they are missing out on. But worse still is having the knowledge of so many stories yet to be told, the influx of information constantly overriding our senses through social media and the internet, and not having enough hours in the day to write about them all. There's nothing worse for us as writers than to feel like we're missing the boat on a story, whether its our own or someone else's we want to share.
Some might call it a "lovely complex" of sorts. We are so in love with writing that we actually are tortured by the idea of, well, not writing. But this feeling can far too easily become a hindrance rather than a driving force of motivation.
If we get too focused on the articles and cover stories we might be missing out on, or having anxiety about not finishing a novel or memoir fast enough (because what if someone else does theirs first and better?), then we won't have enough energy left to take pride in the work we do get to produce, the stories we have written or are writing now.
I don't mean to sound like a literary preacher. We, as writers, will inevitably always be looking forward to the next big story or project. It's our job, go figure.
But because of that, it's helpful to have a reminder to still live in the present. Invest in the people whose stories you get to share as a journalist, and show some love to the characters in a book you spent a lot of time and hard work bringing to life.
Nothing we write is a waste unless we think it is. And, even then, the story itself is not a waste, only our valuable energy is wasted worrying about whether or not the story was or was not worth our time.
Here's a "news" flash (pun intended): the story is always worth your time.
I'm not saying every story on earth is yours to tell. And I'm definitely not trying to add more stress to your plate by telling you to dive into every story you come across or that pops into your head. But whatever story you do end up working on, whatever article you get assigned...it's all worth your time. And whether it's in a small way, or a big way, it's all valuable.
I think the truth of it is that writers just want to make a mark on this world. They want to make a difference in people's lives with their words. Comparing ourselves to world famous novelists or reporters makes us forget the difference we make every day just by writing at all.
That profile you wrote on that small town restaurant probably meant the world to those owners. The news article you did about that theater troupe's self-run production of Romeo & Juliet might have given a wannabe actor the confidence he or she needed to go out and give stardom a try. The fictional short story you wrote and self published online might only have a few views, but to be one of the few to read your book and get inspired is an invaluable gift to that reader.
We should all have goals and dreams we want to pursue and we should always look at ways we can be improving ourselves as writers. But rather than getting hung up on stories other people are finding success in, take my girl Maya's advice...
“Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can't take their eyes off you.”