On Being an “Emerging Writer"
I still contemplate when the appropriate time to take the word “emerging” out of my author bio will be. Sometimes I am an emerging poet, sometimes I am just a “poet.” I never know when the process of “emergence” begins and ends.
There is an urgency implied in emerging—“emergence” being only a letter away from “emergency”—there is a tension.
The digital age has proven to be somehow both stifling and rewarding in the experience of “emerging.” Although the prevalence of technology and social media has made the submission and publication process much easier to navigate for a writer, there is also a pressure that exists possibly solely because of technology.
The pitfalls of social media poison even what is sacred to us, including our craft. All that is negative about social media will eventually find its way into every niche.
There is a culture of comparison that permeates the online sphere. There is a careful curation that goes into the building of an online “persona”—most of it is illusion. To an onlooker, the lives of their peers and idols seem to brim with success. A “fear of missing out” creeps in.
In the literary world, this pressure goes beyond illusion—there is a constant, never-resting cycle of submission and publication. The need to write with audience in mind, to write for the purpose of publication, the idea that you could always be writing more, submitting more, publishing more, doing more sort of takes the “magic” out of writing that draws us in in the first place.
This is something I felt compelled to write about as someone who has fallen victim to this particular pressure on multiple occasions.
About a year ago, I found myself determined to finally pursue my dream of publishing my writing. Feeling like I was already “behind” on the process of putting my work out into the world, I dove in headfirst, quickly falling into the cyclic nature of the submissions process and the draining illusion of “productivity”—and it really was an illusion as no amount of productivity ever felt like enough.
“Imposter syndrome” is a term often used within the writing community. On a basic level, this term refers to feelings of “being a fraud,” only receiving recognition and success out of pure luck, and an impending fear of being found out as a “fraud.” My own imposter syndrome has no real basis, besides the constructs I have formed in my own head regarding what a successful writer “should” be accomplishing. At times I wonder, without this constant state of “being online,” would I feel this way at all?
I feel that one of the most important things about being an “emerging writer” is remembering that it’s okay to slow down, and that no one is really as constantly successful as they seem to be. At the end of the day, that perceived “success” is just another “fake it ‘til you make it” illusion. A confidence in the relevance and the quality of your craft is really all you need.
I have since slowed down in my writing pursuits. I am taking time to write for the sake of writing. It is alright to write badly; not everything you write will be publishable. I am coming to terms with the reality of my existence as an artist and my place in writing community. I am re-conjuring the raw magic of my craft that had been stifled by the same kind of industrial routines I had been seeking refuge from in the first place.
It is a process but it’s worth it.
My advice for other emerging writers is this: don’t push your mental health to its limits for the sake of bylines.
Your worth isn’t determined by “prestigious” bylines.
You have all the time in the world—emerge at your own speed.
You are not less of an artist for taking a break from your craft.
Spend less time on social media if it adds to the pressures you are feeling.
And lastly, write for yourself first.
Rebecca Kokitus is a writer and poet currently residing outside Philadelphia. She primarily writes about her connection with nature, her experiences with mental illness, and also on subjects such as trauma, love, sex, spirituality and femininity. Born and raised in rural Pennsylvania, she has always felt spiritually connected to the Appalachian woodlands, which sparked her interest in magick. She is a crystal collector, tea witch, moon worshipper and flower child who can probably be found picking up every acorn and leaf she finds. In her free time she enjoys reading and writing poetry, spending time in nature, going to concerts, and exploring abandoned places. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram at @rxbxcca_anna, and you can read more of her writing on her website.