I'm discovering that sometimes in writing, just like in life, you can do everything right, but still get it wrong.
My toddler stopped taking naps about 6 months ago, which is roughly 1.5 years before all the books say he'll stop napping. I have no idea why, but it's making him (and therefore his parents) miserable and cranky every evening. Nothing helps. We have a bedtime routine involving a bath and books, he is not getting screen time right before bed, he is eating dinner, everything we're "supposed" to do is there. At daycare, it's the same. They are very active in the morning, he eats, they have their mats like always. He just doesn't want to nap. Which leads to cranky, stressful nights that exhausts everyone.
This feeling of "I'm doing everything I should, why isn't this working??" has been popping up in my writing as well. One possible explanation is the general exhaustion that comes with parenting a cranky toddler. The harsher, more critical side of my brain, however, is telling me that it's because I'm just no good. (I hate that side of my brain.)
I wrote a bit already about my struggles with identifying story structure. I was recently trying to brainstorm a new novel, and was getting really stuck. "Just write 10 ideas for scenes, no matter how crazy!" the instructions said. I had 3 and they were so boring I almost put myself to sleep (though, again, I might be able to blame the toddler for this desire to sleep midday on a Saturday).
Then there are the encouragements to "find your why" - even from my own podcast! - which will give your writing direction and meaning. I am sitting here thinking about it, and I have NO idea. I think about this a lot, and the more I think about it, the less of an idea I have about my "why."
For the marketing, you would think that I could be a little more lenient with myself. I only have one book out (albeit in two parts), and I tend to listen mostly to the "don't promote until you have a series" advice, so I am not terribly worried about my very low/non existent sales numbers. But the fear that nothing will change once I do have more books out there is quite strong. This might even be where some of the hesitation to write more is coming from. Since I know what I "should" do, once I actually do it and it doesn't work, that really will mean that I'm no good. Right?
When I feel myself spiraling down this terrible and dark tunnel of "I'm not good, no matter what I do, why do I even try?", I think of my son. There is no "right" way to do it. There are probably a few wrong ways, and I am doing my best to learn from those or avoid them completely. But there is no guarantee that anything I do will make things turn out the way I hope they will.
But I still hope. And I still try to find the "best for me" way to do it. And I try to remember that as long as at the end of the day, everyone is still alive, I'm maybe doing better than I give myself credit for.