I’ve been thinking about the Willits a lot this week—you know, those annoying thoughts that show up whenever you stick so much as a pinky-toe outside your comfort zone to write:
Will it be any good?
Will it make people like me?
and the worst Willit of all:
Will it sell?
This isn’t the first time the Willits have come to call. I wrote about them last summer when they barged uninvited into my vacation.
But it surprised me to see them Friday night because I wasn’t writing. Still, they were waiting for me the minute I got out of the theater.
I’d just seen one of my favorite nonfiction writers read from his work. Or, well, not really “read.” Adam Gopnik crafted a one-person show out of various memoir-ish essays he’s written over the years, stringing them together thematically. They did indeed take the audience from Point A to Point B gently, subtly. In some cases brilliantly.
And they delivered me straight into the waiting arms of the Willits as I decided I would never be able to write as brilliantly as Gopnik, so why was I even trying?
Will it be a complete waste of time?
I headed to my car, Willits chattering all around me, and then I called time out and sat myself down in the nearest Starbucks to get rid of them the only way I knew how: I wrote.
My Willits, and yours
Everyone gets the Willits. I’ve been writing professionally for 25 years and they still show up—not when I’m writing for my clients, but when I’m writing for myself.
I’m doing more of that these days, writing some memoir-ish pieces of my own. So it’s easy for me to draw comparisons between myself and Gopnik. Comparisons in which, the Willits are quick to remind me, I invariably come up short.
If you have your own version of this routine, it’s important to remember one thing:
The Willits are full of shit.
The minute you hear their whiny little voices in your ear, grab a pen or the nearest laptop and start writing. Write about how you hear them (they hate that) and then remind yourself of all the reasons they’re wrong about you.
Here’s what I wrote last night:
And that’s your job, too. Don’t let the Willits tell you otherwise.