Who Really Is Good Enough To Write?

(Reposted from an earlier post on Gather).

I recently signed up for a free, six-week online fiction writing class. After a year of stalling (or was it two?), I needed yet another kick-in-the-pants to motivate myself to sit down and write.

Why?

Because even though an author friend encouraged me and believed in my writing, a part of me denied that I really could write. Maybe the meager bit of fluff I had managed to turn out was just a fluke. Or maybe it really wasn’t any good, and my friend was too nice to say so.

What if I couldn’t develop my characters adequately? What if they were boring, unbelievable, or unlikable? What if I ran out of ideas for the story? Maybe the story itself was boring. Maybe it was too long, too short, or too something else.

I started buying books on writing. I rationalized that if I read more about writing, I’d be better prepared to continue. (And they looked impressive in my bookcase). Some of the books suggested a regular diet of reading. But what could I read that would make me a better writer if those books didn’t do it? And if I spent my precious little free time reading, there would be no time to write anyway.

There was no space of my own in which to write. I toted my laptop around the house in frustration. I finally created a home office complete with a desk, large flat screen monitor, ergonomic chair, all-in-one printer/fax machine/scanner, a fish tank- and plenty of quiet. Too much quiet. It was impossible to get anything worthwhile written in a mausoleum!

There just was no way to make it work. It was simple; I didn’t write because I couldn’t write. And I couldn’t write because I was just not good enough. There was nothing left to do but accept my defeat, and move on.

Until I decided to take the free class. Four hundred eighty one people from around the world- all hoping to write something worthwhile. Not wanting to be embarrassed, I sat myself down with our first assignment, and wrote. When it was completed, I quickly posted it; surely no one would notice mine among the masses, so who cared if it was terrible?

Then something funny happened. Another student claiming it was a good piece of work posted a critique on my piece. They liked my character. There’s no accounting for taste, I told myself.

Another critique was posted, then another, both saying how easily the words flowed as they read, and again how much they liked my character. They even asked for more!

Suddenly it dawned on me. I was “good enough” to write. Total strangers had taken the time not only to read my work, but also to write and say they enjoyed it, and even wanted more. One student in India asked me to send him purchasing information when I finished the book!

And more importantly, I was good enough because I felt happy when I sat down with my laptop on the couch in my family room– my dog curled up on a blanket beside me, her small paw extended across my leg. I didn’t need a special place or book to help me write.

I just needed me.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Literate Housewife on March 27, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    Bravo to you! Thank you so much for this post. I’ve taken some creative writing courses over the years. My instructors, classmates, and friends usually have positive comments about what I write. Their criticism is very positive and sounds like it’s meant for a “real” author. Still, there’s something inside of me that believes that me or my writing is not good enough. I also don’t have a terrible amount of discipline, either. Of course, what a great excuse to cover for the fact that I don’t have confidence in me. Maybe I should be brave like you and step out and just do it. I’ll look for something similar to what you joined this summer.

    Reply

  2. I’d be happy to recommend classes and websites that offer free or inexpensive writing classes to anyone who is looking for that. You do get exposed to a wide range of writing abilities, but it’s a good way to see what’s out there and “meet” new people. Your confidence will grow as you continue to write and see that most writers feel some level of insecurity in their work.

    Reply

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