Writing is partially an obsession or a compulsion. People who are meant to do it are going to do it whether they are published or not.Robin Hobb, in The Guardian
For such a long time I’ve been asking myself that question. Do I have what it takes to become a good writer? What if my stories always suck? What if my efforts will never be enough?
And then there are those questions I avoid asking: what does it mean enough?
Is it enough having my stories published in a magazine? My books on a best-seller shelf of a popular bookstore? My words turned into a movie? My name across the news?
I don’t know. And it scares me to think about it. Because then I need to come up with a rational explanation for my love of writing. And then I have to face that awkward moment of realization when I recognize that my life simply feels hollow without writing in it.
Does this mean I will eventually be a good writer? Or does it mean that I will never be a good writer and I have to learn to live with that knowledge?
I don’t know. And you know why? Because I’m hiding.
Writing your fears away
I once read on Quora that the only way to know if you’re a writer is having people telling you how much your writing sucks.
No, this is not a typo.
Although I also had to reread that answer many times until its meaning finally sunk.
The writer said: if you still want to write after having countless people telling you that you suck, then you’ll know you’re a writer.
Besides being a tad masochist. That thought also terrified me to the bone.
And now every time I think about publishing my stories I have cold sweats. Second thoughts. Sudden urges to work on other things during my evenings.
And then I remember all those funny videos from American Idol.
Those videos I watched to take my mind off things during my PhD. Those videos that made fun of delusional people who thought they knew how to sing.
Now I look at those videos and think: what if I’m that delusional chick holding on to my love of writing? And if I am, what does that mean?
You see, I wrote at least four short stories since the beginning of this year.
Two of them I’ve submitted to competitions… which I lost.
Of those two, I’ve shown only one of them to my father (who would never tell me I suck) and the other I deleted because of how awkward it sounded when I reread it after a few months.
Another, I was brave enough to send to my brother (who is not afraid of telling me how much I suck) who gave me unexpectedly fresh, honest and valuable feedback.
His feedback helped me going through another round of re-writes before putting my story out there.
That story got rejected four times and it has been gathering virtual dust on a folder I buried deep within my battered laptop for almost three months (it could five actually… I’m not sure). And I have no idea what to do with it.
The last story I wrote was a story I was particularly proud of. Until I let it cool down for a few weeks before rereading it and… realizing that it still sucked.
Since then, I’ve been hiding behind the responsibilities I’m still dragging behind me ever since I finished my PhD.
It’s been hard to admit that I’m scared of putting my stories out there. Hard to realize that I can’t move forward or backward until I take a moment to recognize how vulnerable I feel about having strangers reading and criticizing my stories.
To know oneself, one should assert oneself. Psychology is action, not thinking about oneself.Albert Camus
Do you know how you overcome your fear of falling?
You go skydiving.
You realize you’re terrified of skydiving and you go out there to figure out how much of that fear is irrational. And how much of that fear is real.
I used to be terrified of doing a PhD. I was scared that I would invest all those years of my life and gain nothing in return. During the first 3 years, I was still scared. It was only during the final year that I realized just how frail my fear was.
It was so frail that I could smash it with my words.
So frail that I could conquer it with my thoughts.
But it took me 3 years of hard PhD labor, and 3 years before that as a research assistant, to find an answer to that question: am I good enough to write a thesis?
This made me realize that I haven’t been true to myself.
It doesn’t matter in the end if I’m that nerdy chick with zero clue about her lack of talent. It doesn’t matter if I step on that stage to become the lauging stock of others.
It won’t matter because at least I’ll know if I have what it takes to use writing to smash my fears.
This means I’ve finally decided to start publishing my stories on this blog. And the first of those stories will go online during the next few days!
What’s the greatest fear you face as a writer?