I am an insecure writer. 99% of the time, I think whatever I come up with is crap, especially in terms of creative writing. I bought a new notebook (with actual paper) this week and I haven’t used it because I know, unequivocally, that anything I try to come up with will be awful. After updating my personal homepage I sorted through pages and pages of poetry I’d written in undergrad. I got so excited, that a friend suggested that I get back to what I love. So recently, I’d been feeling inspired to write again. However, I can’t bear to put pen to paper again. I want to write poetry so badly. Yet I don’t want to reveal to myself, or anyone else for that matter, how unpracticed I am.
Here’s the thing about writing. It’s an art that must be practiced. If you don’t do it, you are going to suck. If you haven’t done it for a while, whatever you come up with is probably going to suck. And when you first start doing it again, you are going to suck. But the only way to get past the sucking part is to just do it and suck at it, until you don’t suck any more. Got that? If not, all I’m trying to say here is that practice makes perfect. So for me, the only way I’m going to get past that place where anything I come up with is awful, is to first come up with all the awful, cliched, and corny sounding crap I wrote when I was 15.
To overcome this, here are some things to consider:
You aren’t the only person who thinks that everything they come up with is crap. What I’m saying is, most of us writers think that our writing sucks. When I’m sitting in a peer review session in class, I may be commenting and making suggestions for other students, but I’m usually quite preoccupied with what people are going to say about my work. I have a lot of anxiety about my own work that I’m not concerned with yours. And even if other people actually are concerned and serious about making critical observations and suggestions in reference to your work, remember
Not everything you write is pure genius. And if you think it is, it’s probably pretty crappy. There are so many ideas and thoughts that bombard our conscious and subconscious mind day in and day out. Every book you’ve read, television program you watched, and advertisements you’ve seen, flood your brain with information. When you first start writing again, your brain is clogged with all of this crappy information. Are you writing too many cliches? Stop watching TV! Television is so formulaic and cliched, it is only natural to replicate this. It is a socialization machine. That’s why I’m a huge fan of free writing; we must get all of this information out so we can get to the good stuff.
Also, know that your first draft, isn’t your final draft. Know that when starting a writing project, the words that you initially put down on a page aren’t the final words that people will see. The first thing you come up with isn’t going to be good. The second thing you come up with probably isn’t good either. As writers we have to work through many drafts before we even consider calling something “good.” Please just accept this. How many times have you written an email and gone back, deleted a phrase, and rewrote it differently? That’s the whole point of writing. Getting your words to a place where they are acceptable to the general public.
Don’t become attached to any words or phrase on a page. They may be best taken out There is probably a paragraph or stanza you think is so awesome, but it longer fits in the context of the whole piece. Who cares if it is beautifully written and edited to perfection? It will be awkward, clumsy and bulky if it doesn’t belong. I had to take some clever phrases out of this paragraph right here that I really didn’t want to remove, but had to for the sake of the blog post.
That being said, when a teacher asks for a first draft, turn in your second or third draft. You won’t be as self conscious about your work if you know it isn’t the first piece of crap you pulled out of your butt hole second and third drafts will be slightly more polished, they won’t be the ramblings of a hurried first (brainstorming) draft. You’ll have some confidence about your work, and you’ll probably get more positive reviews, too.
If you want to feel better about your writing, check out some of my earlier blog posts. I’m mostly just complaining about stuff. I have to say, they are pretty darn crappy. They are littered with grammatical errors, cliches and stupid ideas. I get embarrassed if someone tells me they read them. But we all have to start somewhere, and that was my start. Check out some of your favorite bloggers’ early posts as well. Unless they’ve gone back and re-wrote them, chances are they aren’t as good as their new material. We all have to face that learning curve.