“It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.”
I’m not the biggest fan of Hemingway, the writer or the person, but I do think he has a point. Writing, as a skill, takes a lot of time to develop. And, once you’ve gotten somewhat decent at it, nobody except other writers will really understand how hard it was to get to there. So much needs to come together to make something “good.” Excellent handling of the language by the writer, perfect polish of an editor, and of course personal preference of the reader are all major factors.
I heard or read once that if you believe your writing still needs work, you’re holding yourself to a high standard. That standard will either drive you to improve or give up. Keep writing, you will inevitably improve to meet that standard (which should always move upward). Give up, and well…you’ve stopped writing.
For me, it’s always been a struggle to keep improving rather than call it quits. That constant nagging force of “quit or struggle” is so hard to overcome. But, there is literally no instance in life where this is not true, right? I would have learned absolutely nothing without a bit of struggle. Writing is just so personal to me that it feels a bit more like a harsh failure when I don’t get something right and need to redo it.
I hate failure. Not like most people hate failure. I mean to me it is a debilitating force in my life at times. I will not start certain things if I know there is a bigger chance at failure than there is at my success. Maybe this is just the norm, but it has massively effected my life to the point of negativity in the past. And when I do fail at things I try, it feels like a crushing inevitability. Dramatic, right? That’s the Critic for you. It’s not just in writing, it’s everywhere. The Critic shows up actively in places you really really care about, because it knows you’re vulnerable.
For writing, however, I’m learning to overcome that fear. I’m pushing back at the Critic.
Writing is the one thing I’m willing to keep going with even if failure seems like a ridiculously high possibility. There are SO MANY ways to fail that it’s best if I just give my Critical Self a shiny, organizing object to distract it so that I don’t spiral down that pit.
Why? Why is writing so important that I’m willing to go through the pain of failure?
Because it fills a missing piece in my life. It’s like what running is for some people. It’s like the sound of waves for others. It’s like a deep breath when you’ve been trying to build a house of cards. It’s relaxing and freeing.
It teaches me how to unwind my thoughts. It’s frustrating only because I know what I want to say, but still haven’t learned to say it. I know what I want people to feel, but haven’t learned how to get them to feel it. So when I hit a sentence that finally does just that, all the time I spent failing is worth it.
In the end, when someone reads my book, I want them to believe I always knew how to write it.
What do you spend time learning to do? What’s worth the failure to keep trying to get better?