I’m going to share with you my greatest fear as a writer:
That I am not good enough.
My fear is that I am not good enough to tell my own story. That I can’t live up to the story inside me. That I’m not a good enough storyteller to get it right, to get you to see what I see. To do justice to the thing the muse has gifted me with.
But I take heart in the fact that I am not alone in this. I am a story structure junkie. I love reading books about story structure. But from time to time, I prefer to read books about an author’s experience of writing. Books like Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, Stephen King’ s On Writing, or Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones.
And the theme of inadequacy runs deep in all these books. Not that they truly think themselves incapable or inadequate, but even the most successful writers have moments of doubt. Moments of thinking this isn’t the right gig for them or that they’re just faking their way through and no one has noticed yet.
But these moments aren’t reality. Check this out:
We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”
Who hasn’t studied Hemingway in everything from high school literature class to college-level writing courses? And even he says, “we are all apprentices.” That includes himself.
The true difference between the novice and the accomplished (published) writer, is that the novice lets mistakes stop her. The accomplished writer knows mistakes are part of the process. Falling down is what happens before getting up. It’s a necessary component. You must fall down to stand up.
One thing that helps is to give myself permission to write badly. I tell myself that I’m going to do my five or 10 pages no matter what, and that I can always tear them up the following morning if I want. I’ll have lost nothing—writing and tearing up five pages would leave me no further behind than if I took the day off.”
And part of “standing up” is sitting at your desk each day. You can neither fail nor succeed if you don’t sit down to write. You can’t even know if it’s going to be a “bad” day if you haven’t let it be a day at all. Failing is progress. Not showing up is the only true way to not progress.
All successful writers, all successful bloggers, and all successful people show up every single day. Whether it’s “fun” or not. Whether it’s a good day or bad. Whether they end up with something to show for it, or just put in the practice that leads to the next good day. They show up. They sit down. They hold the pencil to the paper or let their fingers hover above the keys. And they hold themselves there for as long as they said they would.
No matter how much you doubt yourself, you’ve got to show up.
How do you show up in your writing practice?
Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”