Good writers

good_writersWhen I was sixteen I thought I was a good writer. I had won a National writing competition with a magical realism novella, and the sister of a long dead, famous Romanian poet we were studying in high-school told me I wrote just like him.

This kind of gets to your head, especially at that age. This novella I had written received lots of praise from some of the best writers in the country. Published writers, award winners, people who owned publishing houses. And most of them didn’t even know I was only sixteen.

After that I thought I was so great that I wrote a short story for a competition the day before the deadline. And won first prize. I didn’t bother to write every day. I was just writing when I felt like or when I had to (like it had happened with the story for the competition.)

But the thing is, in writing, art, life, love there comes a time when you think there’s nowhere else to go. You feel like you’ve reached a peak. And maybe you’re aware that there are higher mountains to conquer, but you’re too scared to climb down and start all over again. So you sit down and do nothing.

It’s comfortable.

So I stopped evolving at a crucial stage, because I wanted more, and there was no one to give it to me. No one truly cared about the stuff I wrote, except for a few of my teachers. And it was all… honestly it felt like I was living in a sort of micro-universe. In the real world, in the big world, all my awards and stories weren’t worth much.

This is an extremely crucial lesson, one that most people will never learn, and one that the initiated seldom bother to write about.

Writing is like physical pain. Like a headache, because, you see, it keeps you aware and alive, so much so that the present is the only thing you can think of. And even the act of counting seconds… time just seems to stop flowing.

And nothing you wrote before truly matters anymore. Or the awards you won, or the books you’ve sold. Or the followers.

If it’s painful enough, you put all that aside. Fame or the lack of it, glory, money, and all the other stuff regular people think it’s important in life. If you write about something you want to write about, so bad that you just can’t help yourself, it doesn’t even matter how many people are going to read it.

You just don’t care.

I don’t care.

Because, you see, in writing, as it is with most aspects of life, you never stop learning. You have to approach the blank page with respect, just like a humble servant. If you’re not scared, it means you took a wrong turn somewhere.

If you keep asking yourself whether publishers are going to buy the book you haven’t even started writing, if you keep wondering if your followers are going to agree or disagree with you, that’s just going to show up in your writing. The fear, that’s going to leave an ugly mark. And if you’re so confident that what you’re going to write is brilliant, that’s going to show as well. The arrogance, the halfhearted attempt.

There needs to be a balance, somehow. And being aware and alive, being anchored in the present, feeling seconds tick inside a clock, that’s the best way to do it. And you write, and you write, and you write. Nothing else really matters.

***

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24 comments on “Good writers

  1. Great post! I feel the same about writing… it is as essential as breathing to me, and you articulated it so nicely.

  2. So right! It seems that whenever I’m in the midst of writing, I constantly vacillate between congratulating myself for being terribly clever and bold enough to write, to being quite certain I’m going to undoubtedly offend someone, whether by content or quality.

  3. Or you could be like me and never even try to show off your work anywhere, thus crippling yourself even further than you described.

    Self-deprecating jokes aside, this was a good read, and easy to relate to.

  4. healthracer says:

    Your writing is great! But I think that can be applied to a lot of other things as well, when you do something you can’t only be aware of the outcome. You have to know the steps. Great insight! :)

  5. dearmonaefox says:

    You are absolutely writing. I almost have to remember to write in my blog sometimes, I truly love to write. It is something about the paper that makes me feel eased and comfortable. I have won awards too, but it does get to a point where you feel you do not have to evolve anymore, the sense of being already great. I really connected with this post, it’s one of the first post of yours I have read and it was truly something I needed to read. Thank you.

  6. Your comment about creation and pain reminded me of something. The human body is in a constant state of pain–via growth, regeneration, etc. in order to make life tolerable, our nervous system only alerts us to new pain, different pain.

    I struggle from being constantly informed of my brilliance too early. This has bred a sort of laziness at the same time that I fear the world may discover how unworthy I am of such distinction–and so I do nothing, and I’ve done it well enough that it seems no one has caught on to me yet.

    Much like you, in my younger years, I only wrote when seized by inspiration. Now, when I write, I try to dig a bit deeper, take on small, real challenges. Because what I would like most is to someday have my work be meaningful, not in the prize-winning way, but in that small, unseen revelatory way. That a single life path might be shifted a fraction into another trajectory for the better would be Work I could feel proud of having accomplished.

  7. Eliza says:

    I always enjoy reading your blog. It’s always insightful and your experience as a writer is invaluable for us plebs so thank you for sharing. And congratulations on the awards you have won and for all being here. I’ll check out your crowdfunding campaign. Good luck with it.

  8. Geraint Isitt says:

    Probably the truest words I’ve ever heard about writing. Great post. You can definitely tell when something was written just for the sake of it. I’ve been guilty of it more times than I’d like to admit.

  9. A bit informative and very interesting.

  10. Bunnet says:

    I currently working on that balance, I yet to achieve but like anything in this life we have to strive for it

  11. This was wonderful! I think all writers need to hear this every once in a while to remind them. Thank you so much for posting!

  12. You really described something that we’re feeling very eloquently.

  13. thealykat says:

    You described that perfectly, and I’m going to remember it when I write.

  14. That was a great meteor shot in your writing the first time out; few ever get published right out of the gate. Great job. You are right about writing. Some of your post reminds me of that movie with Robert Redford in the Natural. His father tells him ‘Roy’ you have talent but if you rely on just your talent it will fail you. Writing is a talent but it is also a lifestyle of commitment to write everyday. Keep it up all of it. Great post

  15. grammatteus says:

    One of my favourite words is ‘balance’! To me, if I may paraphrase, your point is about remaining confident enough to just write what you think you should, yet not be so cocky that you aren’t able to learn and improve too. While I don’t worry what readers might think and/or judge me, I admit I HAVE worried ‘will a publisher like this?’ No more! Thanks.

  16. Itvara says:

    So True. Everyday after I get up I think ‘am i good enough’. Then I think, “If I don’t write today I will never know!’

  17. So true. when you write because you want to write, nothing else matters. Thank you for this great post.

  18. Lovely post. I write entire paragraphs in the mind before penning them.
    I agree that you should not aim to please everyone. Even the classics have haters and critics. Just go with your gut instinct.

  19. Excellent blog post. Thank you for sharing.

  20. nrdaswani says:

    Tried reading books on writing-memoirs,instructions, etc. After more than a week of not blogging, I finally wrote something. Anything. It was a release for me. Reality of being published one day is reaching for the moon. For the meantime, I will just write just because.

  21. Bre Faucheux says:

    Need to be reminded of some of this. I feel the same way. Writing is like a physical pain sometimes, haunting the back of my mind. I feel like anything I wrote before now doesn’t matter because someone else out there has done something better or done it before me. Gah!
    I like the idea of approaching the page like a humble servant though. It’s more practical.

  22. Frank says:

    I’ve an incredibly excellent uncanny feeling I discovered just what I needed

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