“There is no magic formula for overcoming this feeling of not good enough. In fact, it’s worth celebrating. It means you probably have good taste. But there are a few things you can do to work through this feeling and still get the job done.”
In his blog post, Jeff Goins shares his opinions on where our self-doubt may come from, and how we can use it to keep writing.
l remember during my sophomore year of high school, we were assigned to write a story. We all had 3 weeks to write our stories, and then we would all have to stand in front of our classmates and share our work. I spent the first few days trying to brainstorm ideas. I rejected a lot of my preliminary ones because they weren’t really fruitful. I wanted the perfect story. Something that was super meta and inspiring and thought-provoking and would change every kids outlook on life forever. I tried to think of witty characters and powerful themes. Finally after a week of scrapping ideas, I decided that for the interest of my grade, I needed to start writing. I eventually settled on a story about a boy who builds a treehouse. This treehouse was his escape from his alcoholic father and neglectful mother, who were both too self-absorbed to notice when their son spent hours outside of the house. I wanted my classmates to experience his despair. I wanted them to see this imaginary world of his, and I wanted these adventures to be so real that my classmates , like the boy, would believe they were actually on these adventures. I wrote, rewrote, re-rewrote and re-re-rewrote different portions of the story but I never felt like my story was what I saw in my own mind. The day before the actually readings our stories were due and I had to submit what I had. The next day, I read the story to my class. They gave me a B.
It’s difficult to come to terms with our writing. What I mean by “coming to terms” is accepting our writing for what it is. There is always some dissonance between what we imagined our work to be, and what eventually ends up on the page. We all want to produce our best work, and until our work reflects what we imagined we may feel like it’s falling short. High expectations can inspire great work, but it can also be detrimental to the creative process and hurt our writing. Sophomore me took a huge hit to the ego when I got my peer reviews back . Objectively speaking there is no fault in a B (our actually grades were determined by the teacher anyway), but it bothered me that I had spent so much time curating and perfecting this story only to have it shot down. It wasn’t till some time later when I wrote some more and I shared more of my work with my friends and family that I began to learn what I have in my head doesn’t matter. I should worry less about translating a story on paper that reflects my thoughts, but instead think about what story am I building in the mind of the reader. Things are always lost in translation, and that’s part of the beauty of literature; it’s personal. The story will never be to a reader what it is to the writer, nor will it be the same thing to another reader.
And to my sophomore English class, I’ll get over it one day.