Yesterday as I was driving around alone I thought to myself out loud: I have a confidence in my writing, and in myself that I have never had before in my life. And of course, that got me thinking about why I think and feel this way.
For so many writers, including myself, I always looked at whatever I wrote at any given time and said it was pure, unadulterated crap though no one writes a perfect first draft. Yes, sometimes things come out right the first time but for the most part, they don’t. Take this piece for example: I wrote several paragraphs before I wrote the one that started this off. Once I got that paragraph, I deleted the other ones I’d written and started over. I know there are times when I need to vent off thoughts before I find what I’m looking for and that’s okay. The world is not going to end if you have a false start (or more than one).
In the past, whenever I did a huge cut like that some dumb voice inside my head asked me what ‘someone’ (no one specific as far as I can tell), would think about me making wholesale cuts like that. One, unless I reveal I’ve made wholesale cuts like this no one would know to begin with. Two, if someone doesn’t like the way I write why should I freaking care about their opinion? Yes, I’ve had people tell me not to do wholesale cuts like that unless I dump the cut-material into a file to salvage later. I’ve tried doing that over the years and you know what- I never used those cut-files. I always worked from the new material I’d come up with. And the world doesn’t explode, and my writing doesn’t suffer if I don’t use this cut-material. Now I won’t tell anyone else not to do this because everyone has their own way of doing things. But for me, I don’t need to be a word-hoarder.
In the last few years, I’ve been saying writing is largely instinctive for me, that I can just read something and know if it’s working or not. I’ll go at it and see if editing and revising will work and if not, I’ll just chunk it and start over.
I feel like these instincts have grown as strong as they have because I’ve stopped beating myself up mentally and emotionally, and I’ve stopped worrying about what some mythical ‘someone’ might think about what I’m doing. Lately I’ve been telling myself my job in life is not to pull someone’s head out of their backside for them and I’m starting to truly believe that. I focus on myself and my work and not on what other ‘people’ might think. I used to think I couldn’t stand up for myself if someone did have the stupidity to come at me and get all butt-hurt when I pushed back against them. Now I know I have the right and the ability to stand up for myself and do my own thing. And luckily I haven’t had to deal with anyone’s crap because of it. I believe people have a right to their thoughts and feelings no matter what they are. But I also believe I have every right to my own thoughts and feelings and to live my life the way I want to.
To wrap things up here I want to share something my late father was fond of saying to me: “Don’t ever get into a one-legged ass-kicking contest with yourself because you’ll always win.” What he meant was don’t beat yourself up because that doesn’t accomplish anything. And in regard to writing, that means don’t just say your writing is all crap all the time. Instead, look at on its’ own merits and if it’s working and your gut is telling you you’ve got something to go on, then go with it. Most writing involves a fair amount of revising and editing and sometimes that’s where the really good stuff comes from. And if you want to put stuff into a cut-file, do so. Feel free to go back to it, too if that works for you. You may get to a point in time like I have where those cut-files aren’t needed. But the writing process is something that is in a constant state of evolution and change. And I think once you accept that evolution and change, you’ll gain the confidence needed to write well.
Because for me, true confidence in my writing has shown me I have the ability to write in ways I’ve dreamed about and aspired to for many years. And yes, sometimes those ways are blunt and hard, or deeply emotional, and just good writing that flows well. I don’t think about perfection in any way when I’m writing. I think about going over something I’ve written as many times as I need to in order to get it to where I want. And like a musician finding that perfect melody, I’ll know it when I see it. I won’t doubt myself or think that I’ll never be good enough. I won’t listen to the voices of doubt and negativity anymore because those voices won’t help you at all.
My favorite writing quote is from one of my all-time favorite authors, Nora Roberts: “You can’t revise a blank page.”
So I’ll add this: face that blank page with confidence and faith in yourself, and don’t tell yourself your work is all crap. It’s just a work-in-progress.