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Thursday, July 23, 2009

"Wow! I'm a Good Writer... or Am I?"

I've always been an "I'll believe my writing is good if..." person.

Before I was brave enough to show my writing to my family and close friends I said, "I'll believe my writing is good if someone else likes it."

When my friends and family loved my writing I figured it was just because they are close to me, so I said, "I'll believe my writing is good if someone else who writes likes it."

When I joined a writer's group, and they were moved by my writing, I decided they were just being nice, so I said, "I'll believe my writing is good if someone who is a published author likes it."

When I began my Apprentice program at the Christian Writer's Guild, my mentor was a multi-published author. She has given me helpful criticism but also incredibly positive feedback on my writing ability. I assumed she was just going easy on me since I was new, and I said, "I'll believe my writing is good if someone actually publishes something I write."

When I received my first publishing acceptance with an online magazine, I thought they must be desperate for writers (even though I had to wait 3 months to see it published), and I said, "I'll believe my writing is good if I actually see it in a print publication."

A couple of months ago, I sold a fiction short story to The Storyteller -- it will be printed this winter. This publication is a well-respected, high-quality magazine, and it is an honor to be printed there. I will receive a one-digit figure for it (chew on that for a sec - here's a hint: I spent more on the subscription so I could see it in print than I will make). Then I said, "I'll believe my writing is good if I ever make a two-, three-, four-digit figure for it."

Then there's writer's schizophrenia. Why is it that I can read a story I've written one day and think, hey, that's pretty good. Then two days later I can pick up the exact same story and think, what was I thinking - this is the crappiest story I've ever written. And I guarantee you, if I let the same story rest another couple of days, I'll like it again.

Okay, so we've established my insanity (which is supposed to be a requirement for a writer so I think I'm already ahead of the game).

My fellow writers, I just have to ask - if there are any of you out there whose minds work like mine and you are willing to admit it, does this cycle ever stop?

When do you finally look at your work and say, "Wow! I'm a good writer?"


  1. Stephanie Faris said...

    Good question. The answer? Never. I think as long as we're growing as writers we always see room for improvement. Although I do look at things I wrote 10 years ago in complete disbelief that I wrote them. It just seems to have been written by someone else. I guess as we evolve, so does our writing?

  2. Lori Stanley Roeleveld said...

    I've had articles published in newspapers and magazines. I've published two plays. I've got books being considered by publishers and when I handed a scene I wrote to the class (I'm TEACHING) on writing this week, I was sure that AT LAST they would see me for the imposter that I am. Time to quit, I think to myself as I wait their critique next week. If I publish a book, will I be thinking that unless it sells a certain amount I'm still a fraud? I completely relate to what you've written today. Completely.

  3. Talkin' Texan said...

    Somehow I know my writing is good but am not confident enough to work at submitting for publication. I've had a couple magazine articles published and I write for a couple of web sites, but I still call myself a "wanna-be." Maybe when I see my book on a shelf? But I'm too scared to write it!
    How do we get past this?

  4. Lori Stanley Roeleveld said...

    3We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
    I Thessalonians 1:3

  5. Sue said...

    I go through that exact same thing with my writing too. Be grateful that you have the courage to get your writing out there. I'm still too scared of rejection to get anything of mine out there.

    Congrats on your being published :-D

  6. sweetthang said...

    Those of us who are inclined to writing also seem to frequently possess a self-critical tendency. We are often people-pleasers. While these traits may lend themselves to better writing, I have discovered that more often than not they hinder me. If I write thinking looking for accolades I do not express myself well. On the other hand, I have found when I really bare my soul that readers connect with my writing. Good writing gives the reader confirmation and not the other way around. We do our jobs as writers when we touch on something our audience has always felt and was afraid to say. And this, I think is our biggest honor as a writer: to have someone say "I identified with that." (As they have here on you blog post!)

    I too have said all those things. "I'll believe I'm good when..." I have spent too much energy focusing on accolades, when really thats not why I write in the first place. I write because I am a writer. Because I have to write. Because that is what God put in me to do. If I can ever leap this hurdle of approval addiction, I might really be able to unleash and let the Spirit flow through me into something useful to real people in the real world. People who need confirmation and understanding even more than I do. Wow. As usual, it's so much bigger than me.

    Thanks for the thoughts and for being so honest.

  7. Christian Mommy Writer said...

    I think this is something all writers experience. On the one hand, you have to know when to let it go and move on. At the same time, I think it is a good quality to be able to self critique your work.

  8. C.J. Darlington said...

    Alas, I'm thinking it never goes away. It hasn't for me, and I know it hasn't for others. I think we just have to learn to tune it out? :)