I started writing less than 8 months ago and I’m almost certain that it shows.
I see places in my writing where my sentences aren’t as precise as I’d like them to be, where my phrasing makes the entire meaning of a sentence unclear.
I do what I can to fix these issues. I keep ironing out these rudimentary mistakes in editing with the hope that I won’t make them next time.
No matter how hard I try to keep them from popping up, they do. To me, these slight flaws reek of immaturity, of naivete, of even corniness.
For the writer to feel dissatisfied with their own writing is natural. It’s common knowledge that beginning artists can identify great art but have challenges creating it.
But making it in the modern digital writing economy revolves around getting as many views as possible. Getting these views means marketing. And marketing means putting your work everywhere it can fit.
These forces create a predicament for many writers. They have to share their work everywhere, every day to make money, build a following, or even get freelance work.
But what if they don’t believe in what they’re putting out into the world?
Early writers are bound to feel as fragile in their ability as anyone feels when beginning a new skill. When you learn piano, you don’t want to show videos of you messing up the most basic scales. You want to share videos of you playing, at worst, a four-chord song. You want your progress to impress them enough to mask your inexperience.
Unfortunately, writing doesn’t come with the built-in achievements learning an instrument does.
The only way we can assess what we’ve written, other than putting it out into the world, is editing what we’ve written.
But if the end goal of editing is to reach a place where believe our own work is valuable, how critical can we really be?
This doubt in my own writing and editing ability hit a head earlier this week when I put together a review for one of my favorite podcasts and published it in a small publication here on Medium. I didn’t expect many views, but it was something I wanted to write so I was happy to put it out there. I didn’t think it was compelling enough to tell my network to read it, so I didn’t share it on social media at all.
I don’t understand how, but one of the podcast hosts eventually saw my review. They read it and proceeded to share it on the podcast’s Twitter and Instagram, which have well over 3,000 followers.
It now has nearly two times as many views and reads as everything else I’ve written combined.
I was, at first, elated. The hosts are writers whose books I own and love, and whose opinions I’m invested in hearing. Seeing them believe in the merit of something I wrote enough to share it was the last thing I expected to happen.
But with such visibility came deep uncertainty.
Did they actually like my writing, or did they just share it because it was about them?
Did readers take my writing seriously, even though it was self-published?
Did my friends see it? Did they think it was good?
These questions plagued me for days after the article went live and marred the entire experience for me. I should’ve been ecstatic that I got such visibility and praise from people I look up to. Instead, I was searching for reasons why I wasn’t worthy of it.
In the midst of that doubt, though, I realized something.
I realized that getting opinions on my writing terrified me. I realized that I never saw my work as good enough for people to make an opinion on it, so any responses would be negative. To earn an achievement in a craft that rarely rewards them felt too good to be true — so I told myself it was.
If I had believed that my own writing was great, though, then such visibility would’ve felt like a reward for all my work. If I had believed in the possibility of success, then experiencing it would’ve been a reason for celebration, not for fear.
The moral of this story is that we all need to believe that what we write merits reading. If we believe that everything we publish deserves to be seen, then when it is, we will know that all is as it should be.
Writing is nothing if not an attempt to strengthen one’s conviction that their thoughts are worth hearing. There’s certainly a difference between whispering them in a few people’s ears and reading them from a podium. But maybe we can get to a place where the things we whisper are things we would shout, too.
Credit: Writing Cooperative