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Writing and Self Esteem

February 28, 2014

I don’t often talk about my writing on here, I suppose even less so when I started school. The truth is for almost a year I tried my hand at being a writer. Okay in all honesty that isn’t really the truth, I actually was trying to try to be a writer. By which I mean I would think about what it meant to be a writer, how I would be as a writer and dabbling here and there with writing, without ever fully  committing to it. Oh sure, I was able to complete two NaNoWriMo challenges (one being the camp version) in the “year of writing” they were different stories, and while I made those goals I never did much of anything with them afterwards. I have a few short stories that are pretty much half-finished. I have notebooks full of ideas of where to go with those NaNoWriMo challenges. I bought books on the subject matter, researched blogs, articles and read about other authors experiences. I debated the pros and cons of traditional publishing. I even shared a few of my writings with family and friends.

But at the end of the day I never felt like a writer. Sure I have mastered the love of coffee, I excel in my ability to wear p.j.’s or comfy clothes and I have a pad of paper and a pen near my side of the bed, should inspiration strike. I don’t know what I was expecting when it came to writing, if I thought that I would mysteriously be bitten by this bug to crank out a novel in a few months, or if I thought that my writing would be so brilliant (in the first draft even) that I wouldn’t have to worry about gaining an agent or landing a contract. One thing is for certain at the end of the day I would either have written something or not, but that didn’t seem to matter to me. I could knock out 1650 words and feel like I was an absolute failure. If I didn’t write anything that day (which became the norm) then I confirmed in my mind that I was a failure. I made excuses and felt like I didn’t deserve to be a writer, that I didn’t have what it takes to produce something that people would actually want to read. I was able to justify my lack of progress, because let’s face it I had never been published, I had never been paid, hell for a long while I had never even shared my work with someone.

When I did brave the chance to share my work with someone I quickly excused their compliments or praises. I was nervous to share anything with anyone, (aside from the limited pieces I have shared on the blog) and so I chose my friends and family carefully. The giant was privy to a lot of work and he was/is encouraging with it all. He tells me that he likes the piece, telling me I am a good writer and that I should keep at it. My best friend got to see quite a few pieces as well, as an English Major and one of the absolutely smartest people I know, I value her opinion very highly. She would read it and provide me with great feedback, also telling me that my writing was good. I even shared a bit with my sister-in-law, who has been by far the biggest cheerleader and advocate for my writing ever.

Despite these three people, who I love, respect and admire I always took their praise with skepticism. Call me cynical, but I always feel like they would lie to spare my feelings. Now I will admit that for the most part I have not actually experienced this in my life (hello critical adults of my childhood) but I still feel hesitant to accept their encouragement. I know most of this probably has to do with the tiny amount of self-esteem I seem to have, but at the end of the day it doesn’t seem to make a big difference.

Yesterday I was reading my blog feed (as I usually do) and came across this piece. Now I have read Kristin Lamb’s blog for almost a year and she has some pretty solid advice when it comes to writing and life in general. For some reason this piece in particular caught my attention. As I read I realized that I am guilty of this exact problem. That self-esteem issue from above? Yeah that usually translates to the rest of my life as well. As I made my way through that piece, nodding along at parts and hanging my head in shame at others I realized that a lot of the time I make a point to talk negative.

I was raised with the idea that in order to be seen as mature and adult like, being humble was key. There was no sense in trying to show off, because at the end of the day it just made you look like a show off. I also learned, quickly, that if you don’t “shine” you don’t get called on, you aren’t forced to interact with as many people and really you pretty much get left alone.

Somewhere along the way I started to take that humility and downplaying of my skills to heart. I internalized those negatives and started believing them so much that even now I have a hard time accepting praise on things. Even when it is on something I know that I did well (knitting for instance) I feel all squirmy when I am complimented on my work.

Okay all of this is a long way of saying I have come to realize that this negative self talk has to stop. “They” say admitting it is the first step, so here I am admitting it. I will try to move forward. If nothing else I just wanted to say to anyone else who might be reading this, you are not alone. Everyone, even those seemingly confident people have doubts, the difference is if and how you move forward. And I am going to take those first steps forward.



From → Musings

  1. slippedstitches permalink

    There is nothing for it but to write. It is what calls you. Write. Turn the internal editor every writer has inside them off and write.Make time to play when writing–with concepts, view points, themes, be serious, be silly, but play. The reason a writer doesn’t become “A Writer” is fear. Everything on that page is us. You can break through that door if you want to be a writer.

  2. I know what you have been through, because I’ve gone through the same stuff during the last two(?) years. As I was reading your article, I was reminded of what Julia Cameron calls “the illusion that if only I had enough time I could become a writer” which usually leads to a very solid writer’s block (and I have known these as well). Maybe a library near by has it and you could check it out?

    Now, you can think about Julia Cameron’s works whatever you like (I know that she is heavily critisised, and her New-Ageish approach is not the smallest problem a lot of folks have) – but I like her a lot, and her approach as well, because it is mainly about stopping the self-blaming, self-shaming and just ENJOY WRITING if you love doing it. (I, for my part, had more problems with Nathalie Goldberg’s books, but that’s by-the-by).

    AS I said: I know what you are saying and I have been through exactly the same. I have TONS of unfinished stuff lying around here, and a lot ofit will probably never be finished. But I HAVE found the joy of writing just for the sake of it again. So my advice (if I can give any) is this:

    Write if you enjoy it and don’t expect anything from it.
    have you tried morning pages? I have done them for the last couple of years (sometimes with month-long breaks, though) and it simply helps oyu to develope a habit of writing, it gets you into the routine and you can learn how to shut up your inner censor.

    Keep a journal.
    Scribble stuff down.
    Search “tumblr” for “notebooks” or “writing” (I have become a HUGE fan of journalp*rn during the last few days!).

    I’d be very happy to read one of your short stories, and I can tell you this much: It isn’t as complicated as it sounds, getting published. You pick a topic of a magazine you find interesting, write a story, see that you like it after editing and send it off. That’s how you get published. The big stuff, like books and novels have less to do with talent and good writing skills than with the ability to fit into the market.

    Lots and lots of Love!!!
    Julia 😀

  3. beth j permalink

    Bravo! May I just share this to prove your point…..My closest friend is a writer. She has had three books published ( none of them novels) To pay her bills she writes for magazines ,trade journals and large companies. A mutual friend of ours published a novel several years ago, loosely based on his struggle with addiction. My writer friend determined that because his novel was published,He was a professional ,she was not and that her chances of ever becoming a “real” writer i.e publishing a novel were now zero.
    Fast forward to today her editor thinks they will publish her novel in the fall.
    She has always been a “real”writer and evidenced by your blog so have you

  4. If you write about what you know, someone out there will be interested to read it. Just don’t give up on yourself 🙂

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