While reading Justin’s New Year’s Resolution post, I began thinking about my own ability as a writer. I do not think I’m a naturally-gifted writer. I didn’t write much, or even care for writing in general, until my mid-twenties. Writing was a chore, and I didn’t feel I’d ever be good enough to compete with the thousands of gifted writers already spinning wonderful yarns. Would I ever write something as brilliant as Animal Farm? Something as funny as The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? Something as scary as The Shining? Something as classic as Of Mice and Men? Something as witty as A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius? No, probably not. So why bother? I thought. Instead of writing, I decided photography might be a nice outlet for my creativity. But it never quite took, because the darkroom fumes made me loopy, and I couldn’t tell my stories properly through images. I had that certain itch to write, but doubt plagued me endlessly.
One day, I put my doubt aside and began writing. That’s when the next problem arose: I truly sucked. Having hardly taken any writing classes, I simply didn’t know how to write. I had what seemed like an infinite amount of stories in my head, and I had this burning desire to tell them, but everything I wrote was turning out practically unreadable. Suckity suck suck. I had a choice to make: I could give up writing altogether, because I knew I wasn’t good enough, or I could write every day, write and write and write, until I was good enough, until I could properly express my ideas.
I chose to write. So what if I sucked? I didn’t mind sucking; I was just happy to be writing. Sucking was simply a mountain I needed to climb.
I know I am not a pure, natural writer. I wasn’t born with the extraordinary gift of language. I knew I had the desire, and a certain creative spark that’s needed for anyone who wants to write, but I needed a lot of polishing. Knowing it was going to take years of reading and writing and learning the craft, I chose the path of the writer. I knew I could be a decent writer, maybe even a good writer. One day, after toiling for years, my natural style arrived like a gift from Santa. I had discovered how to tell my stories and make them enjoyable to readers. Once that day came, I wanted to work even harder. I had overcome “sucking,” so why couldn’t I overcome “good” or “decent”?
Also, I stopped worrying about how I’d stack up against other writers. Why waste time feeling jealous over the work of gifted writers? I am not them. When I realized I could just be me, and I could succeed with my own style, I was free. My own voice, my own stories, my own silly, sometimes unprofessional way of writing was just dandy, as long people were entertained and I felt good about it. I never want to stop getting better. Each day that I write, I know I’m getting better. Sucking is a thing of the past, like all those girls in high school who wouldn’t date me because I didn’t have a hot car or a Guido tan.
So, yes, I do think a writer can improve greatly, from unreadable to just plain bad, from bad to good, from good to great. If your own writing is not as perfect as you’d hoped, or even if you think you suck, don’t despair. Tomorrow, you’ll be better. Next week, even better. Next year, maybe even great.
Sucking is only a temporary condition.
I think it’s taken me almost ten years to reach a point where I’m satisfied with my work. The stuff I’m producing today makes me happy. The stuff I produced five years ago makes me wonder why I kept writing. I look back and am mostly amazed that I ever reached this point of non-sucking. I still have a long way to go. Being happy with my work isn’t enough. I want greatness and I’ll never stop striving for it.
For everyone out there who’s currently dissatisfied with their writing, don’t fret. If you’re willing to put in the time, you could be great. I do believe good writers can become great writers. If I didn’t believe that, I’d have quit a long time ago.
We’re all allowed to suck in the beginning. Like heartbreak, sucking makes us stronger. Sucking builds a thick skin. Sucking drives us to be better. Sucking gives us stories we can look back and cringe over. Sucking give us a starting point. The finish line is greatness. May we all reach it someday.
May we all bid adieu to sucking. May we all shed sucking like adult women shed their old Boy Band T-shirts. May our writing suck only briefly.
Producing work that sucks isn’t the end. It’s only the beginning; it’s the starting point in a long, wonderful journey to greatness. Sucking is like the common cold; it’ll go away if you take care of yourself.
Self-doubt may always eat at me like a soul-eating virus. But at least the suck is gone.