The question I get asked most often by my writing students and clients is, “Am I any good?”
This is a question that tortures us all. And my answer is always the same, “Do YOU think you’re any good?” And if not, I urge them to recognize that they might be in a high level form of resistance.
If you don’t know what resistance is, let me reveal how it manifests. It’s the thing that stops you from sitting in your chair each day to write. It’s the thing that makes everything else more important than your pages. It’s the thing that lures you to clean the fridge, or go shopping, or watch Dateline NBC (busted, Pat), or do laundry, when you know you should be writing.
It’s the siren from deep inside that tells you to stop writing. That you’ll never sell your book or screenplay or memoir. That your quest to write something truly great is hopeless. It’s the voice that whispers in your ear, “You suck, suckah.”
Its voice is loud and unrelenting, and you have to silence it with sheer commitment and the ability to have faith beyond what you can see or be told.
The question “Am I any good?” is irrelevant. Because who knows if you’re any good right now? And if you’re not, who’s to say you won’t be in six months, or a year? This question is just you, caught up in the death spiral of your mind, stopping yourself from doing the work.
Here’s what happens to me when I get trapped in the spiral… Not only do I watch Dateline (if only men could just stop killing their wives dammit!), I also eat chocolate chip cookies and go to the library to do more “research” so my writing feels more “real.” I spend hours on Facebook, and obsessively take Buzz Feed Quizzes and watch videos of cute dogs getting their heads caught in garbage can lids. I watch trailers of old movies on You Tube. I go to the Hollywood Reporter site to check out who’s doing what, and troll Amazon to see what they recommend for me to read (because if you’re a writer, it’s important to read, right?) I write these blogs so I don’t have to work on the novel I’m trying to rewrite, which is really hard. I’m actually EXCELLENT at resistance.
Yeah, there are good writers and bad writers. I’m not going to lie. But asking yourself, “Am I any good?” when you’re just starting out, is resistance, plain and simple. You’re at the beginning of your writer’s journey. You have stuff to learn. Stuff to practice, things to fail at. So do writers in the middles and ends of their journeys. If we don’t occasionally suck and write bad pages, we’re not taking chances and growing in our craft.
So, “Are you any good?”
There’s only one person who knows. And right now, that’s you. Because being good involves hard work and commitment. Just being aware of and conscious of your “resistant” behavior is sometimes enough to change it.
Take action! List for yourself the specific things you do to avoid writing when you are in fear/doubt mode. Just knowing what they are will allow you to recognize the behavior when it happens.
Then get back to your writing table.
Because you’ll be good if you just do that one thing.
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