A few weeks ago, I submitted an essay and a play to the creative writing awards at my school. This coming Tuesday, I find out whether or not I placed in either category. I have always been hesitant to share my writing publicly, a hesitancy which translates (at least) tenfold to the world of creative competition. In many cases, I’ve simply lacked the confidence in myself and my work to put it forth for judgment. I suppose it’s a little egotistic of me, as I’ve sometimes been too afraid to share for fear that someone will tell me it’s not as good as I think it is. But that’s writing– writing, offering it up, being judged, and rewriting. It’s a truth I’ve become more comfortable with over the course of workshops, classes, and blogging.
The more I put my work out there, the more comfortable I become with hearing other opinions on it. I become more comfortable with knowing that not everything I write is great or even good– sometimes, that writing just fills a page because I had something in my brain that needed to come out. I owe much of my increasing confidence in writing, sharing, and workshopping to my intro to creative writing professor (and current intro to non-fiction professor). Intro to fiction was the first creative writing class I ever took, and was my first experience with consistently writing and offering up that writing in a workshop environment for my peers to respond to. Not everything I wrote for that class was my favorite piece of writing, but I found that each piece revealed something about me both as a person and a writer.
Writing for myself is something that I have recently struggled a great deal with. When I was young, the only person I wrote for was myself… so I wrote stories of princesses in distant, European kingdoms and spent more time describing their outfits than I did what they were doing. I wrote about pioneers and orphans and dragons and princes… I wrote simply because writing was what I did. “Writer” was (and still is) who I am. I began to lose sight of that simple truth– I am a writer because I write, and I write because I am a writer– when I started worrying about whether or not what I was writing was “good enough” for the people reading it. Was it what they wanted? Was it interesting enough? Complex enough? Was it the story they wanted to hear?
It’s only recently that I’ve remembered that none of those questions are as important as this: Is what I’m writing something I would want to read? I shouldn’t worry about writing the “right” kind of story to keep up with what I see is the “right” kind of writing or “right” kind of success around me… writing is letting go of your ego and accepting that your writing is your writing and the only thing you can do is put your whole heart in it. At the end of the day, that is enough. Your whole heart in written form simply must be enough. I used to believe that finding success as a writer meant counting weeks on the bestseller list or earning a coveted book-to-film spot… but now, I’m reminded that success as a writer is writing the work that fulfills you and makes you happy. Do that, and comparisons to others will melt away like candlewax from a flame. Do that, and you will be in your work. Do that, and someone will listen.
So yes, I am utterly terrified about what happens if my essay or play don’t win on Tuesday… it will hurt. I might take it personally. But I put my whole heart into those works, and they are a part of who I am. The recognition that someone else thinks they’re good, too, would be sweet– but the recognition that what I have written is enough for me and is something I am proud of regardless of accolade is a success that I find no parallel to. Just like those MasterCard commercials, that success is priceless. I owe that success to the workshops that reminded me that all my writing is my own, whether it’s the best thing I’ve written or the worst. Those workshops reminded me that my writing is good enough, and I don’t need my ego to tell me what’s “right” to share. As long as what I’ve written comes from me, it is right. It is enough.