The word of the day, kiddos, is “insecurity.”
Everyone has those aspects of their life that they’re insecure about. More specifically, every writer has those aspects of their craft that they’re insecure about. So I’ll bare some of my insecurities, and hold on to your hats, y’all, because I’m not actually going to talk about gender.
I’ll be honest. Until recently, I wasn’t much of a writer. Okay, I’m a creative WRITING major, yeah. But I just never did much writing. Plenty of blogging – which required little or no effort for me – but nothing soul-searching, deep, or poetic. I went through periods, usually when I was enrolled in a writing class that interested me, when I would write like Joyce Carol Oates (hyperbolic, I know, because no one writes as much as that bitch. I mean “bitch” lovingly, of course). I even had this short stretch of time when I would write poetry, god help me, poetry. I have nothing against poetry, but poetry has something against me (the muse of poetry finds me fat and unattractive, so she keeps her distance).
For the most part, I’d resigned myself to the fact that I’d stick to the technical side of the literary world (or I’d write for TV, because I know TV) and I’d be an editor and I’d help other writers make their writing be awesome. I had been complimented on my editing skills, but scarcely on my writing. Or at least I’d never received any compliments that I believed were heartfelt. The advanced creative nonfiction class I recently took (where I met most of the ChickLitz) did a lot to change my perception of my writing, but I am clearly not all the way to Confident Town yet.
I’m more of a planner when it comes to writing. I have lots of stories and essays and, yes, even screenplays planned to write, but getting down to the nitty gritty of putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard scares the tits off me. I don’t know why. On Anxiety Street in my Mind, the thing that keeps me from writing lives right next door to whatever it is that makes me unable to sit and read for longer than ten minutes. And sometimes Dr. Prozac and his anti-anxiety helpers knock on Mr. Can’t-Write’s door and coax him outside for a day of wiffleball and sweet tea and pumpkin chip cookies, but it just doesn’t happen often.
Which is why I’m a bit befuddled by this impulse to write that I’m feeling recently. I’ve sat countless times and jotted stuff down and it’s just utter crap. And it’s depressing as hell, because it’s never what I want it to be, but it’s also making me come to terms with where my strengths and weaknesses lie, as a writer.
Here’s what I’ve found: There’s a certain type of writing – the kind that fills a poem, or the kind that sounds like a poem but it’s stretched out to make a piece of fiction, or the kind that makes a song lyric, basically just everything you find in all those fancy literary journals – that I feel is the supreme ruler of all writing. But I can’t do it. I cannot do it without it sounding forced and awful, like if David Foster Wallace had a redheaded step-child who just wanted to be loved so he tried to write an essay in the style of his dearly departed step-dad, and he called it “Remember the Crawfish,” and it sucked so bad that he had to change his name.
So I sit in wonder of people like Wallace, or Andrea Gibson, or Lorrie Moore, or my writing professors, and I know I cannot do as they do. I will never be a language magician and for the love of god, no one will ever publish me. I will never knit metaphors and heady descriptions and nail-on-the-head musings on life to create some sweater of words, at least not like those you find in whatever lit mag is hot right now (I don’t even know). I will never write something that will make people say, “I need a tattoo of this so it can inspire me every single day.”
However, I’m not so devoid of self-awareness that I can’t pinpoint where my talents do lie. I think I have a good “voice,” at least in my nonfiction work. I think I can sometimes maybe sorta pull off humor in my writing (which I hear is hard to do). I’m not afraid to make an ass out of myself or to unearth the bleached bones of my darkest secrets. But I can’t dress them up and make an ornate decorative skeleton that you’d be proud to hang in your foyer. Rather, I’ll put them in a shoebox and stuff them under my bed, so everyone will say, “Meh, whatever.”
But, Jesus H. Christ, I hope this doesn’t come off like me bemoaning all my fallacies in such a way that it’s obvious I’m digging for compliments. I realize that I can write. I can even pull off a magic language sweater every so often. But I just get the sense that everyone around me has some innate writerly talent that I don’t. Like they could never disguise the fact that they’re a writer. Like they “get” it, effortlessly, and I have to strive and cry and dig and claw and cry some more and vomit and sleep and then get drunk before I can write anything remotely good. I’ll admit it: even writing for this blog intimidates me because my fellow ChickLitz are so good at writing with these poetic flourishes, and drawing from all these experiences they have and I feel like my writing is dull in comparison and I only write about one or two things.
That’s why this blog is important, because it’s just going to be maturing writers being honest about writing (and if not about writing, then about life in general, which is still about writing). I once heard that asking a writer to talk about writing is like asking a singer to dance about singing. But it’s important to do it, because deep down we all have similar insecurities that are lonely and just dying for companions. Hopefully, we can eventually get rid of all those, “Am I the only one who…?” doubts that plague us.
Cue Julie Andrews singing “I Have Confidence in Me,” from The Sound of Music.