I want to see @20orsomething write about the worst piece of writing she ever produced.
And what she learned from it.
My first answer to the challenge was immediately “well, that’s pretty much everything I’ve ever produced,” though I know that isn’t entirely true.
Then I thought back to my senior year in college, when I was taking my second fiction workshop. The first workshop the previous year had been an incredible experience, as it had given me the chance to really pursue what has been a lifelong passion amidst other imaginative minds.
Stories and ideas spilled onto the page almost effortlessly throughout that semester; I filled notebooks with scenes and settings and snippets of dialogue. Whole stories would form in my mind with every prompt or creative exercise, as if magically appearing, transforming my world into that which belonged to these characters that spoke so clearly, longing to be heard, for their story to be told. My muses and I were completely in sync, and I ended that semester with a fiction portfolio I was proud of and a lifelong dream ready to pursue.
The following year, I was back for round two with fresh notebooks and an eager pen, waiting for the moment when the rest of the world disappeared and it was just me and words, inspiration and my imagination.
Oh, I wrote, as was required. I drafted bits of dialogue and got to know the characters, I spun themes and pursued plots…But everything felt forced, coming from a place not of emotion and passion, as usual, but of intellect and necessity.
And it felt strange to me — no longer was I leaving this world behind as I visited the one I was creating, but, rather, for the very first time, I was completely aware of what I was writing and how I was writing, when I was writing it.
For the first time, it didn’t seem natural, it didn’t feel right.
I edited, I rewrote, I changed words and names and details. I scratched out whole paragraphs of scribbled writing in those notebooks and stared at a blinking cursor on a blank computer screen.
And at the end of the semester, I turned in a portfolio, feeling a little bit rushed, a little bit disheartened.
Maybe even a little bit lost.
I received an A on the project with glowing compliments that I didn’t think I deserved. It certainly wasn’t my best work — at least, it didn’t feel that way.
But what I’ve realized is that it’s ok to get a little lost as a person and as a writer. It’s ok to experiment, it’s ok to be stuck, and it’s even ok to criticize your own work based on your own — and only your own — high expectations. I’ve realized since then that what I perceive to be my worst writing is often lauded as my best, and what I believe is my best is often overlooked, and while I will never understand that, I accept it because that is the beauty of writing and reading — everyone has an opinion.
Since then I’ve learned that no matter what I write or how the piece is critiqued, what matters is how I feel about the words I have written and the story I have told. I will always be a writer — no matter how easily those words come, that is something that will always remain a part of me.
But that’s not what Raven was asking when she posed the blogging challenge…
Fiction or the blog, I asked her to clarify for me, and when she chose the blog as the subject matter, my next thought was, “well, that describes just about every post from 2008.”
I had just begun blogging in an attempt to recapture my passion for creative writing after a two-year departure upon graduating from college. I hadn’t really written creatively since that final workshop, and I was still trying to rediscover my voice, my style, trying to figure out who I was now as both a blogger and a writer and everything in between.
So I began to document my journey of navigating the world as a young adult, of trying to discover (or rediscover) who I was as an individual, and attempting to find that space where I belonged.
Posts about my career, posts about self-doubt, posts about failure…They all marked the beginning of the blog for me, and while I’ll never regret what I wrote or how it was written, while I’ll always be grateful that I can go back and see how far I’ve come as an individual, reading back through the archives has made me see how far I’ve come as a writer as well.
I know who I am — both as a person and as that writer. I see it now with every fiction piece and every blog post.
Memories. Emotion. People. Life.
These are the words that define both myself and my writing, what I try to infuse into every sentence and paragraph because this is how I think, this is how I feel…I’ve recaptured that part of myself that writes with passion, from her heart. It may not be what others prefer to read, but I’ve learned, too, that that doesn’t have to matter.
This is how I write.
Because this is who I am.
I love the idea of a blogging challenge that asks you to look deeper and step outside of that comfort zone so much that I’m continuing that here, posing a challenge to those of you who are writers and bloggers: what is the hardest (perhaps most emotional) piece you’ve ever written? What has it taught you?
Thanks again to Raven for helping me remember just what writing means to me and for continuing to challenge me as I strive to be a better writer…and a better person. Raven, don’t think you’re excluded from the above challenge yourself!