Community, Personal Development, Writerly

This Is Who I Am (A Blogging Challenge Answered)

A few weeks ago, blogger and friend (and fellow INFJ, as I so recently discovered!) Raven from The Writer Babe Series posed a challenge on Twitter:

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.

Only…Nothing.

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.

Stories.

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!

Personal Development, Writerly

Battling Yourself: Fighting the Fear of Writing

I wrote a draft of this blog post twice before I sent it to a friend and fellow writer for some advice. It’s a dilemma I’ve rarely faced in the year since I’ve first started blogging. Usually, it would take an hour to crank out a post, edit it for clarity, and hit publish. I would feel confident, rarely second-guessing myself or my thoughts.

But now that has changed, and it’s taking every effort to combat it.

Writing can be such a personal outlet, no matter which form it takes. As a blogger, you’re initiating conversation and forming connections by allowing readers into your personal life. As a fiction writer, you’re imagining a new world, with characters you can relate to because they are often based on individual experiences.

Words are powerful, full of thought and meaning, and it’s true that the meaning you give those words is often a reflection of yourself. Perhaps that’s why writing can be as detrimental as it is rewarding. Being a writer means being vulnerable, subject to criticism and rejection. Suddenly, you feel as if you’re a prisoner to a craft you once loved: a blinking cursor or a blank page turns into a self-made cage.

Only, you have the key, right there in your hand.

With your fingers to the keyboard and a pen in your hand, you can unleash creativity and allow inspiration to grow in the place of doubt.

An insightful commenter on the previous post mentioned the works of David Leisner, a classical guitarist and composer who created the Six Golden Rules for Conquering Performance Anxiety. While these rules pertain to music, specifically, they can be altered to fit any aspect where you begin to feel the hints of self-doubt.

Below are just a few of the steps as related to writing:

1) You have practiced to the best of your ability. Trust your automatic pilot to do the rest of the work for you.
There comes a point where you begin to over-think your own writing, where that red editing pen fills in the margins of your manuscript and your screen is peppered with track changes notifications. You become so worried about crafting that perfect paragraph or sentence and choosing that just-right word that you lose your stride and second-guess your choices.

Trust yourself. Trust your ability. Put away the pen, turn off the editor in you, and let the words come naturally, as they’re meant to.

2) Do not judge what happened or what will happen.
You’re not the writer you were yesterday. And tomorrow, you may not be the writer you are today. That’s because not only are you constantly revising and editing your work, but you’re also always learning, growing, and experimenting with your craft. Don’t worry about what others are doing or what they’re writing about. Listen to yourself; write what moves you in that moment.

3) Do not second-guess any audience member’s reaction…as your perception will probably be inaccurate. Please yourself only.
Why do you write? When you take a step back and consider it, why do you really write? Is it for the paycheck? To see your name on the bestsellers list, your book on the shelves? Or does your motivation run deeper. Do you write for others, to gauge their reaction and be showered in praise?

Or do you write for yourself? Because you have stories to share and you feel like you could burst any minute with experiences and emotion…Because writing is second nature, like breathing, and without it, you would be stifling a part of yourself.

Not every person is going to like you, understand you. Not every reader will appreciate your words or the work that you put into your writing.

But then again, others will.

It’s impossible to fully understand what every reader thinks of your work, as every opinion is different, stemming from their own preferences, values, and experiences. What’s important is how you feel; what matters is what this writing means to you.

Write because it makes you happy. Write because you have stories to tell and experiences to share.

Write because you can’t imagine doing anything else.

Just write…Half your battle will be won.

Life, Personal Development, Writerly

Battling Yourself: The Fear of Writing

This is probably the most honest blog post I’ve ever written about being a writer, stemming from emotion rather than reason, my own insecurities coming to the forefront this past week. It’s something I’m recently struggling with, it’s something I know other writers and creative types struggle with, and so I wanted to put it out there, raw and (mostly) unedited. This entry is cross-posted with my other site.

It’s 2:45am, and I can’t sleep, even though my dog is curled up next to me, snoring, dreaming. Words and ideas for blog posts and stories are starting to invade my thoughts, but slowly…too slowly. Suddenly, for the first time in months, I feel like I’m forcing myself to write, wonder if I even want to put these thoughts down, tired at the idea of reaching for that laptop or pen and paper.

Suddenly, for the first time in months, I’m afraid to write.

I think that writers are naturally sensitive with their work; truly, each sentence, each carefully selected word, comes from a part of yourself, and every time you put a thought down on paper, it’s like giving up a piece of yourself, leaving you more vulnerable as you show it to the world. Through your writing, you’re saying, “this is what and how I write because this is who I am,” and it’s up to the readers to love it or hate, to determine if it’s good, worthwhile, and you can’t help but wonder if that’s actually an extension of yourself.

It’s a dreary, frightening thought that I’m not convinced is 100% accurate. As a reader, too, I like to think that we’re all able to separate the words from the person; however, as a writer, that self-consciousness, awareness, fear, exists — a small seed of doubt that is planted and can grow if fed with too much criticism, fostering self-doubt.

And self-doubt is always the writer’s greatest enemy.

This past week, I’ve struggled with my writing — both blog posts and stories (I won’t even mention the novel…that’s been my Achilles’ heel for months and a topic I’ll cover soon). I’ve written posts for twenty(or)something, I’ve met with my writing group and used these challenges and prompts to come up with snippets of a story, the beginnings of what could be something. Only, I feel a bit ashamed of the posts I wrote, believing they’re not my best; and that creativity that has inspired me, motivated me these past few months? I feel like it has dried to a slow trickle. Even Annie, who is usually scrambling for attention and has so much to say, has stopped talking.

Or maybe I’ve stopped listening…

I write, and I feel like a fraud. Suddenly, I question myself: who am I to call myself a writer? Who am I to encourage others to find inspiration, to motivate themselves, to foster the writer inside of them when I can barely string a few words together to make a coherent sentence? My credentials and experience seem juvenile when compared with published authors; my portfolio seems woefully small.

Am I a writer?

Or am I just an impostor? Playing a good game of make-believe, fooling everyone, including myself?

Deep down, I know the answer. Deep down, I know that every piece of myself screams “writer.” I feel the word itself living within me, pulsating through my veins, even as these words are forced from my fingers where they once spilled forth easily, naturally.

But that self-doubt keeps me frozen, keeps those stories locked away, small pieces of inspiration barely slipping through the bars of a self-made cage.

It’s the writer’s greatest enemy.

And it’s time to do battle against it.

What battles do you face as a writer and/or blogger? How do you contend with self-doubt and these often irrational insecurities? How does this often unfounded fear hinder yourself and your personal and/or career development?
Part II: Battling Yourself: Fighting the Fear of Writing, coming soon.

Note: After expressing these thoughts recently to a friend, I was told that there is something called impostor syndrome, which is a very real, very crippling manifestation of these thoughts. While I do believe a lot of my own feelings are due to a temporary case of self-doubt, I’m very aware that this exists and wanted it to be acknowledged.