It’s unfortunately inevitable. Those days when we sit down and begin, subconsciously, to question our motives, our skills, our aim. We read successful authors and attend their readings and visit their sites and we wonder, Can I really do that? Should I even bother?
Thankfully, that depressing downer that is a part of all of us is dormant most of the time, but when he chooses to speak up, it’s hard not to listen to him, the little devil. Recently I’ve had my fair share of depressing thoughts and reluctant acknowledgement of the notion that I might not be as brilliant as I make myself out to be. Sometimes, all we need is a humbling experience to bring us out of the dark, and I had one.
I was fortunate enough to attend a reading featuring Chitra Divakaruni, author of Oleander Girl. Her humorous and intellectual talk opened my eyes to the possibilities that are waiting for me to grasp them. I want to do this, I thought, as I sat in my seat and took vigorous notes on how to avoid writers’ block and Who Not To Read. I want to stand in front of an audience some day, and read my work to them. I realized that, just as Chitra was obviously proud of her work and accomplishments, I should be proud of mine. Every word that my mind churns out onto paper, every story, every poem. They’re products of my creative drive, and I have every reason to take pride in that effort.
Regardless of whether it’s “good” or not, whether I’m ever going to get published, (please God yes!) I need to be able to read my own words without feeling ashamed, or inferior. There’s no scale for great writing, no matter what editors and publishers say. There’s a technical scale, sure, but a scale of quality is up to the author to discern. We can’t measure writing by Faulkner’s standards, or Hemingway’s, or Carver’s, or King’s. Instead, we need to write what we are passionate about, and the quality will be worthy of any New York publishing house. The trick is to write because you can’t see yourself doing anything else, not because your sole aim is getting published. Publishing’s just a nice plus.
“It’s better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self”