- Just Write – What If I’m Not Good Enough
- Just Write – I Found Another Book Like Mine
Just write: These two little words are the most commonly given and most powerful writing advice out there. It’s heard so often and seems so insignificant that most people overlook it as yet another meaningless brush off or watered down writing-advice-meme with no substance.
There must be more to it, right? There must be some secret that the formally educated writers and best selling authors out there aren’t sharing with those of us learning online. This simply CAN’T be the blanket answer to all my questions.
And yet, “just write” continues to be repeated over and over in the forums. The substance is in the simplicity. The answer to most questions about creative writing is simply to write.
In this series, I will go over every question I come across in which I feel compelled to answer, “Just write.” There’s no possible way for me to recall every instance over the past many, many years in which someone asks such a question, so I’ll add to this series as I go.
The most recent burning question with a maddeningly simple answer?
What if I’m not good enough?
This is one of the most common questions among new writers. It’s not exclusive to YA, but it’s most commonly found there. Even if someone starts writing as a child (me, for example), they don’t start examining their craft until their teens. At that point, they’re most interested in – and therefore are usually writing – YA. That is where I came across this question earlier this week: r/YAwriters. (If you enjoy writing for young adults, I highly recommend this subreddit. It’s a fantastic community of active writers and readers. They’re very welcoming, helpful, and encouraging.)
The first anxiety that all of us have is simple, “Am I good at writing?”
It’s the first stumbling block. The first source of writer’s block. The first big hangup that sends a new writer searching for comfort and validation.
To answer the burning question seriously: No. You’re not good enough.
That can seem harsh, but it’s the honest to god truth. There are two ways to take this dose of reality:
- I’m not good enough, therefore I shouldn’t bother.
- I’m not good enough, therefore I should get better.
If you decide that you shouldn’t bother to write because you’re not good enough, then don’t write. Easy peasy. You’re not a writer. Put aside those aspirations and focus your energy on some other hobby or ambition.
If you’re like me, the idea of NOT writing is simply abhorrent. I can’t NOT write. That’s crazy! You can’t tell me not to write! Screw you! I’m gonna write! So what if I’m bad at it? Nobody has to read it. I enjoy it, so I’m gonna do it!
GOOD. Go write!!!!!
Are you seeing how monumentally simple-yet-substantial “just write” is yet?
If you’re still on the fence…
…then let me put it this way.
Let’s say you feel defeated and low. You’re not a good writer now, you probably never will be. You don’t have the moxie to write out of spite (like me). Nobody will ever read your stuff anyway. What’s the point?
Just because you’re bad now, doesn’t mean you will always be bad at it.
You’re not supposed to be good at it yet. It takes years to get good at writing, even for natural talents. No one is good when they first start out. No one. Every single published author on the entire planet has a stack of drafts (or even published works) that they look back on and cringe over.
So for right now, don’t think about what might go wrong years from now. In this moment, if you enjoy writing, you should be writing. You should be taking classes and writing drafts. You should be reading your preferred genre, and you should be writing drafts.
You love some soapy tv show? Fantastic. Go write some fan fic. See a neat writing prompt online somewhere? Fantastic. Write a shitty short story. Did your favorite romance cut to the next scene just before it got good? Great. Break out your pen and get nasty in print. Whatever interests you, go write it. Even if it’s just a paragraph, or a line of verse, or the climax of some novel that’s been pecking at the back of your mind. Go write it.
If someday you do happen to fail, never get published, and end up working in an office somewhere… do you really think you’ll regret the time you spent writing now? No.
The right direction…
…is always forward. If you’re still feeling stuck, then just keep going anyway.
If your anxieties over your abilities have got you blocked up, here’s a few helpful hints to get you going again.
First of all, you are not recording your story, you are discovering it. If the scene you just wrote is awful, who cares? You can change it later. Are you seriously okay with giving up here? Throwing in the towel? No? Then keep moving forward in your story.
You’re not going to magically become a better writer simply by being frustrated about it. Like everything else, writing takes practice. So get to work!
Write any scene that comes to you. Then, several weeks or months from now, while you’re writing the ending of your story, you’ll suddenly understand what should have happened at the beginning. That’s what first drafts are for: all the garbage that comes spewing out of your brain that makes no sense. In the second draft, you’ll pick through that garbage and lay the best bits out so it makes a bit more narrative sense.
So if your current scene is terrible, just remember: it doesn’t matter. Let it go and keep moving forward. The more drafts you make, the better you’ll get at it.
Secondly: how can you tell if you’re actually improving as a writer? Easy! When you get to the end of your draft (and not one second before!) go back and re-read it. Is it awful? Is it terrible, cringy, the worst thing ever written? But it seemed so good when you wrote it! How can it be so bad?
Congratulations! You’ve improved as a writer. The fact that you can see the badness of it now (where before it seemed good) is proof that you are a better writer now than when you wrote it. Keep going. It’s working.
At the end of the day, the only thing stopping you is YOU.