“I’m not a good writer.”
I hear this often from my clients and students.
Does writing come more easily to some people than to others? Yup.
Does writing take practice? Yup.
Can having someone edit your work improve your writing? Yup.
Just because those things are true, doesn’t mean you’re not a “good” writer.
Sometimes it’s the striving to be a “good” writer that stops people with amazing things to say from sharing them.
They stop writing because:
- Their writing doesn’t sound like what is conventionally considered to be “good.”
- Their first draft doesn’t read like a final version (which is impossible!)
- Their writing doesn’t receive heaps of praise
- Someone tells them they aren’t a “good” writer
None of these are reasons to stop writing if you have something you want to say.
Because we write all day long, from emails to grocery lists, we forget that writing is a creative process. When you write, you are making something out of nothing.
That nothing, where creativity comes from, is mysterious. It does not give up words and ideas on command. You have to be very kind to your creativity. It does not respond well when you say:
“Write something right now that everyone will say is amazing.
(One hour passes)
“What is this dribble?
You are not a good writer.”
What your creativity does like, is when you say:
“Hey there, mysterious creative process,
Wanna hang out today?
I’d like to write a blog post/article/poem/website copy/book, so I’m going to show up for x amount of time on x day(s) each week and see what we can come up with together.
Over time, I’ve learned that you particularly like it when I write at x time of day, in x place, with x music playing, and x snacks/drinks on hand, so we’re going to try that today (I realize you might change your mind about any of those things ’cause that’s how you roll!).
Because I’m hoping this will evolve into some kind of long-term relationship, I’m going to make some promises to you, OK?
I promise to give you space to write an incredibly messy first draft before I come in there with a red pen and chop it up.
I promise to be open to the original and unique ideas you want to share and how you want to write about them, even if they don’t look, or sound like what is considered to be “good” or “right.”
I promise to remember, as our friend Tara Mohr teaches, that criticism (and praise) often tell us more about the people who give them to us than they do about our writing.
I promise that if we decide we want help with editing our writing, we will hire someone who will edit our work so that it sounds like us, not like them.
I promise to be a faithful friend and companion. I will never abandon you. I will show up regularly during good times and bad because I know we have a lot to say.”
Don’t let judgment about what is “good” and “bad” writing stop you from sharing your ideas.
The world is a hot mess right now.
We need all kinds of voices and ideas and writing to find our way through.
We need you.
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6 thoughts on “You are a good writer. Really.”
Britt, you always seem to say the thing I need to hear. I’ve decided that when I have nothing else to do, but must sit at my desk at work, that I will write. So far it’s produced some things I’ve been proud of and some things I filed away never to be seen again. It is indeed a mysterious creative process.
That is so great, Katie! I’m so impressed that you’ve created that practice for yourself. I hope you continue!
Really connected with this one, Britt! On the one hand, as a writing teacher, I think Nooo! There are rules to follow! And as a creative person, I adore the idea of this contract you make with yourself. Yes.
As I’m sure you’ve found as a fellow writing teacher, I find that the rules often stop people before they start, or make them write in a stilted, or overly formal way, especially folks who were raised that following the rules = success.
It can really get tricky whenever self-doubt comes and muffles all that creativity, sometines before it even gets a chance to breathe. We must indeed never forget why we pick up the pen in the first place and that is because of our need to share this creativity of ours.Thanks for sharing this post, as far as I’m concerned I stumbled across it just when I needed it!
Welcome, Con.tdex and thanks for reading! I’m so glad the post was helpful.