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brynsmith Writer & blogger at
11mo Story
Am I Getting Worse at Writing? Thoughts on Self-Doubt

I’ve been writing since I was a young kid.

My days were spent watching Disney movies and reading chapter books about animal veterinarians. So at that point, everything I wrote was a re-hash of things I’d seen or read, but with different names and slightly varied hair colors. In grade school, I entered a writing contest by re-working a Neil Shusterman book into a short story. I won first place, which only confirmed my suspicions that I was a great writer. Sure, I still had some self-doubt. In fact, I deleted every trace of that story on my computer so that no one else could read it. But it was my first, somewhat original story, and I was proud of it.

I started to write with intention in high school.

At least, somewhat. I was binging on Nicholas Sparks novels and YA romance and then trying to write like I knew anything about love at 15 years old. Spoiler alert, I didn’t. My writing wasn’t particularly noteworthy, but I kept writing anyway. I wrote because I was inspired, which made what wasn’t extraordinary feel like it was. Because even if I had no original content, I had excitement. And with excitement came a voice that felt like mine, even if the stories were not.

Then came college, where things changed.

As they always do. I started to lose myself along with my ability to put pen to paper. I thought about writing. And I wanted to write. But I didn’t. At least not for enjoyment. Thanks to being and English major, my writing energy was spent on research and term papers. I took creative writing classes to try and force inspiration, but only ever threw words on a page at the last minute and hoping they landed in a somewhat cohesive order. And feeling like they probably didn’t.

I learned a lot about how to write well, but that came with a cost.

Writing well doesn’t always mean good writing. It means it’s clear, not creative or inspired. I was so focused on grammar and word choice and sentence structure that there was little room left for interest and creativity and inspiration. So I wrote a lot and I wrote well, but I’m not so sure it was good writing.

Occasionally, I would have moments of inspiration.

That’s how I wrote this post I published in Thought Catalog in 2014. Funny thing is, I barely remember writing it. All I know is I sat down in bed one afternoon and I was struck with some words that I couldn’t help but spill out into a Word document. The next thing I knew, the words were there. I like it, it was finished, and I wondered what I was supposed to do with it. So I published the words because I liked them. But in reading it back, it doesn’t feel like I wrote it. The words don’t feel familiar. I think I liked them because I felt detached from them.

As time goes on, I’m finding these moments of inspiration come less and less.

I can’t help but think that awareness comes with a price. Like they say, ignorance is bliss. The more I learn about writing, the more I become aware that I am writing. I am no longer getting lost in the blissful ignorance of inspiration. I am just writing, word after word after mundane word. And the more words I write, the more the magic gets lost in the mechanical.

The more I write, the more I find that writing may be more like fixing a car than a creative art.

And as I keep going, I start to discover that I have no idea how to fix a car. I’m just moving pieces around until I find the right fit. The only problem is that, with writing, I’m not sure there is ever a “right fit.” Maybe there is just “good” and “slightly better.” And the more I learn, the more I realize that I’ve moved further away from “slightly better.” It’s like moving two steps back every time you think you’ve gone a step further.

So maybe it’s good to be critical.

Maybe that means I’m getting better. Or at least willing to push a little harder. I can’t know for sure. All I can say is maybe I just need to be a little kinder to myself. Because even if I’m pushing a boulder down a long and unending road, I am still gaining strength. And one day, I’m sure, that strength will be useful to me. If only to punch self-doubt in the face.

For more posts like this, please visit my website.

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1 comment

  • Sasha Blemming
    11mo ago

    Don't be to hard on yourself! I have been trying to write a book for quite some time now :/

    Don't be to hard on yourself! I have been trying to write a book for quite some time now :/

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