You can’t throw up a bunch of blog posts about pushing through writer’s block without God/the universe/your subconscious/whatever testing you. I haven’t written a post in a while, but I’m here now.
Maybe I don’t know everything there is to know about writing (obviously). The thing is, I’ve never had the thought, “I know everything I need to know about my writing. I know who I am.” Maybe I do know who I am, but I sure as hell don’t know everything there is to know about my craft. Maybe I forgot that I’m still learning. Just because I’ve had some success doesn’t mean I’m not shooting in the dark. In fact, just while writing this, I see how much editing I’m going to have to do for this post, and I’m reminded that I’m still rough around the edges. As a person and a writer. Thankfully, though, you’re seeing the cleaned up version of my writing!
The thing about writing is the pressure to be good. No one wants to put a subpar book out there and see a million bad reviews. No one wants to see one bad review, honestly. Elitism comes into play when writers buy into the pressure. We think if our work meets the criteria of Good Writing then we suddenly become the judge for everyone else. At least, that has been my experience.
A younger version of me was very judgmental toward other writers, and later in life when I was in my MFA program, I still struggled to remain nonjudgmental. Is part of it that I enjoy feeling superior from time to time? I hope not, but it’s more than possible. I can remember being a little girl and loving knowing that I was right about something, knowing that I knew something no one else knew, and the pleasure of enlightening them.
All of this feels a little too personal to write. I would hate for one of my writer friends to read this and feel that I must be inwardly criticizing them all the time. This post is mostly an exploration of my ideas – I definitely don’t have a clear cut, right answer for you, although, if you do please share!
One thing that I know is it’s more productive to critique your own writing that to critique someone else’s. What do I mean by that? I mean that, while reading and critiquing another writer’s work, whether it’s published or not, can teach you things about your own work, the only thing that actually changes your work for the better is when you critique it yourself and put the changes you need into place. I’m stating the obvious, but it’s easy to do the easy thing and the easy thing here is finding the faults in someone else instead of fighting the behemoth that is your own project’s flaws.
As much as I needed to be reminded that I still have a long way to go as a writer, I know that my writing has improved tremendously over the past year. This blog has certainly helped me learn to be clear and cut out the extraneous (although, recently, I’ve allowed myself to be more adventurous and see where the posts go), but another big part of my improvement has been having more time to revise.
While in my creative writing undergrad and MFA programs, every week was about writing the next poem, story, essay, and paper. I took a ton of workshops and forms classes, so I was constantly writing the next thing, only stopping to revise a few weeks before finals so I could turn in an edited portfolio to my professors. I was always brainstorming the next thing so revising was somewhat superficial. I didn’t have enough time to dig into my work and evolve it until summer breaks. Now that I’ve spent a year out of school, I’ve learn so much about tightening up my language, discovering the heart of the piece, and doing more of what works and cutting back on the rest. If I had to pinpoint the biggest way I’ve grown as a writer in the last year, it is in my revision techniques.
I’ve learned to let myself word vomit and let the future editor me mop it up. Looking back, I’m very proud of how far I’ve come on my own just from trial, error, and revision. Sometimes I forget that I’ve got a body of work to work with, not just a few flimsy poems. Granted, I’ve got a lot more to write and in ten years I’m sure I’ll look back and wonder how I thought the writing folder on my laptop consisted of a “body of work.” But still, I’m working with what I’ve got and I’ve got something to work with, and that’s enough for me.
Poet. Reader. Lifelong Student.