F’ing Insufficient

When I initially started thinking about this week’s post, I had every intention of writing about the same mundane roadblocks that many writer’s face: the distractions of television and the internet, the necessity of work, keeping up with household chores, taking care of kids/pets/whatever, etc. It would have been quite the exciting post, let me tell you!

Then I wrote my Worry Wart post, discussing what topics inspire my writing. And I realized while writing that post that Fear is not only a common theme for my writing, it’s also the most common theme for my not-writing. I write about things that worry me, but I worry that what I write isn’t good enough, and that prevents me from writing. Ugh.

Then, fortuitously, I read a post over at Penny Arcade from Jerry Holkins that seemed to crystalize my thoughts on this topic perfectly. The post wasn’t necessarily about writing, but about any creative venture (in this particular case, DMing a role-playing tabletop game). In the post, Holkins notes that, when soliciting public opinion on your creative works, there is always the worry that the author, “Does not have it. The suspicion. There’s a way to find out, of course, but this carries with it the danger of verification.”

And there it is.

How do you find out if you’re writing is good enough? You put it out there and let people be the judge. Unfortunately, there is always the risk that, as you’ve secretly feared, your writing is NOT good enough. And rather than face harsh, soul-crushing judgment, sometimes it feels easier to not submit anything for evaluation in the first place.

Holkins suggests a solution to the issue:

You have to get back on the horse.  Somehow, and I don’t know how this kind of thing starts, we have started to lionize horseback-not-getting-on:  these casual, a priori assertions of inevitable failure, which is nothing more than a gauze draped over your own pulsing terror.  Every creative act is open war against The Way It Is.  What you are saying when you make something is that the universe is not sufficient, and what it really needs is more you.  And it does, actually; it does.  Go look outside.  You can’t tell me that we are done making the world.

I’m going to print that quote and tape it to the wall above my monitor, because it so clearly states what every creative person should consider when they are tempted by the words, “Never mind.” That’s unacceptable, or as Holkins more succinctly put it: “Fucking insufficient.”

Giving up before you even begin is almost always a result of giving in to fear. A key component to the creative process is conquering that fear, and a means of doing so is subjecting your work to critique. You need to  Own the fact that maybe, just possibly, your work doesn’t have it, and add one more word to that fact: Yet. Doesn’t have it Yet. Anything worth doing takes practice, and involves the risk of failure. But failure doesn’t have to be final. It can always be just another step towards success.

The key is to keep taking steps.

Thanks, Penny Arcade, for helping me write this post.

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