As a school kid growing up, I thought I was good at writing.
I thought that because I liked reading, and writing stories in exercise books, that I was a natural-born writer. I even qualified for a special fiction writing course that was held at a university one weekend. Wow. So cool.
But there’s a lot more to being a good writer than being able to construct a logical sentence. And if I’m being honest, I got a “B” not an “A” in Grade 12 English.
It’s only been over the past few years, when I naively thought I’d turn my hand to writing a full-length novel, that I realised I might not be as good at writing as I thought I was. There are a few pieces of evidence that have led me to this conclusion.
Firstly, I will write something, believing it’s well-written. Then I’ll leave it for a little while, say a few weeks. Read it again and realise — it needs work. I’ll rewrite it. Then I’ll leave it again, say a few years. Read it again and realise — it’s utter shite. Am horrified I ever thought it was good. Ponder the possibility I may be delusional.
Secondly, I’ll give my writing to other people (readers, but non-writers) to read. Again, thinking these pieces of writing were well-written and expecting them to be impressed. The feedback has varied from: (a) radio silence, (b) politely advising me of a typo they found, and, (c) generalised comments along the lines of “yeah, I liked it”. This feedback suggests my work is not ready for submission.
And finally, reading the work of other writers. I know, I know, we aren’t supposed to compare ourselves with others. But I believe there is such a thing as a Magical Writing Unicorn. These are writers who are blessed with the ability to churn out spectacular sentences, come up with perfect plots and create complex characters. Think Margaret Atwood. People with a gift. I know writers like this. And I know I’m not one of them.
But. There’s a saying I saw on Pinterest. I don’t know who wrote it. It says: “Good things come to those who work their asses off and never give up.” (With: “Good things come to those who wait” crossed out above it). Even the Magical Writing Unicorns have to work hard. This means I have to work extra hard — writing, rewriting, editing, rewriting and editing again. Even if it takes years (it is taking years).
Then maybe one day I’ll read something I’ve written and be surprised — wow, did I really write that? One day, I’ll get that feedback I’ve been seeking. And one day, it might be me spinning spectacular sentences, planning perfect plots and creating complex characters and finding that it isn’t as hard as I once thought it was.