I was not born a writer. Then again nobody is.
When I was young I gravitated toward areas in which I was naturally talented. Math came easy to me and I liked that there was a specific correct answer for each question. But with creative writing, there are many ways to be wrong and I never seemed to get it right. I assumed I just couldn’t do it. It didn’t help that my SAT scores clearly illustrated my ability in math and my struggles with the language arts. My father even remarked to me, “wow, Jen, you are really good in math. But you are illiterate!”
Now that I am older I find my self gravitating towards my weaker areas. I find myself accepting greater challenges. I’m specifically trying to get better in the areas that I used to struggle. For instance, I was not particularly athletic in my youth through college. But a few years ago I began participating in sprint triathlons. Before my first race my stomach was churning and my nerves were rattled. I really questioned whether I belonged out there at all. Looking around at all the other seasoned triathletes was very intimidating. I wanted to throw up, then quit and run home and climb back in bed.
But I didn’t quit. Instead, I made myself finish that race. Even though I trudged through that race, once I crossed the finish line the thrill of accomplishment kicked in and I was ready to do it again. It was an awesome feeling to finish what I started. Now I’m trying to get faster on my bike, better with my swimming stroke and become a better runner. I’ve even taken up a boot-camp style fitness program at the YMCA to help me get better.
Creative writing can be very similar to competing in a sprint triathlon. It can be intimidating for those that are not comfortable expressing themselves with words. It certainly is with me. I have many moments where I feel like I did before that first race.
But then it dawned on me that creative writing isn’t completely about the finished product. It is also about the process of starting with an idea and bringing it to a conclusion. It is about the journey from start to finish. You should get better as a writer the more you do it. It’s no different than exercise or practice.
One of the writers in our Mudskippers critique group, Tameka Fryer Brown, recently told us her about her journey to publication. Just hearing her story and her emotions through the writing process helped me feel better. She is a published author, yet she has been through all the same anxieties and frustrations I go through as a writer. And she has succeeded.
As you face the challenges of writing, find other writers to support you, encourage you,and inspire you. But most important of all is finding gratification in the process of creative writing. That is the way you get better.