A few years ago, before my MFA, I decided to take on a challenge. I wanted to write something every day. The goal was two-fold. I wanted to write for my website in order to get myself “out there” as some people put it. But more specifically, I wanted to improve as a writer.
This kind of reminded me of one of my classes, where my professor explained one of the most valuable lessons in my MFA. I had just had my workshop, and I was about to close my notebook where I had taken notes when my professor saw the two pages worth of notes I had taken. They weren’t just any notes though. See, I write extremely small, and it was a regular letter-sized notebook. I had crammed a ridiculous amount of words into the page because I wanted to make the best out of the workshop, as I wanted to improve.
Recently, I’ve gone back to some of those stories I wrote back then, and I must admit that they were sort of terrible. Now, I know writers are always terrible to their own writing. But here’s the catch. Back when I was writing them, I thought they were great. In some cases, I let my ego get out of control because of how good I thought they were. But as I read them now, I started to notice little issues that I was completely ignorant about, little things that I would try my best to avoid.
My professor looked in shock and mentioned his surprise. And then he asked me a question I found extremely hard to answer. “How are you going to apply all of that onto your next draft?”
I looked down at my notes. There were so many different notes, some of which conflicted with each other, such as “I think that the characters need development” or “I loved how you much you developed your characters.” I had no idea where to even start for my next draft.
My professor answered for me. “Don’t worry about it. Just toss those notes aside as you revise. Maybe focus on one thing if you really want to. The truth is that you won’t actually learn much right now. It’s funny how it works, but workshop doesn’t really work until years later, when you’ll be sitting at your desk, writing something new, and someone’s words from this workshop will suddenly come up, and you’re going to notice something you never noticed before.”
I guess he was extremely right. As I look back, everything I’ve learned so far has enabled me to see issues I had never seen before.
But then we get on to my current problem. It is true what they say. As you improve as a writer, the harder writing gets. As I look at this work, I can’t help but think that it’s extremely hard to put something to page now. There are way too many moving parts that I need to work on, and that thought paralyzes me. And ultimately, that’s why I never post here or anywhere else. I’m too afraid to write badly.
However, here’s the thing. I like writing. I never really stopped writing. I have several stories written on the side. In fact, I have a third story about the robot Jean Clarke Oliver that I wrote a few weeks ago. But, I never post.
So I started to ask myself, “why don’t I?” And the only answer I can come up with is fear. I’m afraid of posting something terrible. This gets me back to what I said at the beginning here. I used to post every single day for an entire year, and some of that stuff was awful. But from that, I improved and I actually came up with some stories that I legitimately like (like the Jean Clarke Oliver).
Ultimately, going back to those stories gave me energy and inspired me to go back and try something like that back then. I want to come back and write fiction every day because just like back then, I want to improve. And hopefully, I can avoid some of that fear. Tomorrow, I’ll post the third story about the little robot. I will also start posting some of the old stories throughout the week to try and build the world in that story.
I guess what I’m trying to say is… I’m coming back!