Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Repost: It's Okay To Hate Your Own Writing

(Originally published on 4/20/11. I think this is appropriate for NaNoWriMo, which is often wrought with self-doubt.)

Recently, I saw this posted to my Tumblr dashboard:
It would be pretty fucked up if you didn’t enjoy your own writing. Then it would be like, why would anyone else like it?
I don't always enjoy reading my own writing. Scratch that: I rarely enjoy reading my own writing. If that's fucked up, so be it. I take solace in this quote from Nick Hornby:
Like a lot of writers, I really can't stand my own writing, in the same way that don't really like my own cooking. And, just as when I go out to eat, I tend not to order my signature dish -- an overcooked and overspiced meat-stewy thing containing something inappropriate, like tinned peaches, and a side of undercooked and flavorless vegetables -- I really don't want to read anything that I could have come up with on my own computer.
If apathy bordering on revulsion is a common response to one's own writing, I guess I'm in good company then. I don't trust someone who loves everything she's ever written, be it Tumblr word vomit or an award-winning article. There's something, I don't know, dishonest about it. Maybe it's because I'm always questioning what I've written, the thought that someone actually enjoys her own writing makes me uncomfortable. Every little mistake that I don't catch until I've hit publish, every misplaced comma, every awkward transition -- I think they must be glaringly obvious to even the most casual reader.

And yet, I think this is okay, healthy even. In an age where we're all supposed to show unwavering self-confidence, doubt keeps you pushing harder. Doubt makes you want to be better. Though I wonder how much self-doubt plays into giving yourself "permission" to write. I'm forced to recall Gloria Azaldua's piece in The Bridge Called My Back, where she is probably the only writer I've come across to openly question who society gives permission to write:
Who gave us permission to perform the act of writing? Why does writing seem so unnatural for me? I'll do anything to postpone it -- empty the trash, answer the telephone. The voice recurs in me: who am I, a poor chicanita from the sticks, to think I could write. [...] How hard is it for us to think we can choose to become writers, much less feel and believe we can.
I think this is important to remember, for all those writers who think, nay, know they have the right to call themselves writers. There's quite a bit of privilege there.

Added: 11/13/12

I wanted to tie this into NaNoWriMo because, well, everything this month is tied to NaNo. If attempting to write a novel in short period of time achieves anything, it's the practice and discipline that putting your butt in a chair and just writing grants you. Now I realized that not everyone has the freedom that having ample downtime allows, and for some people, NaNo is a real impossibility. I wrote close to 3000 words this afternoon, not counting my non-NaNo writing, and it gets easier, I swear.

1 comment:

  1. Mmm I really like this. I often have to force myself to hit publish because I'm so antipathetic about what I've written. And then I'm left thinking, why write at all, if you hate it so much? Do you think you're adding value to the world? I have not answered this question satisfactorily as yet ...