You Are Wasting Your Time

friends try palm reading to cheer me up after the tactophobe dumps me
friends try palm reading to cheer me up after the tactophobe dumps me

“I like you,” he said.

“No, you don’t,” I said.

“Why do you say that?” he asked, exasperated. He’d been trying for almost an hour to get me to agree to a date.

“I just do.”

“No, you don’t.”

“You don’t know me!”

He threw his arms up in the air. “I know I like you, and if you went out with me, I’d get to know you. Why do you think I wouldn’t?”

I didn’t how to answer him, and I looked away. “There’s no point in wasting your time.”

“I wouldn’t be wasting my time.”

“You think what you want. I’ve got to go.”

“Will you think about it?”

“Fine. I’ll think about it,” I said, knowing I’d never say yes.

Why do some us fail to believe in our writing? I send a piece out into the world and can think only about is how flawed it is. Looking over the pages, I see a tangled mess. They are tangles that defy logic. They can never be straightened out.

But if you don’t believe in your writing (or your art) but you keep putting down words, what does that mean? Are you crazy or do you harbor a faith in yourself that you just can’t admit to? Why ever not? What would be terrible about that?

Maybe that anxiety comes from somewhere else entirely. Do you think people are born with faith in their abilities and have it taken away? Or they born without it and have to learn it?

6 thoughts on “You Are Wasting Your Time

  1. It’s almost impossible for me to strike a balance between thinking good enough and thinking not good enough. Actually, it’s reasonable to imagine that (almost?) nobody can strike that balance and really KNOW that it’s just-right. Instead, based on innate or learned accidents of life and craft, they just err on one side or the other. (Some people are optimists and some aren’t.)

    One of the recent NYer items following John Updike’s passing was by one of his editors there, about what it was like to edit one of his stories. They’d talk back and forth on the phone, and JU would wonder, like, Hmm. Do you think it would be better if […]? Or instead, that character could […] — would that work?

    Lord knows I’m no Updike and expect never to work with that editor. But what struck me about the passage was Updike’s utter willingness to overhaul or jettison entirely parts of his work as submitted. The moral of the story for me wasn’t “Hey, even Updike wrote imperfect stories.” It was “Wow — Updike had no anxieties about the imperfections. He listened to a trusted reader, they talked about the work, and he did (or didn’t) make the changes.”

    I’m sure I’ve got a long way to go before I reach that serene plane.

  2. What JES said.
    You have to vacillate between editor mode and high-flying, devil-may-care wonder at your powers of creation. I like to think never the twain shall meet, but they do on frequent occasions. Once you get into that creative zone, though, where you just let the magic flow through your fingers and onto the page… that’s all good. That’s why I write, that’s what I enjoy doing. I also enjoy editing and making it better, but that feels exactly like what it is: work!

  3. I think we’re born with it and lose it upon confrontation with the world. Just take a look at a girl of 8 or 9 and then look at the same girl after puberty hits.

    I’ve been working on this, myself. Working on having faith in myself. There comes a point where I just have to take a deep breath and say, it is what it is, I am what I am. Flaws and all. Flaws don’t mean unworthy.

    And then again, there is room in the world for many different kinds of beauty and meaning. I look at my art, and I know there are professionals out there who would sneer at what i do. But I can’t think about them. They aren’t my audience. Same for my writing, actually.

    Does that mean I don’t have moments of freak out in regards to my crap. I sure do! Evidence being I haven’t sent any writing out in 5 years. You should take pride in conquering those demons enough to finish and let go of your work.

    You know, even your fears that it’s not good enough? it just is what it is. There’s nothing wrong with you for being afraid.

  4. Watching my son, I’m inclined to think we’re born with confidence, at least if someone is there cheering us on. But the world can squash that confidence, I think.

    I know I had more confidence before I spoke to a writer I met at a conference about my writing last summer. She was very straightforward and honest, and usually I can take criticism, but something she said kind of stilted me. It was what I wanted and yet it hurt too, and I still haven’t recovered from it. I have hope that I will, however, because I know I’ll keep writing.

    But we have to face these fears. We have to get our work out there. Maybe if I had given her something else to read, she would have liked it. Maybe not.

    I really think you should have more confidence in your abilities, Marta. Your novel is good. And if it doesn’t it get published, that doesn’t mean that something else you write won’t. You have to send it out to agents. Or take it to a conference.

    What I’m saying is that we might be knocked down, but everyone is knocked down….what matters is if we keep getting up again.

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