Over the course of my life, I’ve taken more than one writing class. Once I took a whole program of them, even. And I’ve also read a fair amount about writers talking about the craft of writing. And something I’ve never understood is that, nearly invariably, there is this fairly painfully explicit hand-wringing on the part of authors/writers/those who put pen to paper/what have you over their assessment of their own writing. It’s like most writers think they aren’t “real” writers unless they trash their own work to a certain (ridiculous if you ask me) extent.
You hear them bemoan going back to earlier work and cringing through it. You hear them whining about how talentless they are when they hear acclaimed writer so-and-so read their writing.
To be honest, I just want to tell them to shut up.
When I go back and read my writing, the stuff that I thought was good enough to put up on my 1990s-era website for all the world to see, I’m impressed. When I re-read the short story I got published once in that magazine that shortly thereafter went out of business1 or the novella I wrote for the 3-Day Novel Contest that got me into the writing program I took, or even my “coming out” poems, I’m like, “Damn, I should really do more of this—I am not making enough use of this talent.” What on Earth are you doing writing if you don’t think you’re any good at it?!
Do I think I’m the best writer ever? No. Do I think my writing, then and now, is flawless somehow? Of course not. Have I written bad things before? Totally. Will I write bad things again? I’m sure I will. But seriously, writers—and there’s a whole other blog post’s worth of material I could get into about the taking on of identities like “writer”—shut the fuck up about how bad your writing is. Seriously, there is something super-unhealthy in this notion that to be a “real” writer, one has to self-flagellate.2 While I do buy the notion that there’s always room for improvement, if you truly are as unhappy with your work as you generally sound like you are, stop trying to be a writer. And if you aren’t, well then… false humility is pretty much the most unattractive form of humility there is. Antithetical to the notion of humility, even, one might say.
There’s suffering for one’s art and then there’s suffering by virtue of how purportedly bad an artist you are, which is just offensive since there is more than enough real suffering to go around in this world.