As artists, we all reach stages in our writing where we feel like our work is the worst we’ve ever created. We put our hearts and souls into personal pieces only to find the harshest criticism comes from ourselves. This doesn’t only happen to famous authors, it happens to all writers. As human beings, our confidence is like grains of sand; it slips between our fingers and completely leaves before we even know it.
December of last year, I felt like the tiny amounts of grainy confidence I had finally was blown out of my palms. I had been involved in a project produced by the Elan staff called Coffee House. It’s a performance put on by the students that go to our school and the pieces presented are all original work. This includes poetry, Spoken Word, short plays, musical bands, and singing. To get into the performance, you had to audition and then be chosen by the staff in charge. I had written my piece, performed it, and was picked by the judges to be in the show.
As I went to rehearsals and worked on making my piece better, I began to get this feeling that maybe my piece wasn’t all that good. Especially being surrounded by so many beautifully talented artists, who before the age of 19 are already extremely skillful, I found it very hard to maintain the pride I had in my work before.
I had to keep telling myself that they chose me for a reason. The judges liked my piece, and they thought my message was important enough to be in Coffee House. The fellow members who heard my piece also enjoyed it, and encouraged me every day at rehearsal to not hold myself back on stage. Other people told me I had created good work, but it didn’t really help me feel any better about it.
It’s important to recognize that as artists, our confidence can only rely on ourselves. We nurture our work, fall in love with it, and sometimes even share it with others. The reason we love writing isn’t just because we love how it makes us feel afterwards, but because we appreciate ourselves more when we put ourselves through the struggles and challenges of finishing work. I remember that even on the night of Coffee House I felt like no one in the stage would like or even understand my piece. But when I finished performing and took a deep breath, I realized that I loved my piece after all. It didn’t matter if people hadn’t clapped and given me support. What matter was that it felt right to have gotten my piece out into the world.
What truly helped me love my piece again, and what I use most of the time when I feel like I’m falling out of place with my writing in general, is thinking about the reason I started writing something in particular. What motivated me to write it down and work on it? What do I like about my writing? It’s also important to ask myself why I don’t feel like my writing is good. Whether it’s just one piece that maybe isn’t where I want it, or it’s over time where I feel like all my writing isn’t nearly as strong as I want it to be, I like getting down to the core reasons why I don’t believe it’s where it should be.
Good work needs patience and attention. Good work needs time to breath by itself and time to stand on its own. Writers, be kind to yourself. Be kind to your work and your passions.
–Valerie Busto, Fiction/Creative Non-fiction Editor