Another Monday brings another fantastic (and relatable) guest blogger who covers a topic revolving around reading and writing. Today’s heartfelt message is brought to you by Sandra Nyamu, blogger from Death On The Road. I think every writer has felt like they weren’t “good enough” to be published, and every writer has to find a way to overcome that feeling. Today, we are overcoming it together – thanks to Sandra Nyamu.
Being (Good) Enough
I am a senior in university. Last year, taking a required human sexuality course, my professor had us keep a journal about our thoughts and things, to be turned in at the end of the semester. The usual sorts of things; sexual anxieties, thoughts about genitalia, gay porn and clitoral structure. At least, that was what mine was about. Handing it in at the end of the semester, the professor told me that she loved my journal and thought I wrote well. So well in fact that in her estimation, I could do it for real. Become a writer, the published kind.
Kind words. She was telling me this and I was feeling, proud, flattered and a little overwhelmed, but mostly like there was a furnace in my stomach and that I was going to throw up. Becoming a writer, for me has always been that fantasy that I harbored dearly and practiced quietly. I roll quietly, but I roll hard. There is a very misplaced romance about the writer. Typewriters and steaming cups of tea, you know what I’m talking about. Frustration, tears and half-filled notebooks feels more accurate. Maybe it’s because of my upbringing that flattery evokes shame, but feeling like I was going to throw up, I understood why I was so anxious.
She believed I was good. To some degree, hell I believe I am good but then that elusive ENOUGH.
It’s never enough. You can be abundantly capable and talented but when you start thinking about being ‘something’ enough, you start to compare your ability. Can you create a story so compelling that it births a rabid and faithful following, sure but not like J.K Rowling did. Can you make casual yet tasteful oral sex jokes, yeah but not like Chinua Achebe did. Can you construct a complex metaphor hidden in a sob story about a weepy rich dude, yeah but not like Scott Fitzgerald did.
That fucking enough. It means nothing but is so charged with all the skill you think you don’t have that you believe it. ‘Not good’ as an assertion, that makes sense. That you can work with. ‘Not enough’; that is a solid statement as well. When you invite ‘enough’ to the party, suddenly you introduce lack. Every lack you probably don’t have but then again, maybe do have, just not in the measure that you are convinced that you do. Lack of good words to use. Lack of smartness to show off. Lack of, here’s that other bad word, talent.
Enough comes alive and it becomes the thing that convinces you every last sentence was crap, that you are no Hemingway, you are no Ms. Bronte (any of them) and giving up would be the best course of action. When it has convinced you that you can’t write for shit, it moves on to other more enjoyable thing to devalue, yourself.
It happens in one fluid motion because writing is sort of intimate. Your words come from places that probably are only ever seen through those very words. If your writing isn’t good enough then you the writer are fucking awful. What was that thing that Gandhi said about self-doubt? No, he didn’t say anything about self-doubt. But if he did, he would probably say that doubting yourself is like sawing the arm off that you are using to write. Or maybe something less dramatic and more profound.
Deciding that there is an enough to live up to, to be up to, to write up to is exactly the way that recycle bins get filled, the way that half-filled notebooks become discarded, and great ideas atrophy unexpressed in fantastic brains. Maybe I am the type of person who could become published one day. Because I am good. I am enough. Writing is so subjective and intimate that there is never a good enough. There just is.
Bio: Sandra goes to school a lot and tries to have good ideas in her free time. Overwhelmingly average but aggressively earnest. When not reading or watching the Food Network, she tweets at Sandra Nyamu (@sandwichnyamu) | Twitter and blogs at Death On The Road.
Want to be a guest blogger? I would love to have you on! I am accepting original posts that focus on reading and writing. A picture and a bio are encouraged. If you qualify, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.