The Guild is thrilled to feature a brand new monthly column!
Here’s how it works: each issue, a local writer will offer a question pertaining to the writing life. Then, our anonymous columnist (who we affectionately call “Writer”!) will attempt to respond. The answers won’t always be perfect, but they’ll always be heartfelt. And they’ll always be meant to bring our community a bit closer.
I’ve been thinking about writing you for awhile now, but I was always afraid I’d never quite be able to briefly put my question into words. You see, my problem’s pretty complicated, but it’s also one shared by a lot of us. After some serious soul-searching, I think I’ve managed to boil it down to a single question. Here goes: why does my writing suck?
Once upon a time, back when I was an undergraduate and the words were easy, I wrote a story about a boy who fell in love with a girl in chemistry class. Upon reading my final product, I immediately knew one thing for sure: my story was awesome! In fact, it was probably in the top ten best stories ever written in the English language. It had everything: love, drama, and even a nice extended metaphor related to human “chemistry” and the scientific version. Yes, it was one for the ages, and when it was picked up by a magazine a few months later, I was hardly surprised.
Fast forward a couple of months, whereupon rereading it, a few new facts came to light. First, my story was not awesome. In fact, I’d wager to guess it’s probably in the top ten worst stories ever written in the English language. Yes, on the surface it had everything—love, drama, and more!—but all that story had was surface. Which is another way of saying: it had about as much depth as a puddle. The characters were flat, the plot was contrived, and my extended metaphor couldn’t have been more transparent if I’d tacked on a title like, “Chemistry, like Love Chemistry, Get It?”
Anyway, I guess most of my readers got it—all four of them. While that tenth-tier now-defunct online magazine had seen fit to publish the piece, I sleep easier knowing that story’s pretty well hidden in the bowels of the internet. Though not hidden enough for my liking.
I won’t sit here and tell you that your writing doesn’t suck. Not because I don’t want to (I do!), but because it would be disingenuous to make an assessment based solely on the caliber of the writing revealed in your question to me. What I can tell you is that many writers worth their salt are stricken with similar bouts of self-doubt. To my mind, that’s a good thing. A “writer” who thinks he churns out pure gold is a “writer” who I can only refer to as a “writer” in quotation marks. True writers (note the lack of quotation marks) understand that the struggle is part of the process. And that the longest, hardest struggles often end with the greatest sense of accomplishment.
Which is to say: if you think your writing sucks, you’re in good company. The best company.
Now back to the keys, my friend,