And I hate it so much.
It’s funny, no one has ever told me my writing is bad. All my life, people seem to believe in me, seem to see in me an author I’ve never actually been. (Being an author would mean you’ve been published.) Not one single time has someone looked me in the eyes and said, “Your writing is bad. It’s poorly done, nobody likes it, and it’s terribly difficult to read.”
And yet, here I am, so plagued by the concept of failure that I’ve developed a chronic fear of starting.
My problem isn’t content, not really. I read some of my high school journals recently, and sure, most of it was cringingly terrible. I was fully prepared to burn a few things, if I didn’t have a suspicion that my mom wouldn’t appreciate scorch marks on her carpet.
Some of that writing seemed really good though.
I guess it’s hard for me to tell, since I’m the one who wrote it. Also, it was all short, novel ideas abandoned when they were just barely the length of this blog post. I’d like to say I’m improving, but I’ve never even finished a rough draft to edit, so who knows what my content is really like.
I suppose that’s the point, isn’t it?
If no one ever sees my work, it can’t be judged.
My abilities are non-existent, so they aren’t good, bad, or terrible. Honestly, I find there’s as much to be afraid of with being good as there is being terrible. If you’re good, you have to do something about it. There’s a lot of pressure. If you’re terrible, you’ll always know that, though the plus side is at least then you can stop.
My real fear is being mediocre.
It’s sad, because it’s a bit of a cycle, isn’t it? If I never write, never hone my skills and improve, so of course I’ll be mediocre. Very rarely are people born excellent at anything. Most people are born at average. I couldn’t be any other thing. Often the people around me who wrote well have intimidated me. They’d praise or even say nothing about my work, but seeing what they could do — I felt average.
And so I stopped.
I’m afraid this isn’t going to be a feel-good piece about the power of that average, the worth of that connection between people, the unity of all being similar. I don’t write because I feel like I have nothing to say that isn’t being said. I don’t write because I’m terrified of the person who reads it and goes “this is okay”.
A non-reaction to my writing is my worst fear.
Honestly, I think I’ve made it this far on Medium because I don’t think of it as writing anyone else will see. I do acknowledge the possibility, of course, but so far this is an exercise in advanced journaling. When I sit down to type, it’s both because I have something to get off my chest, and because I know I will never get better if I don’t write. I am mediocre now, and mediocre I probably always will be. But if I think about that, I will stay at this standstill for the rest of my life. No progress will be made, no chance of improvement, even minor. And at the end of the day, I want to have a manuscript in my hands. A physical object, a tangible item to hold like a possession and be proud of.
Perhaps that manuscript will never be opened. Lord knows, thus far, it has never been written, so let’s take a few baby steps there. I can’t guarantee it will be loved or hated. Maybe I could try for hated, write as poorly as I can, just so I can say I tried, I failed, and I’m done. But I don’t think my inner self would accept that. The part of me that is so unhappy with the idea of “average” knows that’s what I am. Knows that, at least right now, today, I am mediocre. I am not better than anyone else.
I want to change that, I really do.
But the more I decide to try anyway, the more I face new fears about my own mediocrity. The process of writing is pushing back on me, frightening me into submission in new, fun ways. I still very much hate the idea that someone could read something I wrote and simply not find it interesting one way or the other. I’m trying to muscle through that, repeating like a mantra that there’s no way to guarantee that won’t happen besides writing more and more until I get “good”. The more I write, the better I’ll be, so the less likely it is that will happen.
Except I’m not convinced of that. Not deep, deep down, on an emotional level.I’m at a writing standstill, again, facing resistance because of this new fear, that I could write and write and write, and still be mediocre. I know full well that all of this is ridiculous, and I’d love to have an argument with the piece of me that keeps sliding these fears into my subconscious. But I’m having trouble recognizing that my behavior is because I feel this way, let alone that finding what part of me is responsible so that I can shake it.
My inner self wants the best for me, I’m sure, but she can be really hard to please.Just like she’s afraid I can’t succeed, she’s angry every minute that I’m not improving.
It’s no wonder I’ve been avoiding the subject of writing as much as possible for a few years now. Out of these two competing emotions, not trying was winning just because it took less effort.
I wish I could tell you I had some magic secret, some plan to get over these feelings. Not only would that be a nice way to end an article, but I’d really like to look back at my life in the future and not see a whole bunch of this nonsense. I’m not going to lie to you though, I don’t know. I’m not arrogant enough to assume the world needs my voice, that I have some inner message that has to be shared. It would be much easier if I was.
But I’m starting to think that I need a novel, that I need writing of some form, just for me to be happy.
So one more average voice for the world it is, I guess.