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Writers Often Ask Me a Question I Can’t Answer

Photo credit: denisbin

Today’s guest post is by author, editor and writing coach Mathina Calliope( @MathinaCalliope ).

If you’re reading this blog, probabilities are you have been told at some object, by someone, likely more than once, that you are a good novelist. Maybe even a great writer. Your mom, maybe, as she pinned your block-lettered picture-sentence narratives to the refrigerator when you were in firstly grade. Or the seventh-grade teacher who read your poem to the whole class, which was embarrassing but also super authorizing. Maybe you triumphed a high school essay contest. Or your colleagues praise your memos and emails, perhaps, for their precision or wit.

And you know it to be true. You have a knack for it. You’re cozy with your digits flying over the keyboard. It satisfies you to put together a decision whose lilt feels right. Your subconsciou bristles with projects, clamoring to be let out onto the page.

But becoming a Real Writer? About this you’re not as specific. Maybe you didn’t go into a writing field–you had to gave meat on the table, heighten the girls. Maybe you did prosecute a writing degree, but your main output now is press releases or ad simulate. Something always outlines you back though. You’re reading a memoir and the protagonist’s story reminds you of yours. I could do that, you think. I should do that. Why aren’t I doing that?

So you take a writing seminar and there it is again, just like in high school: validation. Your classmates love your story. “These items are great, ” they say. “I cherished the tension you create in the beginning, ” they say. “I can really sense the sensation the narrator was feeling in this paragraph, ” they say.

Of course, they also note that maybe you didn’t need that whole first clause at all, and that you probably could explain this bit about the relationship between the brothers a little better, and overall it’s moderately long and repetitive, so maybe go through and try to cut unnecessary paroles?

Still, you’re feed. Not merely from the feedback but from the feeling you got writing it all down. The memories that developed and caught you. The gratification of finally doing a thing you’ve said for years you wanted to do.

Now you decide to take a plunge. Get some personalized guidance and accountability, invest in yourself. You hire a coach. She’s encouraging and interested in your narration. She leaves little perimeter notations reacting to the story, and you see that she gets it. She understands what you’re trying to do. More validation, because what are novelists after if not readers who get it? Just like the workshop classmates though, she has more than praise for your masterpiece. She has criticism, questions, and suggestions. She wants you to rethink the structure. She thinks you should take out that entire section you labored over. She doesn’t understand better how several of the paragraphs relate to the chapter as a whole. She’s introduced commas in all over the place.

You start to wonder if you should keep going. Coaching’s not cheap, and the publishing industry is ruthless. The subject is saturated with writers, so many people wanting to tell their interesting stories. What reaches yours so special?

You wonder: Am I good? Am I a good enough writer to keep doing this?

I’m so , so sorry. No affair how much I love your writing , no matter how much it astonishes me, or–on the other side–no matter how much I think you have to learn, I cannot be answered. It’s not because I’m trying to be coy, or don’t want to hurt your feelings, or–on the other side–boost your ego.

It’s because it isn’t an answerable question.

“Good enough” shows there’s a mark of writerly skill. Learn these techniques, rehearse this structural approaching, master those literary maneuvers. As unless there is a prohibit out there somewhere, and your inherent expertise plus rehearse keeps you either above it or below it.

Don’t I wish.

Other domains have more rigid standards. Advocates, for example, is necessary to know a canon of instance and must possess logical thoughts and rhetorical skills.

But art isn’t like that. Not simply is there no way to answer the question of whether you are good enough, there’s no way to even define what it makes. Good fairly for what?

Good enough to share with your children? Good enough to be published on HuffPost? Good enough to get a book deal? Good enough to move some specific audience of books? Good enough to convey your truth, to help you discover what that truth even is?

On top of all of the above, good writing isn’t even the main criterium for pamphlet. Sadly, it’s not even in the top three or four. What gets someone publicized is whether their narration is relevant, timely, and MARKETABLE; what sort of platform( social media following) the government has; their stage of knowledge; and the uniqueness of their theory, its direction. Knowing people in the book world is awfully helpful, too.

No one person can ever know the answer to that question, then: Is your writing good enough. Not the operator who might or might not indicate you. Not the journalist who might or might not buy your journal. Not even the book who collects your record for record guild, where a inconsistency rises about the quality of the writing.

It’s not knowable.

Because of that, “Is my writing good enough? ” is not the question you should ask yourself.

In The Writing Life, Annie Dillard tells an fable about a student who asked a well-known author if he, the student, could become a writer. The reply: “Do you like decisions? ”

I love this answer so much. It goes straight-out to the point, which countless aspiring novelists, in their perspectives of booklet, journal parties, and New York Times bestseller schedules, skip over altogether. I take it to signify, Do you enjoy writing so much better that you cannot NOT write? Because if you like sentences, you probably like paroles, paragraphs, sheets, chapters. You like writing for writing’s sake, and not for all that other stuff. The other substance is fine; there’s nothing wrong with the other stuff.

So, do you? Like sentences, I want? If the answer is yes, then keep going. Put in the time. Read, spoke, read, spoke literature. Work hard. Enjoy the process. And find where it leads.

Read more: janefriedman.com