A Thousand Reasons Not To Write is an exploration into the reasons why it took me so many years to do what makes me happy: write, create, imagine.
Do you think you’re good enough?
I am strong-willed. I am educated. I am curious and eager for challenges. I am opinionated, passionate. Annoying sometimes. I am privileged, I am loved, and I am happy.
Yet for years I have known that I wasn’t good enough.
Pride is a privilege. Cockiness, assurance, self-worth – whatever you call it, whichever degree of self-deception it entails. Growing with it – through it, in a symbiotic relationship – gives you a strength that I sometimes envy.
Part of it is certainty, a belief that you are worth it, against all contrary evidence. Because there will be contrary evidences. The best of the best have been insulted, ignored, laughed at, ridiculed, isolated, beaten down. Everyone has failed. It stands to reason that you should experience incomprehension and failure too.
The certainty that you are good enough helps you get back on your feet, ready to do it again, better this time, and again and again, against all odds, and as many times as needed to succeed. When you are certain of your worth – your destiny, your calling, your uniqueness – failure is only the sign that someone other than you misunderstood and messed up.
Yet is there a correlation between the certainty of your worth and your actual worth? When is persistence a sign of dedication, faith and destiny, and when is it the sad sign of a loser that cannot face the truth? Because the truth is that not all of us can be good at anything and everything. Some of us will fail because we are not good enough.
Is success a better indicator of worth? Can compliments be trusted more than criticisms?
Not from your relatives and friends, surely. There is a deep suspicion that your loved ones cannot but lie to you to make you feel better. Why else would they tell you that they enjoyed your stories? Because they are actually interesting and well-written? Get out!
And this stranger complimenting you… is he even good enough to judge whether you are good enough? Isn’t the fact that he likes your work a sure sign that he is not sophisticated enough? (Oh, sweetie, love is sooo plebeian!)
There is no escaping the fact that we are generally not good judges of our own worth. We tend to over- or underestimate ourselves. Or we oscillate between delusions of grandeur and despondent self-flagellation until we get dizzy.
Is your work worth reading? There is a test, they say, the test of time. The texts we still read centuries later are the true works of art. They transcend petty and short-lived concerns, political and economic trends, fleeting celebrity crushes.
Yet, by definition, this is a test we cannot be witnesses to. We certainly won’t pass the test of time, a test measured in centuries, in millennia. And what about the works that do not survive the test because of censure, short-lived fashion, lack of translation? And what about the works that never got to be tested by time? We can take success as the confirmation of worth, worth as the predictor of success, but we know deep down that things are more complex than that.
We can run in endless circles. In the end, it is the writer who has to decide whether s/he is good enough. Whether her story is worth telling and reading. Whether her words are powerful enough to conjure up a whole world in the mind of the reader. Whether there will be a work at all.
For years I have known that I was not good enough, and for years I have not written.
But my stories struggled. They survived in my mind, survived oblivion, change and routine. Tiredness and disillusion. Adulthood. They survived, and I am now writing. Putting my stories out there.
I still believe I am not good enough. Every day I struggle to write, to share my work and, more than anything, to overcome the external evidence that I am not good enough. The rejections, the refusals, the indifference. Every day I struggle not to drown in the ocean of content, creation, evaluation, like, share, motivational post, advice, do not, talent, opportunity, hope and despair. Not to be absorbed by the great mush.
I am not sure that I want to think of myself as good enough. I do not want to be self-deceived, to be in the wrong. More essentially, I want to get better, to be able to improve. I want to reach towards the infinite, unattainable perfection, to graze it with my fingertips and flirt with her, even if we know I will never be able to catch her.
I want to write. Can I succeed without being cocky?