The Tomatoes Could Be Terrible. Write Anyway.
October 20, 2014 § 18 Comments
I just started working as an editor. I’m freelance, so I see a lot of self-published work, some of which fits every horrible stereotype about self-publishing. But no matter how near the beginning of their craft the author is, they’re still one up on me:
They finished a book.
They didn’t wait for the Fairy MFAmother to whack them with her magic Now You May Go To The Writer Ball wand, they didn’t let their mother’s dismissals or their lack of time stop them. They followed Nora Roberts‘ (and so many other prolific big-name authors’) maxim:
Ass in chair.
For us creative nonfictioneers, it’s often not a failure of imagination or work ethic, but a fear of not measuring up that dogs our ability to finish–or even start.
Should I write about the cancer? Nah, everyone’s got a cancer memoir. What about that time we broke up? Modern Love did that last week. My dad died? Special to me, but not everyone else. Sorry, Dad.
Fear of not being interesting, fear that our experience is too common, that we have nothing to say, that no-one wants to hear it, can paralyze a writer. After all, why should anyone care?
But there are three paths to memoir: be famous, do something amazing, or write well. We can’t control the first, and the second is often dangerous or expensive. As for writing well, we don’t know until the third, fourth, or fifth draft whether or not we’ve hit the mark. Stopping–or not starting–because we’re scared we won’t measure up is like throwing away the seeds because we might be allergic to tomatoes.
I still wonder if my life is a bit boring for a real writer. And it’s funny how the words can silenced by simple insecurity, by doubt, by the writer’s need to measure up to something, somehow. If you let it—and this takes courage—writing always comes through the cracks.
So dig out the damn seeds and plant the tomatoes. Maybe they’ll be bitter, or misshapen, or an odd color. They still might make great marinara. You won’t know unless you plant.
Go write. Not later. Not when you’re “interesting,” not when you’re unafraid. Now.
Allison K Williams is Brevity’s Social Media Editor. Every day she wonders if that was the last word she had.