The Aha Moment
I want to follow up on last week’s post about how to feel like a writer and tell you about the moment that inspired it. This year has been filled with big changes for me but this one is the biggest and most positive.
Sometime around May or June I realized that I needed to shift the point of view and tense that I was writing in – third person past to first person present. I had written 10 chapters in my current draft, a complete rewrite, so I went back to change them. As I worked through them there were several that stood out as needing a lot of work, none more so than chapter five.
It was, quite frankly, the worst thing I have ever written. I felt so awful reading through it. Steve, my inner critic, was vociferous in his comments. Look at this! You forgot how to write! Oh my God, this is unbelievable! Nothing happens! How did you write 3000 words where nothing happens?! You can’t use any of this! IT’S SO AWFUL!!! (Steve always talks in exclamation points.) He was right about the fact that the most of it was going to have to be rewritten. But he was wrong that I couldn’t use any of it.
There were a couple of sentences that were ok. They might even be good, although it may have been the contrast to everything around them that made them look that way. Regardless of their worth, I could use them when I rewrote the chapter. In fact I could see how to reframe the chapter, and make it better, around them. Things weren’t hopeless.
Then I remembered something I had read in Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. She talks about sitting down to write, coming out with maybe a page of words, and having to throw most of it away. Except for maybe a sentence, or even part of a sentence, that was good. Not everything you write is going to be good, and sometimes a lot of it may be garbage. The important thing is to take the good and move forward. Throw away the bad and start again the next day.
When I originally read that I remember being comforted by it. Even real writers don’t write well all the time. Almost a year later it struck me forcefully. I was having this exact experience. I was living it. I was living something that Anne Lamott has lived. She’s a real writer. Oh my God. I AM A REAL WRITER!!! Steve was, for once, completely silent.
I can’t describe what I felt. It was one of those revelatory moments that completely changes everything. I went from having a hard time calling myself a writer, to feeling like one. The feeling hasn’t faded. If anything it has only grown stronger. I am sure that there will come a time when doubt creeps back in and I forget that this has happened. But for now I am so grateful to be able to stand up and say, with certainty, that I am a writer.