As a person who uses a wheelchair, there are a lot of strangers who take great pains to acknowledge my bravery. You know, for having the fortitude to keep on rollin’. I simply smile and thank them, and maybe laugh a little to myself. But the truth is, I want them to be right. Bravery, it would seem, ought to be pretty standard issue for a person who considers herself a writer of memoir.
The trouble is that I’m not brave. Even those days when a storm blows just loudly enough to remind me how cozy my home is—the kind of day that’s made for writing and sipping tea—I have to coax myself to the computer. I’m likely to invent some horrible task to occupy my time before finally settling down to work, like scraping out the cat’s litter box or, heaven help me, exercising. Over the years, instructors and peers have repeated the same chorus: “Get your butt in the chair and the writing will happen!” Well, pardon me, but my butt’s always in the chair.
Assuming the position of a dedicated writer doesn’t seem to be enough, at least for me. I’m a little ashamed to admit it, but I find writing almost never comes naturally. What does come naturally is fear. In fact, I fear everything I write is the stupidest, most boring thing anyone has ever written in the history of the universe.
That’s a pretty heavy load to bear. To be the one person who has written the stupidest thing in the whole universe.
Yeah. That was me. Nice to meet you.
So, what can be done? How can I combat this overwhelming sense that I’m not good enough, that I’m not as talented as so-and-so, that I’m revealing far too much of myself and should be ashamed of every admission I make on the page? Even this one.
Well, I don’t know exactly. What I do know is that I want that thing I had when I was 8, sitting cross-legged on the floor writing stories by hand in a black-and-white composition notebook. Filling pages without stopping to question a particular phrasing or the impact my words may or may not have on posterity. Sure, maybe I spelled ‘they’ with an ‘a’ instead of an ‘e,’ but at least I didn’t toss a story in the garbage just because a bathtub floating in an ocean filled with pirates seemed too ridiculous. I just wrote.
My older brother once told me he wanted to become a chef. When I asked him why he didn’t apply to a culinary institute, he said, “Because it’s just easier to go home at night and play video games.” And he was right. It takes bravery to face failing at something you really want. Unfortunately, my courage in writing seems to share an inverse relationship with my age.
The good news is that, over time, I think I’ve discovered that I can substitute bravery with an equal measure of faith. The faith necessary to continue writing what I know is no good. Such faith allows me to tack the word ‘yet’ to the end of that criticism.
My mentor, Lee Martin, always tells me to drown out the critical voices and to just have a conversation with myself on the page. This practice reminds me that it’s okay—possibly even really important—for my ambition to outweigh my talent. It’s okay to hate what I’ve written. I have to remember that I love writing and that what I really hate is feeling inadequate. It’s okay if I’m not that brave. I just have to have faith that underneath the rambling is the germ of an idea that at some point, with weeks and months of revision, might actually become something I’m proud to say I wrote.
- Guest Post, Ashley Caveda: My Body Is Not A Metaphor - August 31, 2017
- Guest Post, Ashley Caveda: Me After Me Before You - June 2, 2016
- Guest Post, Ashley Caveda: Raising the Bar - April 16, 2016
10 thoughts on “Guest Blog Post, Ashley Caveda”
“It takes bravery to face failing at something you really want.” That sentence is so powerful. I fully relate to the feelings of fear with writing. I often stay just on the edges rather than plunging into my writing allowing my heart to bleed on the page. It’s a struggle but also encouraging to know that many writers face this same struggle. Like Ashley said, it’s a journey to continue writing even though it isn’t good…yet.
You’re right, Amanda. Putting yourself out there through writing can be a very scary thing, but can be very rewarding.
“Even those days when a storm blows just loudly enough to remind me how cozy my home is—the kind of day that’s made for writing and sipping tea—I have to coax myself to the computer. I’m likely to invent some horrible task to occupy my time before finally settling down to work, like scraping out the cat’s litter box or, heaven help me, exercising.”
I can relate to that comment on so many levels. I finally had to take a hard-lined approach with both the world and myself in that regard. Six days a week I now have dedicated time where the only thing I do is sit and write. The phone is off, the email and chat client windows are closed on the PC, and the door to the room where I have my computer and desk is closed and locked.
Some days I really don’t feel like going in there and doing the writing. But, I have found that making it a part of my actual daily schedule does help keep me from successfully talking myself out of it. I’ve even started getting more support to get in there and do it from those around me.
To say this spoke to me in a lot of ways is a grand understatement. I can relate to a lot of this. It’s not exactly the same, but I know what it feels like to be told you’re brave, to smile and wish the person was right. I’ve had arthritis in my hands since I was a child and a lot of my family tell me I’m brave for pulling through it and continuing to pursue a career in writing. I don’t always feel brave and I’m always criticizing my own work, like it’s never good enough.
This was one of the most uplifting things I’ve read; sometimes, it’s nice to know you’re not the only one facing the fear of failing. This really hit home for me.
Thank you. Thank you for sharing this.
I can relate to your fear. The idea that your work isn’t good enough. I feel the same way a lot of the time, which is why I generally don’t allow others to see my work. I, like you, find it hard to enjoy my writing because I don’t believe that is is good enough. But someday, it may be a month, year, or years from now, I want to have my work published. I want to know that I am good enough. I want to be proud of my writing. I think it is inspiring to read your story, and hear how you are overcoming your own fears, because reading this will help me aspire to overcoming mine.
‘Writing is an act of confidence.’ “My ambition to outweigh my talent,” Caveda shared, which made me recall a time I had at a writing conference. Author Adam Johnson lectured that talent can rust, but labor is what will get a writer to write his/her best work. Caveda wrote, “have a conversation with myself on the page,” which I absolutely adore. Plus, I enjoyed her meta-blogging voice, which is both humorous and deep in thought. At a reading by author Ron Carlson, he gave the advice to keep the editor out of the room when writing the creative content. I’ll sometimes leave funny, stupid questions/comments in my rough-draft context so I can then later have a giggle when the editor part of me returns to clean up the messes. I had a lot of fun reading this blog and I will continue to think about it.
A writing instructor once told us in his class that there were some things in his life that he has experienced that he has not yet uncovered through writing. He admitted that to do so would bring them into a new world and change both the memories and the experience forever. I think that is also why we hesitate to write. For me it’s that, and the idea of placing my point-of-view above that of others who experienced the same thing.
To write that you aren’t brave is a disservice to the work you do. If you weren’t passionate about what you wrote, if you had no stake to claim in your work, then you would have no reason to worry. Why would anything you wrote matter? But you obviously have the drive. Keep writing and overcoming the boundaries you set for yourself. Now I need to go home and take a big spoonful of my own medicine. 🙂
We should all take your advice, Lindsey!
your words about courage inspire me. Thank you.
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