Today’s guest post is coming from Jen Cross, author of Writing Ourselves Whole: Using the Power of Your Own Creativity to Recover and Heal from Sexual Trauma. Jen is a brilliant writer who’s led transformative writing workshops through her organization Writing Ourselves Whole since 2002. I am so honored Jen took the time to share her awesome writing wisdom with us.
“Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.”
This quote, attributed to Pablo Picasso, is my latest obsession. Over and over, these words ring in my head. All the projects I keep putting off, that I tell myself I have plenty of time to complete, are clamoring for my attention. I make time for paid work, for house work, for the dog, for family. For television, for administrative tasks, for cleaning up the yard waste and making sure it gets into the green bin.
Out of the entire world population, writers are the harshest on themselves when it comes to self-judgment.
No, I haven’t done a study or anything, but it wouldn’t surprise me if this was true. Based on the emails I get from writers, and the blog posts I read written by writers, I can see clearly that self-judgement is one of the biggest, ugliest problems we deal with on a constant basis.
There’s a lot of feel-good quotes and advice out there for writers on the internet. Don’t get me wrong, I need to hear this sort of stuff just as much as the next person. It IS important to “believe in yourself,” “just keep going,” and “never give up.”
Aspiring writers often ask me, “What the most important piece of writing wisdom you wish you knew when you were just starting out as a writer?” My answer is never what they expect. It’s not the tried-and-true “show, don’t tell” or “kill your darlings” advice we’ve all heard time and time again. It’s something much simpler. And in my opinion, something that would have saved me years of frustration, self-doubt, and self-judgment.
My most important piece of writing wisdom:
I’ve been writing seriously for over ten years now. And by “seriously” I mean writing novels and short stories with an eye toward publication. I’ve published one nonfiction book, and one work of autobiographical fiction. I also coach writers, so I’ve edited countless manuscripts.
Last month I finished the first draft of my next nonfiction book. I’ve spent the last year reading and researching, and the past six months painstakingly writing out each chapter. “I’ve got this,” I thought to myself all summer long. “I finally know what I’m doing.”
Then, a week ago, I read through the entire first draft.
And immediately went into the black pit of despair.