There are a lot of tips and advice out there on what makes for a great writer. I’ve written on this topic many times before, myself. It takes persistence and determination, say the experts. Writers have to be brave, says Charles Bukowski. You have to be clear on your goals, ready to receive hard feedback, and have an organized daily schedule, says the internet.
However, I’ve actually met and befriended hundreds of real life writers and I can say with a good degree of certainty that not all of us are all of these things. Or, we’re only some of these things some of the time. The rest of the time we’re disorganized, self-doubting, afraid, and not at all ready to hear harsh criticism of our work.
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: