Whether or not we voice it, it’s something we all wonder. We ask ourselves “Is my writing good enough?” before we pick up a pen (or digital age equivalent), as we write, and before we hit the save button.
The question—the self-doubt—taunts us.
Here’s where I pull out my soap-box, especially if that nagging doubt is keeping you from telling your own stories. For whom are you writing? If you’re hoping to pen a best-seller or win a literary prize, there may be some merit to the question. If you’re writing down your memories to share with loved ones, there probably isn’t.
Writing Good Enough to get started?
You won’t know until you try. Look at the “good” writers you know (or know of). Most of them don’t spout forth eloquently from the start. They practice, edit, and revise. The really good ones even have professional editors. Just like any other craft, practice makes better. Oddly though, many people put off practicing writing in hopes of one day being able to write better.
Writing Good Enough to Reveal to the World?
Every writer, even bestselling ones like my idol Anne Lamott, are constantly developing their voices. What a tragedy it would be if they had waited until they extinguished every last iota of uncertainty before they shared their work.
On my less-neurotic days, I like to compare my writing with a home-improvement project. Once you get started with DIY renovations, you really never do get done. No matter how good things look, your eyes always drift to the one thing that could still be better. There comes a time when good enough is good enough. (That, or time to buy stock in Home Depot.)
Who’s Judging You?
Try to look at your writing objectively. Continuing with my home renovation metaphor, family members are probably impressed with your work as soon as the dry-wall goes up. Your writing is good enough whenever it’s in a state that others can gain enjoyment from it. (See my theory on why writing for family is like reading the Bible in church.)
Consider whether your uncertainty actually stems from your writing. Maybe you need to banish your high school English teacher from your head or perhaps you need to reign in your perfectionism.
Banish the doubt
If you’re really struggling to get yourself to that point, consider taking one of the following steps:
- Take a local writing course. Even if you’re writing IS good enough, you’ll get helpful tips and a qualified instructor’s input.
- Show one or two of your stories to a trusted friend and get an honest opinion.
- Read some “writing better” resources. For memory writing, my favorite it William Zinsser’s Writing About Your Life.
- Buy my book. I literally cringed as I typed that. I hate self-promotion. However, the whole point of Memories of Me is to help people not only write their stories, but to feel good about their writing.
- Reconsider your goals. Is your writing a vehicle to share your stories or vice versa? The answer to that question will help you re-evaluate whether you’ve set the bar too high or not.
What do you think? At what point is it time to start sharing your writing?