God, writing is difficult.
For me, it's not the content. I have so many ideas and stories that want to be written. Anonymously, I could write for days. I have a multitude of novel-length documents hidden away in my computer files, short stories lurking in my Google drive, and essay's about controversial topics begging to be seen. All in all, I flourished in my English composition and fictional writing classes.
So why was writing so easy then?
I knew my intended one-person audience. I could write for myself, and mold it to fit the confines of a grading rubric. I learned the subtle differences in what my professors liked and could write the way they liked. It was easy then to assume that jumping into the world of general fiction writing would be just as easy.
Oh, how terribly wrong I had been.
Even now, I sit here typing a short story and I keep coming up short. I am furiously writing and re-writing for a summer fiction contest, but nothing ever feels right. I've hit the undo button for what feels like the millionth time, and each word I choose feels incorrect and wrong. I pour over other contest winners to see what stands out, what is the best, what wins.
Surprise! Writers that "win" don't have a specific formula. There is no rubric to follow or one specific person you need to please. Instead, I'm left to my own devices, and that is absolutely terrifying. Newsflash, it applies to working with publishers and other companies as well.
I have to be the judge, jury, and executioner of all my stories.
If I make a wrong call for a character, I can be criticized. If I stop a story short of its ending I can make readers upset. If I make a poor call in deciding the plot, I can cull a story I desperately want to write before it even begins.
And anyone who knows me knows I hate making decisions and I hate conflict. Which, as it turns out, I have learned is not a trait unique to me. Working with close friends and other writers online taught me a few things, which have become a list of mantras I try to stick to.
First, it's normal to be self-conscious of your work.
Any artist, writer, sculptor, musician, knitter, or any creator for that matter will agree that you are your own worst enemy. For me, it's the fear I will be criticized. I can see every error, every questionably written sentence, every plot hole, and when I look at my work it has more holes than swiss cheese. I just have to take a deep breath, step back, re-evaluate and understand some holes are ok!
Second, you can be too perfect.
I have to accept that no story is flawless. I can write every minute detail I want, but in the end, reading fiction is for entertainment. I have to accept that my reader doesn't need a detailed explanation of how my characters go to the bathroom- it's assumed they do somehow, and unless it's going to majorly change or enhance the plot the re is no reason to include it.
But for me and my wannabe perfectionism, it's so difficult not to include EVERYTHING. Not to mention the added horrors of knowing my family could read my works, oh the humanity. It's this constant need to feel like I am perfect to myself, to my readers, and to my family. That, however, is not healthy for anyone. It can be great motivation, but knowing when to draw the line has become extra difficult for me.
And lastly, learn to be accepting.
This is the hardest for me to follow. I cannot stand to read some of my old works, and have an even harder time accepting it's a part of growing as a writer. When I look back on these all I feel are shame and embarrassment whereas I should be feeling pride! I've come such a far way since beginning my writing journey, and there is no shame in where I grew from. It's okay to change, grow and learn, it's what writing is all about.
As someone who is over-controlled in so many aspects of life, it's just good for me to remind myself of these three things. What I'm feeling is normal, stop putting so much pressure on myself, and be open to learning from what I've done. Even now, writing this out makes me feel less alone and stressed.
I know everything will be okay.
So just write!