Do you ever feel like these oranges? This image made me laugh the first time I saw it, because it is a joke and jokes are funny. Then I started seeing this image everywhere, and it began to resonate with me, not because it was funny, but because it was speaking an insightful message.
We live in a culture that teaches us to be the best, that all our hard work will pay off when we finally reach the top. This theme is particularly dominant in sports and I saw it everywhere during the Rio Olympics. They had whole segments on the USA female gymnasts, focusing on their hard work, dedication, the sacrifices they made to get to Rio – and how winning a gold medal made it all worth it. Those girls are amazing yes, and I am sure they worked very hard to earn their spot on the team, but what about the girls and boys who tried but didn’t make it to the Olympics. Did they work any less hard, or make fewer sacrifices? Was their effort not worth it?
Our society focuses on those that reach the top, but we neglect to recognize all of the people who work just as hard as those on top, but still fall short. The people out there who are like these oranges. Not the best, but still good – great even.
When it comes to me and my writing, my focus gets skewed towards what society values. I want my story to be the best, my writing to be the best, my characters to be the best. I want to be the best author there ever was.
But, odds are that I won’t be. Sure, there is a chance me or you or the amazing Kayla could one day reach the top, but the truth is, most likely, we won’t. If I were writing for fame, or money, writing with the goal of becoming the best, then I would want to stop right now. Because odds are I’ll never get there and odds are it might not be worth the sacrifices I’d have to make.
Thankfully, I don’t write for fame or money (newsflash writing is not one of the highest grossing careers) I write for my story. I write because it feeds my soul. But because I am impacted by society’s values of competition, perfection and greatness I struggle with writing doubts, feel like my writing is unworthy, my dreams are unattainable and my efforts are unprofitable.
I’ll read a scene I wrote yesterday and think – it’s not the best. Then, my instinct is to spend hours editing, revising, rewriting and stressing over the scene until I can get it absolutely perfect. This is the wrong frame of mind! If I scrutinize all my writing that way, before I even open it up to the opinion of others, before I even try to get it published then I will never finish my story. Instead, when I read my writing I need to learn to accept that it’s not the best, but see that it is still good.
As writers we are our own toughest critics! We know the potential our stories have, we can see every place they fall short on paper, compared to how they look in our heads. What we struggle to see is the shock of reading our plot twists for the first time, or the wonder of the magical world we’ve created. It is easy to get so absorbed in seeing what’s not the best about our stories, that we can’t see the good at all.
This happens to me in other places besides my story. I know I’m not the best blogger, so sometimes I wonder why I am trying. I know I’m not an expert on certain subjects, so why would I write about them? Someone else could do this better. Who would want to see my mediocrity?
The answer is a lot of people! Because where I see myself as mediocre, someone else might see me as great – or even the best. The beauty with art and writing and creativity is that it is subjective. Though this means there will always be haters, it means there will also always be people who get what you are going for, who love what you do!
My goal for my writing life is to be more like these oranges. To have the confidence to say, I’m not the best – but I’m still good. Here’s my three tips to achieving this attitude in your own writing life.
- Read: When I read a book, very rarely does it fall into the “OMG this is the best book I have ever read category” usually it is just good, I like it, it is average. And I still enjoyed it. Seeing other published books that are just good is very encouraging, it means I can to the same. I also find encouragement from reading books with poor writing. I try really hard not to hate on these authors, because as a fellow writer I know the struggle, and I know I have a more critical eye than most readers. Instead, when I see weaknesses in writing I pause to consider if maybe my own writing shares this flaw and if I could use this story for personal growth. I also try tp practice humility recognizing that this book that I hate is published, while my story that I love is still finding its way. No matter if I pick up a good book or a bad one, it gives me hope for my story and inspiration to continue on my writing journey.
- Step back: When I get in a big rut, hating everything I write and feeling like I will never accomplish my writing dreams – sometimes the best solution is to take a step back. I take a week, sometimes longer and I do not work on my story, or the part of my story that is giving me grief. In the meantime I still write, whether it is blog posts, character development, or a different chunk of my book. Then when I return I have fresh eyes to see the good parts of my writing and to improve the less than satisfactory parts
- Tell those doubts to shut up: Sometimes my writing is good, but I still feel like it might not be. I like what I’ve written, but still believe someone else could have written it better, still doubt if it is the best. On my good days, I can tell that little voice to shut up and move on. Other times I need a little help through the support of friends, family, and beta-readers. These are the people in my life who can always see the goodness in my writing, and can teach me to improve the weak parts. They are strong for me when I can’t be, helping me to push through to victory.
Maybe you have a lot of courage like these oranges, maybe you are like me and get stuck on the “not the best” part of the phrase. But remember, just like an athlete needs to train to get better, you need to write to become a better writer. Don’t let the fear of rejection or failure keep you from your passion. Push on, write on and…
Stay amazing my friends