For years I’ve had a recurring dream. I’m on stage in a concert arena drumming for one of my favorite bands. The lights are flashing. The crowd is cheering. And then on cue, we launch into some complicated instrumental break. It’s at this point that I look around and realize that I am not really in this band, and there’s no way I’m talented enough to play the sorts of things I find myself playing. My hands grow heavy, the song falls apart, and the crowd becomes an angry, screaming throng.
I can only guess what Freud would have to say about these dreams, but I’ve always viewed them as a sobering commentary on both my aspirations as well as my limitations as an artist.
In his collection of journals entitled Confessions of a Barbarian, the twenty-five-year-old Edward Abbey ponders the progress he is making on his first novel:
“At times I’m afraid to read what I’ve written, almost superstitiously afraid—and then at other times I do work up enough courage to hastily read snatches chosen at random. The effects are mixed—parts of the book seem hilariously funny, beautifully written, packed and quivering with life. And then I’ll read the same passage again, or another, and it will seem dead as junkyard iron, pretentious and false, weak, thin, spineless, empty and hideous.”
I think all writers who are honest with themselves can relate to these sentiments. We have a vision of what we would like our words to achieve, yet in the process of giving form to this vision, we worry that something has somehow gotten lost. We rework the material—often to the point of draining away its life—because we fear that we’ve missed the mark artistically.
At a certain level, these sorts of self-doubts may be healthy, for they spur us on to perfect our skills. On the other hand, I’ve seen plenty of talented writers whose work is in a perpetual state of revision, and they never seem to muster the courage necessary to submit their material for publication.
Speaking personally, I realized a long time ago that I may never be as skilled as some of my favorite authors; that level of talent is rare in this world. Yet I still have a voice, and I’d like to think that I have at least a few things to say that others might be interested in reading. Will these pieces be perfect? Probably not, but that’s okay. Like a diamond, it’s often those slight imperfections that provide the most luster.
- The Difference Between Liking to Write & Being a Writer(keystrokesandwordcounts.wordpress.com)
- Standing on the Edge and Looking Up(mywriterscramp.com)
- White Water Writing(nhwn.wordpress.com)
- Writer’s Block Cause 4 (and Big Hope): Your Vision(nhwn.wordpress.com)
- Avoid Analysis Paralysis – Don’t Overthink Everything(companyfounder.com)