Too often, we hear students utter this awful sentence:
“I’m a bad writer.”
What does that sentence usually mean?
- You’re struggling in a writing class and feeling frustrated.
- Your expectations for your writing aren’t meeting your (current) reality.
- You might be comparing yourself unfairly to other writers you know who seem to be getting better grades / writing better papers / etc.
- You procrastinated on an assignment because you weren’t sure how to begin and now you’re realizing there is too much work to be done to fix the assignment and there’s probably not enough time to complete all the necessary steps and panic has set in.
- You’ve internalized previous comments on your drafts or from your instructor or peers as not just being about that particular assignment but about your work in general.
- You’d rather give up than try and fail.
- etc. etc. etc.
But, guess what? Saying that awful sentence aloud isn’t the way to help you improve or to feel more confident as a writer.
Here’s the truth —
EVERYONE (that famous writer you admire, that classmate of yours who always seems to write beautifully, etc) had to start their writing career . Heck, the writer Anne Lamott has a famous essay about how she embraces her “shitty first drafts” so she can edit her way to a publishable work. Still don’t believe me? Look at how many times some famous authors — including J.K. Rowling — got rejected before finding success.
In other words:
Writing is a process.
So, instead of beating yourself up or giving up on writing, why not turn the tables and accept that you can use these “failed” experiments as learning experiences? Why not reapply yourself with new energy and patience with yourself and the process? Why not just acknowledge that you need to continue to grow?
Okay, so that paper or that class didn’t turn out well.
- What did you learn from the experience? Should you give yourself more time? Do you write better when you have an outline? Did you try to write about something you didn’t quite understand/used elaborate vocabulary that made you feel uncomfortable rather than trying to state your point clearly and in your own voice? Could you have tried visiting the Writing Center earlier in the process? Have you talked to your instructor for some suggestions about what to try next time?
Okay, so you feel like you can’t express yourself fully on the page.
- How often do you practice writing and can you increase that time through an activity you enjoy like journaling? Do you feel you are a better songwriter, social media poster, public speaker, etc? What skills do you have at that type of communication that you could try to apply to your assignments?
- Who are some people you feel expresses themselves well? How often you read or listen to them? Start to pay attention and seek out opportunities to learn from them more often. What do you like about their work? How can you take inspiration from their abilities to apply those skills to your own work?
These tips are just the beginning — just like in any other worthwhile endeavor, remember: progress takes time. Everyone is different. Sure, you want an A in every class, but could you be really proud of that C if you continue to see improvement in your work?
So, next time, instead of saying that awful sentence, let’s revise it before you start any new project:
I’m a writer.
Now, get typing!