It took me almost a year to muster the courage to start writing again. I read Stephen King’s On Writing, spoke to friends who were authors and read everything I could find on the publishing world and its challenges. I guess I needed some psyching up and it wasn’t until this last week I really started to understand why.
So I sit down to write about the time I stood up to a bully in front of my entire sixth grade class and a little voice whispers:
“Why are you so important? Who really cares about your stories anyway?”
Yesterday I was thinking that it’s almost like I have a demon on my shoulder who is so good at disguising himself, he sounds just like me – or anyone else who I think might doubt me.
Let’s call him Dan.
Or better, let’s call him Demon Dan the Dreaded Doubter. He wears a tan turtleneck, jeans and hipster glasses – along with his horns.
“Look,” he says, “I just think we should just be realistic. Those before you had a lot more talent and most of the best stories have already been told – and then retold. I just don’t think you should waste your time writing things that have been done to death.”
Some writers will tell you that if you struggle with confidence, you shouldn’t be writing. Others will boast about how they’ve never been blocked. Good for them. Luckily, we’re not all the same and I’m here to tell you that if you have your own Demon Dan, you’re not alone.
And here’s another thought: If every writer listened to their own personal D4, would there be any stories at all?
Now, because I hate it when people tell me what I need but now how to get it (i.e. more confidence), below are some new universal rules I made for myself that I plan to direct Demon Dan to every time he decides to weigh in:
- We all have a right to tell our stories. This idea that some of us are more deserving based on our descriptive gifts is bunk and it’s a product of the publishing world, not the storytelling world. While there are (and were) literary geniuses, we are all equal in our right to tell our tales regardless of whether they are fiction or not.
- Stories need to be retold. We little humans exist in generational vacuums and we need to insight and meaning explained in our terms and in contexts we can understand and appreciate.
- We’re not perfect and neither are our stories. If you attempt to put something to paper perfectly, odds are you will never finish it (Like this post. Even though it took seven separate drafts, believe you me, I pondered scrapping it all again for a eighth. Not happening this time.)
- Stories are one of the main pathways to empathy, understanding and connection – things we all desperately need.
- Stories record our experience. Whether or not we last as a species, they form part of the valuable record of who we are, how we feel and how we live.
So go screw yourself, Demon Dan. I’m getting back to writing this bit about how I defeated the class bully.
What? No, I’m not letting you read it.