it's really making me hope that julia wins the entire thing

Do you have any advice for people who want to write, but feel afraid or not good enough? Not necessarily writing fanfic, but writing in general? I’ve got so many ideas for stories, and I have so much fun planning them & daydreaming about them, but when it comes to the writing, I just freeze up. :/ Thank you!!! :* <3

I received this ask today, and I’m responding to it without the person’s name, in case they don’t want to be attached to it. But I wanted to share my response publicly because I’m betting what you’re describing is something many people feel, and others may have their own insight to contribute (very possibly better than what I can offer).

I don’t have an easy answer. I can tell you my story, though, and what’s currently working for me. Spoiler alert before I start: you are not alone. What you’re feeling is totally normal for someone who loves writing. I wish it wasn’t, but self-doubt pretty much comes with the territory. The secret, if there is one, is to learn how to recognize that, and push through anyway, even on the days when it’s really, really hard.

I’ve been writing since I knew that writing was A Thing People Can Do. I was the kid who always had a notebook on hand; when I was in places (like church) where it’d be frowned upon to be overtly writing one of my stories, I’d scribble ideas down on scraps of paper I stuffed into my pockets and tried to rearrange into plots once I got home. 

I wrote terrible, formulaic stories when I was a kid. The one I thought at the time was going to be my masterpiece (I really believed in myself back then) was a pretty blatant rip-off of The Black Stallion Returns. (But my horse was red and the opening scenes were in my carefully described neighborhood, so it was different, see.)

I kept writing through high school, filling up more notebooks, and swapping them with my fellow writer friends during our lunch hours, so we could exclaim over each others’ stories and encourage each other to keep going. I wrote a lot at this time, including two “novels” that were each over 400 handwritten pages.

They were terrible. Better than what I wrote when I was in elementary school, but still badly plotted, predictable, and frankly pretty embarrassing to look back on now.

I have those notebooks (and binders) stored in a box under my bed, and I think sometimes about shredding the evidence, in case I ever manage to get published, and someone finds out what an awful writer I used to be. But I haven’t (yet), because the truth is, I loved writing every single one of those pages. I loved daydreaming new scenes, bits of dialogue, dramatic moments that tugged at my emotions. I loved sprawling on my bed or sitting at my desk and transferring these thoughts to physical form.

It didn’t really matter that my dialogue was stilted, and my characters were wooden. What mattered was that it was fun. I still have incredibly fond memories of that point in my life, and I wish I could go back to the pure enjoyment I felt back then, when I didn’t have a doubt in my mind that I was going to be a published author.

I think that’s an important thing to remember. The act of writing, on its own, is worthwhile. The way it makes you feel is important. The joy you get from crafting your ideas and seeing them take shape on the page: that’s a gift you shouldn’t shy away from.

The end result doesn’t have to be good. And it probably won’t be, not right away. That doesn’t make you a bad writer. That makes you a normal writer. There isn’t a single writer out there who believes that everything they’ve ever written is amazing. Not even the biggest, brightest, most incredibly talented, critically acclaimed authors you can think of. (If they do think this, they’re (a) a douchebag and (b) delusional.)

Your writing improves as you continue to write. That’s how it works. It’s like anything else: playing an instrument, being an athlete. You won’t wake up one day and win a race, or play a flawless solo at a concert, unless you’ve put in the work to get yourself there. You probably won’t write an award-winning story your first time putting pen to paper. Maybe you will, over time. Maybe you won’t. 

But you know what?

That doesn’t matter.

What matters is that you have a brain teeming with creativity, and you want to tell your stories. So you should. That’s reason enough, and I can tell you from experience that when you hold yourself back out of fear or self-doubt, all you’re doing is making yourself unhappy.

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