My kids started taking piano lessons during this school year and recently had their first recital. Most of the other students there were also beginners, which made it a fun experience to see them all so determined and nervous and relieved when they were done. (And, okay, I also loved that very few pieces were longer than a minute and the entire performance lasted less than half an hour.)
Anyway, a couple of days after the recital, I noticed that during piano practice, one of my children stopped after each song to applaud for himself. Apparently the clapping at the recital had been inspiring! But while I had to laugh at this, it got me thinking:
When was the last time I celebrated my writing efforts and my own practicing?
And how often do I finish writing for the day and bemoan how terrible it is, how flat the characters are, how unbelievable the dialogue, how stupid the plot, and how it is just not as good as I want it to be?
I’m constantly telling myself what I’m doing wrong and how bad it is. If I set a writing goal for the day, such as writing a certain number of words or finishing a difficult scene, even if I reach that goal, I’m disappointed and annoyed that I didn’t do more, or at least do it better.
Am I the only one who does this?
I think we’re often too hard on ourselves as writers. We expect too much. We expect to sit down and have brilliance flow from our fingertips, turning into lyrical, effortless reading at the blink of an eye. After all, we know how the scene should look in our head, so why doesn’t it look like that on the page?
It can, of course, but it takes work and patience and time to edit the scene. Be patient with yourself and with your learning. Imagine if, after learning a simple version of “Ode to Joy,” you were expected to sit down and play any of Beethoven’s songs. How discouraging would that be? Most musicians have to practice for years and years until they can sight-read difficult music, and even then they keep practicing. They keep working and learning and improving.
So be kind to yourself—you can fix a bad page, but you can’t fix a blank one. And, yeah, go ahead and clap for yourself. You deserve it—writing is hard.
Jenilyn Collings loves to read and write things that are humorous or romantic (preferably both). She has worked as a dental researcher, a florist, a martial arts instructor, and a tracker at an alternative high school (she’ll leave it to your imagination what that entailed), but she’s now focused on writing and child wrangling. A long time resident of the Mountain West, she recently moved to New England with her family where she is gaining an appreciation for umbrellas, fall colors, and turning lanes while driving.