I’m Not Good Enough

Proudly yet nervously, I read the piece I had slaved over for days, removing paragraphs, adding words, tweaking here and there until I was happy with it.  I got the expected giggles in all the right places which put me at ease and by the end of it I was smiling on the inside and out.

It was one of my homework assignments for my writing course that I recently started and I’d struggled with it.  I procrastinated because I found it harder to write with a prompt, started over countless times and agonised over every single word.  It was supposed to be short, less than a page.  If you’ve read my blog you’ll know that keeping it short is something I struggle with.  I’d managed to hack the piece down from four pages to one, while still keeping it relevant and I was satisfied.

I wasn’t prepared for the responses.

“It didn’t grab me until the third paragraph, you should have started there.”

“Too many descriptions and flowery words.”

“It’s too long.”

“The last paragraph while wrapping it all up, is it really necessary?”

“Make it more concise.”

“You need less adjectives.”

“Why are you even on this course, you clearly can’t write.”

Okay, so the last comment wasn’t made, but all anxiety would allow me to hear was, “you are not a good enough writer. You should be ashamed.”  I felt judged, looked down on and utterly useless.

It was hard not to cry.  I’d already been feeling inadequate against these other writers, who are very talented with their writing and in my mind, far better at it than me. Obviously I’d known there would be suggestions for improvement, I was just shocked at how brutal the feedback seemed.  While there were positive comments, they paled next to the negative and it stung.

I didn’t understand.  All through school I was told to use lots of adjectives, be descriptive, not to use the same language repeatedly, explain things clearly.  The brief had been straightforward: Be specific.  I’d found it difficult to keep it short while including every element I felt needed to be there to keep the story relevant and yet here they were asking me to cut out the most specific parts.

The course is designed to advance our writing skills.  Open our world to new styles of writing, teach us skills and help us reach whatever writing goals we have.  I always knew that there was room for improvement in my writing, but I wasn’t emotionally ready to hear what I took at the time as just how bad my writing is.  No one said my writing was terrible, anxiety just takes the smallest piece of bait to upset a person like me.

I took notes on everything that was said but struggled for the rest of the class to keep my emotions in check.  Other people read out their work and I felt like they got a more positive response but the thing I failed to pick up on was that every single person got some negative feedback.  I should stop calling it that, it’s actually constructive criticism and it’s incredibly important to the advancement of skills but it felt like a beating.  I never knew how hard it is to receive, as far as I can remember I don’t think I’ve ever had any on my writing before, not that I shared much before my blog, I didn’t have the guts.

The most interesting part of all this is the second piece of homework I read out, the piece I hadn’t worked as hard on and wasn’t as confident with, got much higher praise.  There were still comments about too many adjectives (something that had opened for discussion earlier, where it was discovered that I wasn’t the only one who’d had it hounded into them from a young age to over describe things) and keeping it relevant, which I understood better after the discussions.  I was still reeling a little from comments on my first piece though and felt even more confusion.

Afterwards, one of my classmates approached me and said that she was feeling crestfallen, that reading out pieces and having comments on them is soul destroying.  I was surprised, in my opinion the only thing wrong with her piece was that she had used vertical centering, which wasn’t a writing related issue.  I also felt she’d had mostly positive feedback, but as she described her experience to me I realised that we had both focused on the ‘negative’ and taken it personally.  I thought about this some more on the way home and remembered that most of us had defensively jumped to explain ourselves after any comments were made.  Maybe I wasn’t the only person who’d taken it personally.

2016-02-28 16.15.58.png

It’s only natural to be upset by peoples critiques on our work, whether it’s writing, art, music, whatever we create.  We work hard on these, they’re our babies.  Ideally, we should take criticisms objectively, learn from them and some of us do.  It’s something I’m going to have to learn to do though and quickly if I want this course to help me.  Anxiety will be a stumbling block, I just have to keep reminding myself that my writing development is far more important than feeding my anxiety.

Smiles and Sunshine
Katie

 

Advertisements

14 thoughts on “I’m Not Good Enough

  1. Be proud of the conclusions you came to in this blog post! While having emotional reactions can sometimes feel childish, you’re having a very adult thinking process. Also, I think that the more you are exposed to it the more used to it you will get. You mentioned that it’s your first time getting feedback on your writing, and it’s not surprising that there was a sting. I think if you keep in mind what your goal is (To become a better writer I would think), and see yourself as shedding away the weaknesses and flaws, you will find yourself growing, and end up with something to be proud of.

    Another thing just to keep it in perspective as well. Would it really make you feel whole to have had them tell you it was the best writing ever? What if they gave you an award even, maybe a spot on tv. Now would you look back on the work you did, and feel like you really accomplished it? I think it would be more likely that you would feel like an imposter. I think it’s more rewarding to look back and think “I worked at this for years and years, and put all my time and effort and passion into. It took me a long time but I’ve reached a master level.” I don’t think it would be as rewarding to think “I spent days on this and rewrote it a few times.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to take away from the amount of work you put into it. Just try to think of the bigger perspective. Especially with writing, it takes years of practise to reach a level that is impressive, it is a very hard skill to learn. If you’ve been practising for everyday for hours for 30 years and people are still telling you that you’re no good, then maybe that’s a sign you’re no good. But you are still relatively new to this, especially on a professional level (You just took your first writing course if I’m reading this correctly.). It’s expected that you will have some criticism. It’s expected that your writing will be not very good. It’s the natural progression, you have to start somewhere to be good at it.

    Now I know the hardest part about all of this is seeing others succeeding where you are failing. It makes it easy to think that you are talentless. I think it’s important to accept that some have talent and others don’t, but hard work will triumph over talent when talent uses no hard work. Being talentless doesn’t mean you can’t do it. It just means it’s harder for you then it is for others. Lol jeez it sounds like I’m saying you have no talent. That’s not what I mean. What I mean is if you find others are more talented, they just pick it up, remember that it doesn’t mean shit. The hard work will be the bottom line.

    Sure maybe the other people in the class got better reactions. But think about the future. Are those same people for sure going to use that talent? Will they take this one writing course, think they’re already the shit, and not really ever try to improve themselves? Who knows, but what I do know is that you can outdo every single one of those people in the class if you put effort into it. In the long run it will be who worked the longest and hardest at it, not who was the most talented.

    Lastly, I would like to share something that I hope is helpful because I needed something like it awhile back.

    You have permission to fail. It’s okay that you got some negative feedback. You didn’t write a very great paper, and that’s perfectly alright. You are perfectly acceptable the way you are, and it’s perfectly acceptable that you didn’t get an amazing grade on your writing. You aren’t the best (yet), and you are okay for that. Katie, it’s okay that you didn’t accomplish what you’d hoped, and I think you’re an acceptable human being even though that happened. It’s okay that you’re not perfect, and it doesn’t make you any less okay to change the things about yourself that are weak or flawed. It’s okay to accept those things as part of yourself, and to do away with them. You will still be you. In fact you will be the strongest version of you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s not my first course, but it is the first of this calibre. I’ve attended many writing workshops, classes and courses ever since I was a child, but they were all for beginners or hobby writers. I was always ‘the best’ in those classes which I think is why I never got the constructive criticism but I was always encouraged to take my writing further. I knew there was more out there but my depression and anxiety held me back for years, so much so that I barely wrote at all for about six years in my twenties. I also did a creative writing course in high school which is where I learned the ‘be over descriptive and use adjective after adjective’ lesson that I now have to unlearn lol. This course is for experienced writers who want to make a career out of writing and I never expected to even make it in. We had to write extensive written submissions and attend interviews, I honestly didn’t think I was good enough, especially as they only take 20 students a year so I was ecstatic to be accepted, but at the same time nervous as hell due to my belief that I wasn’t good enough.

      The point of this post wasn’t supposed to be that my writing was bad or that I expected to be the best or get full praise, I absolutely knew that I was going to get constructive criticism, it’s the main reason I wanted to do the course, to learn and grow, the post was supposed to be about my surprise at my reaction to the criticism. I had thought that I would handle it better, instead of letting my anxiety blow it out of proportion. None of what was said was callous or judgemental, yet that’s how my brain took it at the time which came as a bit of a shock. After talking to my classmate who it turned out felt exactly the same way about the feedback she received I was able to see it a little more clearly, but of course now I’m worried that each time I read out a piece that I’m going to have a mini panic attack about the feedback.

      The feedback is given by both the tutor and my classmates. I too got to give positive and negative feedback on other peoples pieces and each time I did I never said anything to be nasty, just potentially helpful and what I should have done when I received my feedback was to remember that it’s all constructive and with the intention of helping people reach their goals. Again, anxiety clouded my judgement, something I thought I had a better handle on.

      I really like your comment about failure. I’ve failed so many times in life at so many things, weight loss, jobs, all sorts of things but in the last five years I’ve learned not to berate myself for it. If we don’t fail, we don’t learn as far as I’m concerned. I also liken it to that if I have a depressive day out of the blue, that’s okay too, I don’t have to be 100% on all the time. However, I don’t feel like I submitted a bad piece or failed in any way as there is always room for improvement, I just handled the response badly, which is something I plan to work on going forward.

      Thanks for your support and kind words, I always feel when I write a post like this like I’m having a pity party, which is never my intention and it’s nice to see people not take it that way and be objective towards me about it.

      Like

      1. Ah I see. I’m sorry if I confused your message a little bit, I just always try to share ideas that have helped me along the way. I didn’t see it as a pity post, and I didn’t feel pity for you either! Rather, just hoped to share that you’re doing great by pursuing goals, and that you handled the situation very well 🙂 It’s awesome that you’re improving yourself and learning, and it sounds like you have the right mindset for things that can be challenging.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Ah, also meant to mention I did actually get positive feedback as well, but anxiety tends to keep me focussed on the negative which is something else I need to work on.

      Like

  2. I don’t call it failing, or being flawed at all. they didn’t like certain aspects. it doesn’t mean it isn’t good. I remember writing and being CRUCIFIED by a writing group. My work went on to become a successful play, without me changing a thing. Don’t let the criticism, which is usually constructive but not always, inhibit you in any way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I absolutely agree. I knew there would be constructive criticism and I knew that I could take it on board or not, I was just so surprised at how I reacted to it! I definitely think that I was given some good advice and I did get some positive feedback too, it was just hard to see it at the time.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I can’t help but wonder if some of the comments aren’t part of the writing lesson as well. If you’re going to write and put yourself out there, there’s always going to be someone who will criticize your work and it’s something you have to get used to. As well, maybe the commenter (professor?) makes it a point to focus only on ways to help you improve. Did anyone receive a positive comment on their paper that you know of? It might be all a character-building process, to yes, accept the criticism as constructive and not a personal attack, 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The comments are made by all of us. There are 8 pupils in my group and one tutor and we take turns to read our pieces out and to give and receive feedback based on our opinions of the piece. We all got positive responses and we all got constructive criticism, I just let my anxiety take over with the criticisms and started comparing myself to others which is never a good place to be! I was surprised that I let it happen, due to knowing it was coming but I noted everything down and have been able to use some of the advice to help me improve the piece further. This post was about my surprise to my reaction, something I hope to not do again 🙂

      Like

  4. Yeah, I got that you weren’t pleased with your reaction. 😀 Was this the first time your class did this, critique other’s work? I feel your reaction is normal human response (ESPECIALLY right now). But the next time it happens, you will have been desensitized a bit to the criticism, as you just went through it, and you won’t focus so much on the negative and will be able to focus on the true intent, that it’s meant to help not hurt. See, perhaps a character-building exercise, :D. (Okay, I got too long winded on this, sorry, lol)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lol all good, it wasn’t the first time but somehow I missed out on reading the first time so didn’t get hit when everyone else did.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Going through the workshop ordeal in the university setting, I could rattle on about the good, the bad and the ugly that I witnessed. There will always people who build themselves up by tearing other people down, but that is their personal garbage. Receiving criticism is always difficult. Giving criticism is difficult as well. Since it was a college program I went through, a large chunk of us got to know one another so that some times the professors had to force us to say at least one constructive criticism of the work. Then there is the issue that few of us are taught how to provide quality constructive criticism before entering the process.

    There are those of us who are worst critics, and so we latch onto any criticism that affirms what we thought about our work, or deep down feared was the case.

    One of the things I would always remind myself was that Lawrence Olivia used to throw up every time before he went out on stage. I think a good artist remains humble, just not to the point of paralysis.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s