I never have and never will claim to be an expert on writing. I have found an appreciation for it and perhaps a little bit of talent, but in general it is something that I have improved at only through sheer determination and continuous trial and error. Because of this, there is nothing that bothers me more than when I have someone tell me, without any attempt to the contrary, “I can’t write. I just can’t do it.” At that moment I start to understand how Bruce Banner feels right before he becomes the Hulk.
I don’t believe that everyone has a best-selling novel within them that only needs to find an outlet. I understand that plenty of people do not have the communication talents necessary to be a good writer. I also understand that not everyone loves the idea of writing. No problems there either. What bothers me is the fact that some people have been conditioned to think that you not only have to have a world class talent in order to write, but that you shouldn’t put pen to paper if you do not have that talent from the very beginning. It may sound like I am being extreme in my example, but I have seen and heard this from many people.
Part of the cause of this is probably the quality of writing that is available to read right now. While the advent of the internet and independent- or self-publishing has creating some less that stellar reading choices, it has also allowed many people who wouldn’t have had the time or opportunity to go through traditional publishing to find an audience, and many of them show remarkable talent.
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This seems to create a very high bar for those that enjoy reading but are afraid to try writing. They fear that they won’t measure up on their first attempt. If you are one of those individuals, let me let you in on something important: you won’t measure up on your first attempt! That’s what makes it a first attempt. It’s like a rough draft. It will need revision, growth, maturing, and change before it reaches the caliber of what you read. It may never reach that caliber. However, it doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy it or that you can’t bring some entertainment to others that will read it.
The other impediment seems to be a fear of doing something new and failing. I knew a young man that tried following some writing prompts and did poorly on his first couple of attempts. He complained about how he just “can’t write.” Then I showed him a picture of a volcanic eruption from the news and told him to write a scene with that as the setting and to describe the setting with as much detail as he could.
The work that he showed me was remarkable. It appealed to all of the senses and fired the imagination. He far surpassed me in the detail that he used. If I hadn’t kept pushing him to get past his initial failures, he would still be telling everyone that he couldn’t write.
So you think that you can’t write? You might be correct. That ability may not be within you. However, imagine what you could be denying yourself and others by rejecting the possibility out of hand. You have nothing to lose, and the possibility of limitless worlds to gain.
This guest post was contributed by Christopher Slater. Christopher is a Middle School History teacher in Tennessee. He’s also a husband, father, and author.