Guilty conscience

I’m not sure if this is something that all “prospective writers” face, but I sometimes feel guilty about the effort I put into pieces that others find to be good. What I mean is – how do I tell someone who likes something I write that I only spent roughly ten minutes throwing it together and that I hardly even thought about it?

Here’s a rough outline of my non-disciplined writing style: I think of an idea and I start typing. I continue to type nearly stream of consciousness type thoughts – stopping only to enter some haphazard punctuation and to spell check certain words. I then post it on this site. Sometimes I’ll read it after it’s been posted and realize I’ve made a mistake in grammar, or in spelling, and I’ll have to edit the post.

Why don’t I edit it before I post it? I’m not sure. I think part of it is that I don’t want it to be boring and horrible, and I fear that if I read it again before it’s posted I might end up having to change everything and start anew. This sounds psychotic, and it is. It’s horrible.

Instead, if you’re lucky, you might have the chance to see the unedited version of the post show up for less than ten minutes, after which time if you reload you’ll see whatever changes I needed to make.

I am wholly undisciplined in my writing, and I really feel that it’s to my disadvantage. Still, I often have people tell me that they like what I write – that they really enjoy what I do. Some even say I have “talent.” How can I tell them that, most of the time, I’m just throwing things together?

Listen, I don’t want this to sound like a pity party. I just don’t understand it. Ultimately, I feel guilty about this. I want to say, “It’s nothing special! I only spent fifteen minutes typing and 34 seconds revising it! Please don’t make me feel any more guilty about it!” It’s as if I feel I need to be some tortured artistic soul, that the things I write will only be good if I suffer in the process and finely craft a piece of writing that will withstand the strengths of time and all of that stuff. I’m not sure if it’s a case where I do not believe enough in myself, or if others believe too much in me.

Weirdly enough, I begin to feel discouraged by it. I feel that I’m not pushing myself to the limits, and therefore I’m not putting anything out that’s worth reading. I know that’s not true – you the reader make comments all the time that reaffirm my love for writing and my desire to do this for the rest of my life. But still, you’ll have to forgive me if I feel guilty about this. I’ve read enough to know that most of the image of the great writer is that they’ve suffered – they’ve thrown themselves to the literary wolves and sacrificed everything they had to write the perfect novel – and it’s because of this they’re greatly renowned.

I’ve got things I’d like to work on. I’d like to improve my vocabulary. I’d like to be able to write fiction convincingly.

Most of all, I’d like to stop feeling guilty about receiving praise.

This was lovingly handwritten on August 25th, 2005