I’m not a “good writer”

Or so I’ve been led to believe all my life. Not by concrete words to that effect–quite the contrary, my verbal skills were overwhelmingly praised through my entire time in academia. But despite this, I’ve never conceptualized myself as “good at writing”, as a person who Writes.

Sure I occasionally jotted down my thoughts, sure other people told me they were lucid and interesting, but that doesn’t make me a writer, right? It makes me, I don’t know. A pretender. Someone with delusions of literary talent. Playing in a sandbox while other people are building skyscrapers.

How did I reach this conclusion? What happened to make me think this way? I don’t know if I can pinpoint a specific causative event, especially since I’m still in the process of unpacking how far down this lack of faith in my own skills goes. But part of the problem, I am pretty sure, is that I am a descriptive, rather than creative, thinker. I can articulate my experiences and observations. I’m told I can do it well. But I can’t invent, I’ve never been inclined in that direction.

It’s taken me years to grasp that “can’t invent” is not synonymous with “can’t write”. Even now, while I recognize it intellectually–certainly my love of nonfiction points to this conclusion–I have trouble believing it on an emotional and personal level. Yes, essay and other nonfiction writing are skills. I know this. But I am unwilling to accept that they are skills I have, despite evidence to the contrary.

This blog, as with so much of what I do these days, is an attempt to unpack the assumptions I’ve made about myself. To find the ways I’ve learned to minimize myself and my accomplishments, and to challenge them. To gain confidence and hopefully to connect with other people along the way.

Maybe I’m not a great writer. But I’m not a bad one, and I can get better.

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One thought on “I’m not a “good writer”

  1. I wonder whether this is a thing that schools contribute to. I don’t know whether this was the case for you, but my memory of school is that we never really got taught non-fiction-writing as a discipline. Of course we wrote a lot of essays, but they were just ways of showing we’d understood the content of whatever subject it was. Whereas ‘creative’ writing was taught as a free-standing part of the English syllabus, and what was taught was form as well as content. So you come out with an idea that fiction-writing has craft to it, whereas non-fiction writing is just about getting the right answer (or, at most, about how to be persuasive, rather than for example how to be evocative or pleasing).

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