It is often frowned upon in art school to say your work is bad before you present it. They say “you are setting yourself up for disappointment and you should appreciate whatever you create.” While I agree with that statement, I also don’t.
Before I present this blog post I would like to say: I am a bad writer and this writing is bad.
I don’t like half the words I put on a page. I don’t have great grammar skills or a sophisticated vocabulary. I am writing for a blog called “Semicolon” and I don’t even know how to use the damn thing. I don’t read as often as I should. There are days where the pages in my journal are as empty as dorms during winter break. My work often lacks emotional vulnerability and contains a messy structure. Pure chaos lies between the one-inch margins of every paper. My heart twists its way into my stomach each time I have to read my words aloud. Embarrassed by my voice and by my words, I want to crawl into the double-spaced, 12pt font and die.
I am such a bad writer that my fear of exposure prompted me to skip class the day this blog was due. I was afraid to let my classmates and my professor know that I’m a poser. I walk around with my caffeine addiction and yellow legal pads, but I’m not one of them¾I’m not a good writer. So instead of embarrassing myself, I sat in Grant Park staring at my blank word document and felt it staring back at me. The glowing white screen was blinding. Occasionally, I would type out some insecurities with my writing that didn’t make my skin crawl. But it never felt good enough.
I closed my eyes and put my hands on the grass behind me and leaned slightly back. I tilted my head upward to stare at the sky between the tree branches above me. The sky was so blue that day and I knew Chicago winters would soon take away sunny days like this. My friend sitting next to me was writing like a machine. The words were flying out of her fingertips and I wished I had that confidence. She poured life onto the page with reckless abandon.
I asked how she did it. I read the first couple paragraphs of this blog for her and said I was embarrassed to turn it in. She said that I would always be my worst critic and that no one will ever hate my work as much as I do.
I loved that. It sounded like a challenge.
As long as I hate my work the most, no one’s opinion will ever touch me. Maybe that mindset won’t be helpful long term, but it got me to start writing again.
I procrastinate writing even though its my true passion. The writer Gaby Dunn said her therapist once reassured her during a session that “Procrastination is a part of the creative process”. Maybe I needed to wallow in self-pity in Grant Park that day. But procrastination and doubt can only hold me back for so long before I start writing something I hate again.
Rachel McCumber is a student currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Creative Writing with a focus in Nonfiction at Columbia College-Chicago. This will be her first published work, but she has made some really funny tweets and Instagram captions. However, she also enjoys writing personal essays that explore her ethnicity, pop-culture, and the reasons she is in counseling.