Week three, day five of the A to Z Blog Challenge: Qualms.
To have qualms about something means you have an uneasy feeling of doubt or worry or fear or all of the above. The word comes from the Middle English cwalm, meaning death, sickness or plague. Seems fitting, then, to say I’ve had a succession of qualms about writing. I think it comes with the territory. We want to write; we want to be writers. We sit down at the page. Up comes that uneasy feeling, the doubt about whether there’s anything there, whether it’s good enough, whether we should just scrape back the chair and give up. And that’s before we’ve even gone to a critique group or shared our work with anyone (perhaps, except people who love us a lot). Will the writing police come and take our pens, pencils, paper, laptops? Will we be revealed as frauds? I’ve felt all this, and more, at one time or another.
As far as I can tell, the only cure for this plague is keeping on. And doing it regularly. Writing every day. Knowing that there will be days when what you write really, truly is awful. Don’t show that shit to anyone. Mine what you can from it and move on. Or maybe, do show that shit to someone. They might show you theirs. (I participated in a writing-on-the-spot group for several years. The group leader brought prompts. We wrote. We read, right then. All of us. Every time. No excuses. Sometimes beautiful writing was the result. Sometimes awful writing. Most of the time, there was something there worth developing. And we were all in it together).
Same thing for revision and critiquing. When I first started this process, I was petrified. Then, when I began working on an MFA, I was instructed to approach all peer critiques with the notion that something could be improved. I was still petrified. We had to submit and do peer critiques every month. As I made my way through the program, I gained a keener eye and ear for other people’s work. And for my own. And I gained more reinforcement that we’re all doing the same thing, all looking to make our work the best. Critique isn’t about tearing down, it’s about supporting.
Yes, I still have qualms from time to time, but I know now that the best way to deal with those fears and doubts is just to feel them and keep on writing and sharing.