Story of a Writer is a serial based on the old writing journal entries in which I reported my progress on my latest writing-related adventure, with comments from my current perspective on what I have learned since then. Hopefully, if you’re an aspiring writer, you’ll find it useful to you—but, if not useful, at least entertaining!
In this episode: Experimentation and optimism are the starting writer's best friends.
March 16, 1999 [10 years old]
The Value of Mistakes
I don’t agree with my assertion “I’m very good at writing stories.” At that time, I was a terrible writer. In fact, I recently read through a lot of the stories that I mention in this entry and I was horrified.
For example, I rediscovered a story that followed the life of a stamp, and at the end of the story, a little boy ripped the stamp off an envelope and the stamp died. I remember Mom suggesting that the stamp should not die, as any sensible mother would suggest when her child is being morbid. But at the time, I insisted that the stamp must die—what else could possibly happen to a stamp that has just been ripped off an envelope?
When I re-read this story, I said to my mother, “Why did you let me write all that? My stories are so violent. I was such a morose child!”
Mom shrugged. “You were young. You were experimenting. I knew you’d grow up sometime.”
God bless my mother, because she saw a truth that many people have missed. Sure, I was a very imperfect writer at that time. But Mom saw that I had to make mistakes—a lot of them—before I could make the most of my potential.
Mistakes + Optimism = Improvement
So, for a long time, I thought that I was “very good at writing stories.” And you know what? That belief made it possible for me to actually become very good at writing stories (or, at least, to improve considerably). My optimism propelled me to practice my craft, and the practice made my untrue belief become true.
Starting writers need optimism and they need the space to practice while fueled by that optimism. So if you’re not sure that you’re a good writer or not, it doesn’t matter. Even if you’re a terrible writer at the moment, nothing is stopping you from becoming a fantastic one in the future. Just go for it!