Someone found my blog a couple days ago by searching, “I feel stupid for wanting to write.” My first reaction was to think, “why would anyone feel stupid for wanting to write?” But then, of course, I started thinking about it and came up with a bunch of reasons I used to feel stupid for wanting to write and sometimes still do feel stupid for wanting to write.
A couple years ago, I wrote something that surprised me, because I had never thought about it until the words appeared on the screen:
I’ve nearly forgotten that when I was in middle school it was weird to say that I like to read and when I was in high school it was weird to say that I like to write and when I was in college it was weird to say that I like school (April 29, 2010).
Writing has always been my thing, I majored in English, I worked in a writing center, but it really wasn’t until I started blogging that I met a bunch of people who don’t think it’s weird that I like to write and who also like to write. That is when I grew comfortable talking about my interest in writing. And, more importantly, my ambitions related to writing. Before that, it was a thing I did well, but it was academic; I didn’t always admit that it meant so much more to me than success in school.
The comedian Pete Holmes talks about how he pretty much always knew that he wanted to be a stand up, but he only admitted it to himself and other people in small steps. Like, “I want to be a cartoonist” became “I want to write jokes” became “I want to read my jokes” became “I want to perform my jokes while standing up.”
Sometimes, I wonder if I did the same thing. I thought a lot about being a writer, but always made the conscious choice to go in other directions. I knew that I liked to write, but I reasoned that I wouldn’t like it if it was a thing I had to do. I danced around it, I declared it a hobby, and when it came time to apply to grad school, I again said no to writing and decided to study theology. The thing is that I don’t regret all the other avenues I pursued, and if I had the choice to make again, I would always choose theology. But I’m sorry that I wasted so much time not taking myself seriously as a writer.
The reason that I did that is because I felt stupid for wanting to write. I didn’t think I was good enough. I couldn’t imagine calling myself an artist. And I just didn’t have the guts to face all of those insecurities every single day and write through them.
That my first reaction was, “why would anyone feel stupid for wanting to write?” makes it obvious that I’ve changed. Writing became a thing I couldn’t keep putting off and I have confidence enough now that I can at least write through all of the self-doubt. That’s not to say that I don’t still sometimes feel stupid for wanting to write or that I’m still holding back a bit from admitting that it is the thing I want to do, but I’m at a point now where not trying would be a bigger failure than trying and not succeeding. And more than anything, it’s the thing I like to do the most, so of course I’m going to do it.
I recently read Tiny Beautiful Things, and in response to one of the letters, Sugar said something about how she wasn’t ready to write her book until she did (sometime in her 30s), and you know, I guess it was just a reminder I needed that this isn’t a race, that all the detours I’ve taken have made me a smarter person with more to say, and all I have to do is keep writing.
Also, I think, the more you talk about what you want, the more normal and less stupid it sounds.