There was a time when I was worried to death that my dream of making it as an author was dead because I was, simply put, not good enough. I spent all night like this — immediately trying to erase every trace of ever having written anything. I Googled, “What to do if you are a pathetic failure?” and deleted quite a few poems from my computer. I even teared up a little and read other people’s poetry, and discovered that I didn’t compare.
Eventually — and after quite a breakdown — I spoke to one of my best friends about how I’d made a huge mistake putting so many years into writing. There were a lot of really silly points I was making that night. I remember her telling me that a lot of people enjoyed my work, and me retorting that they were all lying. She said I’d achieved a lot in the field; I said I’d probably faked it. She said I’d written a lot of good poems; I said it was a fluke.
As a creator of any sort, you spend a good amount of time wondering if you are truly good at what you do. And maybe people actually do end up reaching a level of maturity where they can say for sure that they’ve found security in their talent. But if you’re me, the most irrational of worries can make their way into your work.
This is why audiences are really important. As weak as it sounds, sometimes people thrive on validation when it comes to work like this. And while today’s welcoming audiences and safe spaces can feel good when you’re insecure about your work, they can sometimes seriously stall improvement. The point of a safe space is to feel free, and not to use it as a crutch. In today’s times, honest feedback is rare. Right now, it is okay to be mediocre- it’s great to be mediocre. In fact, the second something in the welcoming audience snaps and it’s not all applause and praise, a lot of artists suddenly don’t know what to do. People are starting to get upset at the slightest hint of a threat to the bubble.
What I’m trying to say is — sometimes, you need people to say, “This sucks. You can do so much better!” You need them to say it loudly, in your ear. You need to look at this and not protest, not retort, not dismiss. That is how you get uncomfortable, and when you are uncomfortable enough, you improve.
Every time I read something I wrote a few months ago, I get a strange pit in my stomach and an urge to click out of the document. Earlier, I used to figure that this was because what I wrote “went bad” really soon. There was a fundamental flaw to my writing, which is that it lasted about as long as a bowl of apples.
But that’s exactly where I was going wrong. Art is not a bowl of apples and it’s not a bowl of honey either. Art is the growing, the farming, and the watering. If there’s ever a point where I’m completely comfortable with my own writing, I’ll be scared. The point isn’t to be good; it’s to get better. Maybe you will never be the greatest. The point is to still try.
[Words by Isha Joshi]