The Toxic Belief That Writing Well Is a ‘Natural Gift’

How do I become a better writer? Is becoming a great writer even possible? Why can’t I write as beautifully as others? These were some of the thoughts that went through my head almost everyday when it came to thinking about my writing ability. Throughout most of my life, I sincerely believed that writing—just like drawing—was an innate talent: you either have it or you don’t.

It wasn’t too far into my college career where I stopped and realized that this “innate talent” was just my unconscious way of excusing myself from actually having to put in the effort to improve the way I wrote. I was impatient, and most importantly, my drive wasn’t there. Looking back at my thought process, I think I was just terrified of having to put my writing in a vulnerable place. Critiques were a huge no-no for me. I hated having my friends or family read any of my works. I would have small breakdowns when teachers would grade me anything less than what I thought I deserved.

This little bubble I created for myself that provided a safe haven for my writing was actually the biggest factor into why I refused to improve—and why I would  instead blame the lack of progress on the simple belief that “I just wasn’t meant to write.”

The first college-level English class forced me to eradicate this concept of simply needing a natural affinity to write in order to write well. My professor gave me a C on my paper and a C- on my exam. You probably wouldn’t have to imagine how I felt when I got back those grades. But that was the push that freed me of my own toxic thoughts. I had to become a better writer. I wouldn’t settle for a C.

Perhaps it was my goal on just getting a better grade and a better GPA,  but somewhere along the journey of having my eyes on the prize, I became genuinely motivated to improve my writing, and ever since then, I’ve been aspiring to become a better writer, academically and creatively.

I had to do all of the things I was uncomfortable with when it came to writing: I picked up my pencil more often and started writing in a journal—even if I didn’t have anything significant to say. I took my professor’s advice to heart when it came to academic writing. I forced myself to have tougher skin in order to take criticism; and in order to do this, I had to teach myself And most importantly, I asked for help.

I’m not going to lie and say it’s been a piece of cake—because if that were the case, I would have been putting in the effort long ago. There are times where I don’t feel like I’m getting anywhere, allowing my negative thoughts to creep into my head here and there. There are times where I dislike writing, because what’s the point if I can’t sound eloquent and powerful? But I need to stop and think . . . that while my own voice is unique to me, and can help me reveal a large part of who I am in order to cope and heal, I shouldn’t judge my self-worth by how well I can put 26 letters together.

 

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