I spent last night pulling together an application and samples for a local writing grant. The more I read over the selections that “reflect my best writing,” the more paranoid and finicky I became. Questions such as “Should I really have started that sentence with ‘nevertheless’?” or ” Is this piece too ‘precious’?” quickly turned into “Why am I even applying for this thing in the first place?”
I went to bed wrapped in self-doubt, my half-finished application lingering on the kitchen table. Luckily, this morning’s cup of coffee was accompanied by a different perspective. Self-doubt is all part of the process, and I’m grateful I can move past it and be productive as a writer. I finished up that application and am actually looking forward to dropping it off this afternoon. Whether I get the grant or not, I’m happy to have gone through the process and learned more about my writing goals.
As writers, we are our own worst critics. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been terrified to share a draft with a respected writer friend (so much so that I was on the cusp of deleting the file altogether), only to have him or her return it to me with insightful feedback (mostly positive). There have been times when the phrase I thought was my worst was the one that resonated most with a reader. I try to remember these moments as I am in the throws of writerly self-doubt. I usually come to my senses.
It’s funny, though. As soon as I have to choose “my best writing,” to try to define myself as a writer who is “worthy” of a grant, that inner critic never fails to pay a visit.