I’m Not Good Enough

Despairing businessman with his head down resting on his arms on his desk as he contemplates the hopelessness of his position

How many times in your life have you said these words?  I hear it all the time with writers, “I’m not good enough to write a novel/short story/poem/book/screenplay/etc.” Many writers have this fear. Everyone has had this fear. If you read bios of Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck, some of their greatest classics would have never made to the publisher if they fell to this distortion of themselves.  There is the classic story of Steven King, after going through so many drafts of Carrie, throwing the manuscript into the trash, only to be rescued by his wife. Not good enough. I’m not saying writing is easy, it’s not, even for the most masterful. There will be times when you will want to throw things, goof off, check your Facebook status, but one thing you can’t do is quit.

I’m reminded of a time when I really wanted to learn how to play piano out of high school. I struggled for years. I didn’t have money for lessons, but I got myself a keyboard.  I knew chords from playing my grandfather’s electric organ, I thought how hard could it be. Playing chords is easy. Keeping the baseline with my left hand was like learning brain surgery. I practiced and started making up songs when I could play. A chance evening of boredom had me watching an infomercial on playing piano changed my life. I sat back down the next day, and things changed. I picked up playing rhythm guitar after.  I played for many years, afraid to go anywhere and afraid to play with anyone. I wrote songs. I wrote a musical. I tried my hand at just about everything except playing in front of people or with others. Cut to age 36. I started a band. Was I good enough? I was about to find out. The first person I interviewed was a lead guitarist, Ron.  Ron was much older than me and he had been playing in bars since he was thirteen and lied about his age. I picked up a lot of what he did, just by watching, hearing. We played together for some years as others in the band dropped out or moved on. I had a ball. Was I good enough? I got the greatest compliment from him when he said I wasn’t, “that bad.”  I tried. I learned. I was good enough.

The moral of the story is if you don’t try, you will never know. What if you had said that as a child learning to walk? We’ve all witnessed children learning to walk and know their first steps are tenuous at best. With repetition, we learn to walk. Learning to talk is the same way. It’s when we interact with others we begin our fears. That’s when we create our doubts that we are, “not good enough.” What is your definition of good enough?  New York Times best seller good enough?  Article in the New Yorker good enough? How about you’re worthy of your own praise good enough? Isn’t that what we are all looking for?

If you write, you are already good enough. You just have to have some faith in yourself, learn all you can, and don’t stop. Someday you will realize that you’ve always been good enough.