“I’m Not a Writer” – John Steinbeck

Ever go through times of serious self-doubt? Ever think that you’re actually rather terrible at being a parent, or a preacher, or a writer, or a teacher? Ever wonder how long it will take for those around you to realize you’re a fraud, send you packing to the far-off reaches of the country where your new claim to fame will be having an occupation that lands you a spot on “Dirtiest Jobs”?

I feel that way. A lot. That’s why I love the following journal entry by one of America’s greatest writers:

My many weaknesses are beginning to show their heads. I simply must get this thing out of my system. I’m not a writer. I’ve been fo0ling myself and other people. I wish I were. This success will ruin me as sure as hell. It probably won’t last, and that will be all right. I’ll try to go on with work now. Just a stint every day does it. I keep forgetting. (John Steinbeck, Working Days: “The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath”)

Now I’m no John Steinbeck, but it sure helps knowing that even he had moments of self-doubt, times when he felt like he was not a writer. I have that page permanently dog-eared.

On page 156 of Anne Lamott’s book “Bird By Bird” is the following poem by Bill Holm:

Above me, wind does its best
to blow leaves off

the aspen tree a month too soon.

No use wind. All you succeed

in doing is making music, the noise
of failure growing beautiful.

Failure will lead to something beautiful. Sometimes though, in order to understand this, we have to take a moment, sit with our backs against an aspen tree, listen to the wind in the leaves.

5 Replies to ““I’m Not a Writer” – John Steinbeck”

  1. Thanks for sharing that! It’s funny – I’ll be going along and everything will be good and then I’ll have a week where I’ll get limited comments on posts or lower blog hits and I’ll think, “Uh-oh, they figured out that I shouldn’t be doing this!” Good to know that someone who NO ONE would argue is a “real writer” felt the same way.

  2. the same happens for me as a therapist. the reality too is that sometimes we are not very good “therapists” or “writers” and other times we are.

  3. Maybe sometimes self-doubt is an internal way of making sure we’re being true to ourselves, that we’re on the “right path”, if such a thing really exists. The quote on top of your homepage sums it up pretty well, yes? Living out your dreams requires courage (plus a lot of prayer and other good stuff).

  4. Boy does this resonate. I often think I should just be a landscape. Then, at the end of the day, I could actually see what I’d done. . . but then, I’m not made for that so . . .

    Thanks for these quotes, Shawn.

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