What makes a person a good writer? Two people emailed me this week, wanting confirmation their writing was good enough.
The first was a food blogger, who wrote after reading my Beard awards post. She wondered if her blog was “up to standard” or if she was “even remotely qualified” to enter the Beard award for best blog. In her preface, she said she believed she was a good writer and storyteller and had confidence in her talents.
The second, a student in Italy studying for her masters in gastronomy, said she had read Will Write for Food, then attached two writing samples and asked for comments. She wondered if she was good enough to pursue a career as a freelance writer.
I thought about two replies. Neither had anything to do with their work. On one hand, I thought I should encourage these two writers and say yes, because that is what people sometimes need to hear to move forward. I put that in the “Earth Mother” category of response. On the other hand, I contemplated a different answer, more therapy based: The only opinion that matters is your own.
I went with the second one. So I wrote back to the blogger, “You have nothing to lose except $100 and postage — plus the time it takes to enter. You can enter the IACP awards as well. I think they’re less expensive. You are qualified if YOU think you are. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.” I said something similar to the student.
Maybe you think it’s a copout. For me, I’ve felt insecure about my writing all my life, always looking to others for approval. My career started in 1975 with my first published piece in a daily newspaper (before some of you were born, I know), and I still have days where I wonder if I’m any good.
But here’s what you can look forward to as you grow older: There are fewer days like that. You get more comfortable with yourself. You believe you can do it. You decide you don’t have to win a Pulitzer. And you care less about what other people think.