Writing a masterpiece

Like all writers, I always worry that I am writing a big bag of junk. I was recently sorting my old boxes and found stuff I had scribbled a long time ago. It contained notes, ideas, scraps of verses, stories started and abandoned. I was oscillating between throwing all of those away and keeping them forever.

In a way, they remind me of the time when I was nowhere near getting published, but still wrote. I wrote in small blue notebooks, in exercise pads, behind paid bills and even bus-tickets. I have scribbled ideas for picture books, non-fiction articles, poems and even novels.

I didn’t do a lot with them. I am not sure how many of those actually became articles or stories. How many such ideas actually became stories, picture books or how many got published. The rate of success if I mathematically calculate would be a miniscule number, perhaps not computable by a calculator.

I was at a bookshop yesterday. More than one, in the last two days. It is always a torture to go to bookshops. I want to touch, feel, read and be inspired. I also feel inadequate and defeated when I see the number of books and so many of them successfully published. It is a war between triumph and hope. It is the feeling of “I am a hack, why am I pretending to be a writer.”

But then I realised, if everything I wrote was a masterpiece, then surely I am the evil dictator of some country or a miracle. I am an ordinary person who writes in a language that is not native. I think it is native by now, given I started learning English at 4 and thinking in English, long before I moved to England. But still, I am competing with native language speakers who have degrees and doctorates in English.

I thought about the time I learnt to ride a bike and then a motor-bike. I fell down many times. Many people helped me. I struggled until it became natural. But still I wasn’t competing in bike sports. I was riding just for pleasure or comfort. If I had to compete, perhaps a few more years of training, falling over, sweat and tears
would have happened and perhaps I would have questioned my rationale to ride in a competition.

So why do I think I need to write a masterpiece every time I write? Why does every book I finish got to be special? Does it matter if no one knew that I had written 1000s of bad manuscripts before the first one got published?

Also, why do I not give credit to myself for the books I have already published? I think the writer euphoria swells on getting a phonecall from the editor saying they love your book and the contract is on its way. It then dissipates as soon as the book is published.

Every book published is just a stepping stone to the next – or that’s what we think. I am not those masters who did one book and never wrote again. I need to write everyday and I need to get published ever so often so I can believe myself that I can write.

What is your experience? Are you a confident writer? Do you have those lapses of “what if I never publish another book?”


3 thoughts on “Writing a masterpiece

  1. Hi Chitra

    As a new writer I cannot agree with you more. If you have an Indian name there is also the perception that your work must be like Salman Rushdie or other prize winning literary writers. But the mid list writer(that’s what I think I am) needs our voices heard too. You keep writing and I am sure you will be a fantastic success. Best wishes.


  2. Hi Chitra
    I can so relate to this article and it is so inspiring to other writers, especially those unpublished. Hours spent trawling through book shops looking at the competition and asking myself will I ever be good enough. I have many a time feel inadequate and defeated. I am not a confident writer all, yet I still pursue my writing dream. It is also frustrating when your peers tell you your work is fab and should be published, yet still sits in a draw along with a pile of rejection letters. The best advice that I have been given as a writer is to keep writing, whatever, whenever. The more you write, the better you get.
    Thanks for sharing that Chitra 🙂

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