15 Feb I am Enough from Christine Mason Miller
Sometimes being enough means simply standing still.
At the beginning of 2009, I took my first writing class. As a beginning writer – and beginning writing student – I had the usual first day nerves, worried my fellow classmates would all be better than me and think of me as an interloper for enrolling in an Intermediate level essay course. What would they think when it came time to share my writing? How would it feel to have strangers pull apart my work?
Thanks to a great teacher, none of those worries ever materialized into anything real, and the routine she created for us to offer and receive feedback was the reason why. Rather than give us the opportunity to project our own writing styles, ideas, preferences, and values onto one another, she kept the conversations rooted in the details of the story, and beyond that empowered each of us to deepen our trust in our own intuition.
The routine went like this: One person read his or her story out loud, and during this time the rest of us wrote down whatever questions came up for us with regard to the actual story versus the way it was written. A question such as “Why don’t you try moving the first paragraph towards the end of the story?” was not permitted, but wanting to know what character A was wearing the day she met character B was right on the mark. A sampling of some of the questions posed to me after one of my readings might look like this:
What kind of car were you driving in the last paragraph?
What time of year was it?
What song was playing on the radio you mentioned in the first part of your story?
After writing down all the questions everyone had, we were then instructed to take our questions home, consider them, and do with them whatever we wished. If we felt like it was important to add a detail we had previously omitted, then we could work on that. If our intuition told us we didn’t need to address nine out of the ten questions on our list, then we could simply let them go. There was no obligation, no sense that our work would be less than enough if we did not revise our essays in order to answer every question posed to us. It was up to us to decide what was enough; it was our intuition that we were encouraged to follow.
I consider myself extremely blessed to have begun my journey as a writing student in such an inspiring, supportive environment with a teacher who instilled a deep appreciation for intuition and honoring our own unique voice. Because this method of giving and receiving feedback sent us all a very clear message: That revising, editing, and working on a piece of writing never had to be about not being enough. There might be additional information some people wanted to know, and, as our teacher, she offered more specific editorial and stylistic feedback, but it was always in the spirit of building upon something that already had a strong foundation. The message behind any questions or revisions wasn’t that our stories weren’t good enough, it was that even though there is always work to be done beyond the first draft, we could trust our intuition to guide us through that process, which would lead us to our best work.
I’ve since submitted stories, essays, and book proposals, and experienced my share of rejections. In some cases these rejections have motivated me to continue working on a piece of writing, and in others I’ve decided there is no more revising to do and I need to just keep sending it out. No matter how I decide to proceed after I am told, “I’m sorry, but we don’t have a place for your piece,” I always go back to what I learned in my class – that my writing is enough, even if it needs work, even if it hasn’t found the right home. It has deepened my practice of listening to my intuition and strengthened my voice as a writer. And while my work as a writer will likely never be done, I need not bother with the myth that the journey I’ve taken so far isn’t enough. I am a writer, and still very much a beginner, but as long as I keep doing the work – as long as I keep writing – that will be enough.
I am a writer, and as a writer, I am enough.
About Christine Mason Miller
Christine Mason Miller is a Writer, Artist, and Explorer who loves peering closely at all of life’s details. You can read more about her journeys at www.christinemasonmiller.com.