The Tipping Point


At what point do you take your writing seriously? When do you start believing you’re a writer?

Certainly passion is a criterion. You can’t be much of a writer without an irrepressible urge to put ideas into words. You may resist this urge, resenting the time it takes you away from other activities, other people, but eventually it wins, and you find yourself once again opening your toolbox of words in hopes of revealing what is obscured. These words will never be precise enough, will always fall short of perfection, but you can’t be dissuaded from trying.  In your desire to find meaning, in your focus on the page, you will miss out on many wondrous things. You know this. You write anyway.

But passion isn’t all, is it? There must be something else: a growing suspicion, a fear almost, that what you’re creating has merit. I don’t know precisely when this happened for me, only that it did.

I don’t think it has much to with publishing credits, or the occasional encouraging comment from an editor. That’s like being told you’re pretty—a nice thing to hear, but unless you believe it yourself, you remain unconvinced. You can write a bestseller and still feel like a fake. The tipping point must be different for every writer. Some never find it, while others acknowledge their gift early on.

I was dubious of my talent for a very long time, discouraged by the genius and productivity of so many superior authors. Eventually it dawned on me that these writers were not my competition but my comrades, and I could acknowledge their excellence and still proceed with my own work. I didn’t have to be a prodigy, didn’t have to produce a book a year or win the Nobel prize, I just had recognize my own skills so that I could start measuring up to…myself. Once I saw what I might do, my efforts gained momentum.

What do I think of my work? Enough to make it better.

Published by

Jean Ryan

Jean Ryan, a native Vermonter, lives in Lillian, Alabama. Her stories and essays have appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies. She has also published a novel, LOST SISTER. Her short story collections, SURVIVAL SKILLS and LOVERS AND LONERS, are available online. STRANGE COMPANY, a collection of short nature essays, is available in paperback as well as digital and audio editions.

3 thoughts on “The Tipping Point

  1. Thank you for writing this Jean! I often struggle with my writing and wondering if the time I put into it is worth the end result, especially when I measure myself against my favorite writers and have a long list of other things I need to be doing. I will have to keep your words in mind when feeling discouraged or when my confidence flounders again.

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