I came across this fascinating book called Windblown World: The Journals of Jack Kerouac 1947-1954 — which covers the period of time when he wrote his first novel The Town and the City and his second On the Road.
Basically, it’s a log of his word counts, which are insanely high (but we talked before about how much he writes) and his emotions as he writes. Check this out:
“This thought, concerning the change in my writing which now seems so important, came –: that it was not lack of creation that stopped me before, but an excess of it, a thickening of the narrative stream so that it could not flow. Yet tonight I’m really worried about my work. First is it good now? — and will the world recognize it as such. The world isn’t so dumb after all; I realize that from reading some of my unfinished or unsold novels: they are just no good. I will eventually arrive at a simplicity and a beauty that won’t be denied — simplicity; morality; and a beauty, a real lyricism. But the now, the now. It’s getting serious. How do I know if I’m reaching mastery?”~Kerouac, entry dated November 10
I know, right? If he writes this way in his journal, obsessing about the beauty of words and worrying about mastery…well, he was probably gonna accomplish something, right? There are pages of this stuff in this book. Kerouac goes through the writerly schizophrenia that’s in all of us writers.
I’m a master!
I’m the greatest that’s ever lived!
How will I ever measure up to Dostoyevski?
At this very moment I’m trying to keep my schizophrenic self from wondering if I’ll ever be any good because Kerouac wrote gorgeous stuff in his journals and mine read more like this (back in March, during P.G. Wodehouse’s mentorship):
“Speaking of…the thought process for these last two weeks was to fill the old bean with stories and movies (visual stories) but I’m avoiding writing I think. Spending way too much time online and not enough on The Line. I think I’m scared. No. I am scared. This is a big deal idea that I’m super-proud to have come up with. But instead of being excited to drive forward, I am stressed about whether I’ll make it work. I’m worried that I’m not good enough. yeah, it’s not success I’m worried about. I’m worried that I finish this book and it’ll have something so wrong in its make-up that I’ll have to totally re-do it all. I’m going to try to revise every 100 pages or so to try to set the writing stronger. I’d really like to do some short stories too. Yi.” ~Me, undated entry
Yes, I’m comparing my journaling to Kerouac’s and worrying about whether or not it’s good enough. Talk about schizo.
I think the fear comes, no matter how hard we working, because we wonder if we’re good enough, if anyone will ever notice, and whether the work is worth noticing at all. It’s something we all have to work through, even Kerouac.
(Or maybe that’s just my fear and you guys are all fine and dandy.)
The answer is the same regardless of whether your fearful or not: write and find out what happens.