The scariest feeling.

There’s one fear we all share.

We being writers since, damnit, it’s accurate and not a brag. Just a title everyone in the news and magazine section of MU’s School of Journalism shares, regardless of ego or talent.

It’s the terror of not being published.

From blogs to features to those yellow paged notes on our phones, we’re absolutely horrified of being told those words aren’t good enough to be read. All of our work, research and typing translating to nothing more than some practice.  We’ve done our practice, damnit. We went through all of those unpublished attempts in our starting journalism courses. We’ve bled our ink.

Now we’re at the crossroads of real world/work and schoolwork. It’s just as terrifying as not getting published because the two are one in the same. Both of them are affirmations of the nagging self-doubt that plagues any creator:

“Maybe my work’s not good enough.”

Which is immediately followed by the killer line:

“Maybe I’m not good enough.”

Everyone is nervous when they turn in that first draft or pitch. It’s the equivalent of kneeling down in front of the guillotine. It’s arguable that a piece we write is our baby, but the truth is that it’s ultimately you. Yes, you distance yourself from your writing since you’re not the subject, but you can’t unsweat, unbleed, uncry.

So you’re offering your throat. And you’re not sure if you deserve to live.

It’s not a bright picture. Unfortunately, it’s always going to linger. The response to vast amounts of criticism is usually growing a thicker skin, but immediate rejection is a stab to the ever-vulnerable jugular. Shot down before it had a chance to fly. By the way, are mixed metaphors a reason to shoot down a piece?

We all secretly delight in our blogs, where we’re the gatekeepers. If a chunk of writing doesn’t meet our standards, we can push it into the drafts folder and revisit it later. It’ll get our eyes eventually.

First drafts and pitches are the opposite. Even if you’re absurdly excited and have done all your sourcing, pulled all the research, the blade can still fall.

“Not good enough.”

That’s the end of the story. Boom. I had a source tell me one time that engineering, a career that consists of solving a physical problem, and journalism, a career that consists of constantly looking for a job, aren’t so different.

“They’re kind of the same in the end. Either it’s good enough or it isn’t. Your idea can end when a source just decides to not talk to you and your story sucks. Either it works or it doesn’t.”

It was nice to hear that others understand that binary of success with which we, or everyone I guess, struggle. It doesn’t make it any easier though.

Every time I write about writing, I end up at the same answer:

I don’t know.

It’s not a good or helpful place to end anything. It’s the equivalent of ranting for ten minutes before just shrugging and walking away. There’s a lot I don’t know and reiterating that fact doesn’t do a thing. I always try to scroll back up and pick out some piece of sense or insight that justifies hitting the “Publish” button. I never find it. So it leaves me with the unfriendly ghost.

“Maybe this isn’t good enough.”


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