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High School, Writing,* and Self-Esteem Issues

Is it possible to be a perfect writer?

Your answer to that question may determine whether your future looks like this:

(Approximation of craziness)
Or like this:

(Approximation of AWESOMENESS :D)
Self-esteem in high school and other rare phenomena

Self-esteem issues: we've all had 'em at one point or another. Maybe we still have 'em. I mean, just last night, I spent three minutes berating myself for having ugly toes. It kind of shows how far I've come if the only self-esteem-related things I worry about now involve my toes and how fast I start totalkwhenI'mnervousandinfrontofacrowd - uh oh, sorry!

IMO, this is the kind of thing
Photoshop should be used for.
It does seem like in general, after leaving high school, people start to realize that hating yourself for how you look and/or act is kind of a waste of time. Either you're an incredibly attractive, charming, popular, successful actor-astronaut, or you're not, and trying to become the "perfect" person using a mix of makeup and voodoo magic usually doesn't work.

Sure, it's nice to look clean, make friends occasionally, and do your best at the stuff you do. That's a decent goal for everyone. But perfection? According to today's standards? No way, dude. Even the models these days are Photoshopped... and you only have to check out a tabloid to see that our celebrities aren't doing so hot either.

All this means that the extent to which teens in high school (and even some adults) worry about how they look and whether they're likeable enough just, well, sucks. That's energy they could be spending studying for class, or even better, having fun outside and becoming more interesting people. And this is coming from an 18-year-old girl who, for the first time, is starting to understand what it means to have swagger be truly confident in yourself.

But what does it mean to be truly confident in yourself - as a writer?

Writing right

Here's a list of some things the modern, successful YA author is generally expected to do well:

1. Write, revise, and edit a book
2. Complete #1 repeatedly and in a somewhat fast manner
3. Promote books online and/or in the real world
4. Cultivate an author brand that'll keep readers coming back
5. Think of and execute ideas that'll hit a wide audience straight in the heart

"Did you just call me frazzled?
I will claw you."
Are any of these expectations resented by the average writer? Nah, I don't think so. They're what make the dream of being an author one of the most amazing in the world. You're basically doing what you love, working to get the product of your passion (i.e. your book) out there, and (hopefully) getting paid for it.

So what's the problem? Well, a problem can occur if a writer starts to let those expectations weigh too heavy on their mind. Suddenly it's not, "I have to do these things well" - it's "I have to do these things perfectly." Suddenly being the perfect writer isn't a dreamy yet clearly impossible ideal; it's an imperative. Every sentence, every plot twist, every revision, every blog post, every idea has to be perfect. And if a sentence or twist or revision or post or idea doesn't meet that standard... it sucks.

Honestly, that's too much pressure for anyone. And when pressure like that is applied over a long period, you usually don't get a diamond. You just get a highly frazzled writer who may or may not feel like giving up. Because hey, they suck. Right?

Just like in the case of a teenager who hates his or her body, having low self-esteem doesn't get a writer anywhere. It prevents X teen from having the guts to ask out that super cute girl, who totally would have said yes - and it prevents X writer from achieving their writing-related dreams.

The good, the bad, and the ugly

Aiming for perfection isn't necessarily a bad thing. It can make you work harder than you've ever worked - and sometimes the end result is amazing.

But it's expecting that perfection from yourself that's the killer - because it's impossible to be perfect. We all know that deep down, but sometimes our stress seems to contradict our knowledge.

"Yeah, I gotz confidence."
I've got a theory that interesting, good writing is partly the result of imperfection. 'Cause hey, if there was such a thing as being a perfect writer, and we all achieved that same standard... wouldn't every book be weirdly similar and therefore boring? (Alternatively, if we were all perfect people, how weird and boring would that be?)

Instead, we're all different. Some of us are better at plotting and worse at getting the words out fast. Some of us are rock at thinking up fresh ideas but have a long way to go with promotion, and vice versa. To me, that's 100% a good thing.

By aiming single-mindedly for perfection, by looking to wipe out all so-called ugliness, you deny yourself the right to be original. To be you.

Your relationship with the concept of perfection is all up to you. But overall, maybe try to keep in mind: you're an amazing person and writer. There's no reason to feel bad for not being perfect - you can't be anyway. Also, you're hot beautiful.

Now go off and do a little less than someone else! And a little more, too. :) What are your thoughts about perfection?

*I will forever use the oxford comma when appropriate. (Reason #1.) I care about you, Oxy!
Emilia Plater

Emilia is a YA author who avoids studying, food that isn't covered in cheese, and waking up before 10:30AM whenever possible. A bundle of confusions.

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  1. Great voice in this post--if you have confidence in that part of your writing, it's well deserved!

  2. Perfect post, Emilia. (<----Sorry, I had to.)
    How is everything on YA Highway so wise?

  3. I just had the pleasure of doing a three-hr podcast with Christopher Paolini, and he talked a few times about mistakes in his books, and how he went with them and turned them into a positive thing. Just goes to show, it's a universal illness that all writers - good, bad, famous or not - struggle with.

  4. Great post. I think a big factor in confidence (as a writer or anyone else) is to surround yourself with people who will encourage you. Not necessarily people who will suck up to you all the time and tell you every piece of crap you write is a masterpiece, but people who won't belittle you for the work you do. I had so little confidence as a writer when I was in college because most of my classmates were literary snobs who saw YA fiction as less important. They're all perfectly nice people, but being around them day after day wasn't exactly helpful.

  5. Love, love, love it. It's so refreshing to have someone tell us that we don't have to be perfect.
    (And dude, why didn't you tell me that image was NSFW/school? I'm pretty sure my programming teacher would've been all "WHAT ARE YOU DOING" had I not closed down the tab quickly... :P)

  6. Great post!! I think we should always aim to produce our absolute best - it is probably not 100% perfect, but it is enough to give readers a really enjoyable read.

    Thanks so much for sharing this :)

  7. This is a great post! Self-esteem with writing can be hard because we really out our best and worst critic. We hate and love every word that we write. (I love the animal pictures!) Perfection isn't attainable if we want to be perfect; but if we want to do our best - that can be done. :)


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Item Reviewed: High School, Writing,* and Self-Esteem Issues Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Emilia Plater