Updated: Mar 2
By Ryan Ognek—
In Sarah Allen's story, "The Inspired Writer vs the Real Writer," she argued that the idealized version of how we view the way art comes into the world makes us struggle with our own writing. In her essay she explored the emotions that young and old, new and experienced writers go through, but for some reason feel alone in.
One of the problems Allen mentioned is the emotional effect that the "inspired writer" has on those who write. She explained how students feel guilty expressing their disdain for writing. They seem to believe that you are either just good or bad at writing, without realizing the struggle that all writers go through while trying to complete their works. In contrary to their belief, the adults or mentors they are comparing themselves to also feel that inadequacy of not living up to those they look up to. There seems to be this myth of a god-given talent to those we idolize as if they didn't have to work hard to be as skilled as they are.
Another problem is the pressure of the proper structure of writing. In school I learned and continuously re-learned how to write an essay. I learned the proper structure for limericks and haikus, but was often taught at a later time about someone who broke that mold and was praised for it. I also often learned how not to write. At least in my experience, I was told a thousand ways not to write. Now, even as an adult who wants to explore the idea of writing poetry and fictional stories, I find myself constantly second guessing myself. Am I keeping a consistent tense? Am I following the correct format for this piece? Am I supposed to expand on this idea or summarize it? These parameters can be paralyzing while I'm trying to translate my thoughts to paper, especially when I get more hung up on them then the content of the piece itself.
Some of the ways these problems have already been addressed are by mentors opening up communication in a more emotional way. Allen began her story with allowing students to talk about the fact that they don't like writing. They are ashamed to bring this up to her, but instead of judging them (and to the students' surprise), she empathizes with them. If we as writers talk about the gritty parts of writing, and not just the glory, the myths of "the inspired writer" will be squashed. I have heard many people on social media platforms encourage each other to just get your art out into the world. In the words of @dahliaraz, "sh...t art is better than no art," which is Dahlia's way of saying you are better off putting lower quality art into the world and getting more practice, than not creating anything for fear of failing.
New ways we could approach this problem would be teaching children early on how to deal with the idealized versions of the people they idolize. Children see their role models on social media as perfectly shaped Instagram models, successful sports players dripping with diamonds and riches, and influencers who are paid a lot of money to endorse products on their pages. Children are more exposed to these images now than ever due to accessibility with internet and mobile devices. By teaching them the backgrounds of these social media stars, they may be able to have a more realistic understanding of what goes on behind the scenes of the perfect photos and videos they're seeing on a regular basis. They need to be able to see the 10 hours a day of working out that models and sports players put in, or the hundreds of thousands of posts an influencer needs to make to be put on the map. Also, we should teach students as they go into high school and college that it's acceptable to start a paper or any art form by just throwing it onto your medium then refining it later, instead of detailed outlines that must be done in certain order. By educating children and young adults on how to see someone's achievements deeper than the final product, they will be able to understand the correlation between hard work and successful art.