My guitar and I went to a “jam session” Sunday night. About ten of us gathered with a variety of instruments to play and sing our hearts out. We did some songs we all knew, and some songs some of us knew and the rest of us followed along the best we could. It was fun.
At one point, another guitarist asked me a couple questions about how to play certain chord variations, and even though I’d just played through the lines in question, I had to say I don’t know. See, I’ve got no training. I just play. When I need a new chord for a song I want to play, I learn it, and when I’m in the midst of playing in a jam session and need a note or chord I don’t know, I fake it. (Apparently, I fake it reasonably well. They think I can play! Ha!)
You know, that moment when I was asked the how-to questions, I got a familiar feeling… It was that same feeling that dances through my writer’s heart with unfortunate frequency:
I’m a hack. A poser. I don’t know what I’m doing.
It’s not exactly a pleasant feeling, but you know, last night it dissipated when I laughed and admitted I didn’t have a clue. I just make music. I just have fun playing songs.
For me, writing’s the same: I’ve no training–not the official kind, anyway. I just write. I just have fun telling stories and playing with words. And when that scary, kinda-embarrassing feeling comes around–that feeling of being a total hack just hiding out amongst real writers and hoping not to be noticed–I try to laugh, acknowledge the truth in it, and keep right on
faking it writing.
Is this how it is for other writers? I know I’ve heard authors expressing similar feelings even after they’ve had a book published (or several books). So, maybe it’s normal. And maybe it doesn’t go away. And maybe, if I twist it around a bit, it might even be a good thing…
If I acknowledge I’m a poser, fumbling along in my creative efforts, maybe what I’m really discovering is this:
There’s no definitive Right Way of doing this creativity thing.
Sure, some music theory and grammar lessons will serve me well, and I’m not for a second knocking the value of LEARNING NEW STUFF to help me grow as a musician or as a writer.
But here’s the thing: If (1) I’m having fun creating, (2) I’m creating something that communicates what I want it to, and (3) it’s not excruciating for others to sit through, then faking it is okay. It’s good, even, because it keeps me writing, keeps me making music, when I might otherwise give up and hide under a table. (Is this a time when fake-it-’til-ya-make-it is a totally valid philosophy? ;) )
I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to do things someone else’s way, or some imaginary “right way”. I just need to create. Learn and grow and experiment and try, but never stop creating.
What do you think about this? Can you relate at all?