Why don’t you just?

Why don’t you just [insert text here]?


U.S. National Archives

As writers, we are constantly asked by our peers, our families and even sometimes the internet; why don’t you just? We struggle for a response that isn’t impolite or bitter, which is understanding and understandable, and usually we fail. In fact, just the other day I posed the question to myself. Why Don’t You Just. I added different words, why don’t you just write a novel, create a collection of poetry, take a class, learn a trade, be happy. And I realised again (for every time you are asked you have to think it all over again) that it just isn’t that easy. Oh it’s easy enough to say “Okay! I will!” But nothing exists in ‘just’ – it’s a misnomer, a lie to think that you can just do anything. It involves thought and consideration, work and effort.


This isn’t to say the work isn’t worth it, that the final product, whatever it may be, isn’t worth the effort and consternation. Instead it’s to say that we spend an awful lot of time trivialising something that we already know isn’t trivial. Sometimes we even convince ourselves that if They can do it, we must certainly be able to. Not only that, but we should be able to do it better, after all, we’re so much more talented/practiced/worthy. In doing so we trivialise ourselves again, reduce this thing we love to a base element of skill. The alphabet’s just a bunch of letters, after all, how hard could writing a novel possibly be?!


Well, we who have tried (and I have definitely tried) know that novels take a lot of time and dedication. Not just in the writing but also in the editing – and I know a whole lot of you hate editing because ugh reading it over again. Novels are hard – talent is hard.


Why are we allowing ourselves and our skills be trivialised every time the question turns up. Much in the same way that I’m not a writer, or an author, or anything much, the same way that I’m ‘doing nothing’ when constructing a poem or a piece of work. We reduce ourselves every time we open our mouths out of this misguided sense of modesty – or fear. It is the modesty which is most compelling because we all want to be liked and no one likes a boast or show off, and definitely no one likes someone who can’t follow through. That’s where some of the fear comes in; if I say I am writing a poem, what if someone wants to see it? Many of us hide our works away from close family and friends – the internet is a softer critic with less personal hooks with which to sink us. The regard of those we love can tear us into those great abysses the Great Poets (and writers and sculptor and so on) seemed to live inside, but we are not Great anything and so we don’t know how we could survive such events, let alone live inside them.


You are not trivial. You can be Great.


Don’t ‘just’ anything, take your time and write or live however you want to. The questions people pose are just questions and you are free to answer them however you like – though I hope you will dissipate some of your fear and answer honestly. I don’t want you to hide, act, or feel compelled to mislead others about who you are. I know you will because I will too, but it would be nice to try. If you have any success with honesty in this way, please let me know! I’d love to share in it. I’ll let you know of mine as well, it’s only fair.

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