At Hutchmoot 2013, I took pages and pages of notes for the talks I attended.The notes have arrows pointing to other sections, and words written in the margins on the vertical axis, scribbles, and single word entries — like just a name with no further explanation, e.g. Poincàre.
Honestly, most of my notes are crap. Half the time, I have no idea what I was trying to say. I know why my notes look like that though. So much good stuff was being said that I was trying to write it all down, and, as a result, got very little written coherently.
One thing that was said, though, that has stuck with me for years in a talk by Nate Wilson. N.D. Wilson has written a bunch of books: The 100 Cupboard series, Ashtown Burial series, Outlaws of Time series, as well as Notes from a Tilt-a-Whirl and Hello, Ninja. He gave a talk called “The Case for Craft,” and I actually took notes I could read.
The first section of that talk was about technical value. Are we competent at what we’re doing? This part was life-changing for me:
It’s okay to be a widow and to give a widow’s mite.N. D. Wilson
It’s okay to be bad at something on the way to being good at it.
God gives everyone grace to create beauty with their life.
Honestly, I wish I could write like John Steinbeck, but I never will because I’m not John Steinbeck.
I’d like to write like Annie Dillard and once even had a professor compare my writing to hers. But I’m not Annie Dillard.
I love Thomas Merton’s contemplative writing — but I’m not Thomas Merton either.
I can only write like me.
And that’s okay — as long as I continue to work at making my writing the best it can be.
It’s okay to be bad on the way to being good. I hope I’m on that path.