Quit Apologizing and Other Fragments of Guilt from a Worrywart Writer

Board_Game_Sorry

I’ve spent years apologizing for things I do naturally. I trip on a book bag, I apologize to the book bag. Someone dials the wrong number and ends up calling me, and I apologize that they made an error. I always took it as a quirk — something people endearingly laugh at when they hear me apologize to the bumped into table — and I accepted it part of my nature, like how some people bite their nails or whistle. It was a quirk, right?

I always feel guilty. We can blame my upbringing. Or maybe we can blame that time on the playground when Ian Two (there were two Ians) thought I ruined his monkey bar dreams. We can blame lots of things, and I’ll probably feel guilty for pointing fingers later.  So for Lent this year, I decided to give up apologizing altogether (or at least cut down as much as I can).

Now, how exactly does this deal with writing?

Well, I want to be a blogger. I want to be able to write about myself and share my opinions without a hesitation. In my recent internship, I realized just how often I talk myself down or out about an idea or a sentence or even writing. I caught myself often having this self-censure because I didn’t think I was clever or quick or impressive enough to do the smallest posts. I was miserable from stress, and I was stressed because I wasn’t trying.

I at least want to say I tried, and while I went through the motions of being there, I inevitably knew I wasn’t doing my all.

I told people often enough that it wasn’t a good fit, I wasn’t like the other writers with their confidence, or that the writing wasn’t my style. But — and a big but — I realized that it was me. I was stopping myself and censuring myself. No one was telling me that I couldn’t do it. No one was telling me that I didn’t have the right fit. Editors, fellow writers, friends pushed me to keep at it.

I got feedback from a professional stand point. I got feedback and many thumbs up from friends, rooting for me blindly despite the silliness of things I would send them.

This brings me to the apologizing. I stopped apologizing for mistakes I made in posts. This was hard in life, but it was especially difficult for me to understand in writing. I stopped apologizing for mistakes that I made in my writing, and from that, I stopped beating myself up about it.

Where before, I panicked when I would have to go over a post with an editor — believing that they were judging me and realizing how crap I really am — I now understood that they were helping to mold me into a better writer. I might be crap (I’m going to think that), but they were investing time and consideration into me for a reason. I couldn’t be that crappy.

I’m a person who holds so much regret and attempts to cope by denial, and finally I decided to take this head on. I at least could  say that I was very much my own voice when I looked at what I wrote.

I chose to stop apologizing for Lent almost as a joke. My friend Abi suggested it when she realized — as anyone who spends that much time with me will — that I just apologize for everything. Everything. And it carried into my writing real bad.

So I just quit as cold turkey as I could. I stopped and found that in response to when I wanted to apologize, I started to state the obvious.

“I bumped into you.”

“I tripped.”

“You caught me dancing around like a silly donkey.”

It made me acknowledge what I thought I did wrong or felt embarrassed about, and it made me realize how silly I was. How I felt bad because I thought that what I did wasn’t up to someone else’s standards.

So I quit apologizing because there really isn’t anything for me to apologize for (at least that often). This helped in my writing, because I started to take a step back and think that I wrote how I write. I write in a different voice and perspective, and I didn’t need to apologize for it.

Before, I wrote things in such a bland, safe way, I was ashamed by my pitches and my early posts at work. But now, I can at least acknowledge that my style is my own. I can at least take the edits and work with them, adjust them to how I do things. I’m not the worst writer in the world, I’m just still trying to figure it out.

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