Some days when I don't believe I am a writer I skim through all my files of half-started, never finished essays, poems, and mind scraps and buff up my ego and say, Ah ha! Proof that I can write! Then, what do I do but put them all away again. Ignoring all the advice I gave to students that the most important first step is to get it all down on paper, I don't finish what I start because I'm waiting for inspiration or because I just don't think it's good enough to ever become anything.
Well if every writer did that we wouldn't have libraries, bookstores, movies, or plays made up of marvelous or even mediocre stories. All would be incomplete. Imagine:
"To be—or not"
(Shakespeare to self: "It's good. I really have something there. If only the muse would visit me again. Guess I'll go sharpen my pens while I wait for inspiration. Oh look, squirrel!")
"It was the best of times—"
(Dickens: "No, that's no good. I mean there's rather a nice ring to it, but no one will want to read such a cheery book.")
(Melville: "I prefer not to continue this book until I come up with the exact perfect name for this character.")
"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."
(Austen: "There. That should satisfy this insipid writing idea for awhile. I'll just get back to my piano forte, drawing, and Latin studies.")
"It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking [five]."
(Orwell: "Five, seven, thirteen—the exact time isn't really important. In fact, this whole story just doesn't have much importance to it.")
"It was a dark and stormy night"
(Bulwer-Lytton, the original author of this famous first line: "No, too silly. No one will ever take this intro seriously." (Hmm, maybe he would have been right. . . . but then we never would have had Snoopy's classic take on this.)
(Thank you Snoopy for teaching writers—especially this writer—that important lesson. And thank you too, Charles Schulz!)