creative non-fiction Trust

What Makes Me Think I Can?

Jess McHugh's humorous non-fiction piece explores the difficulty in trusting your own creativity.

by Jess McHugh

“Write.” The voice is firm but friendly.

I flex my fingers over the keyboard and screw my mouth up, exhaling loudly through my nose. The screen stays stubbornly blank. One more cup of that insanely strong coffee and I’d easily be able to see tumbleweed rolling across the white space.

“Write.”

This is the way it always goes. “But all of my output seems self-indulgent.” I growl in response. “It never ends up being about anything in particular. Nothing deep or meaningful, anyway.”

“Write.”

I frown, and my hands wait patiently for their instructions. None come.
“This just isn’t for me, is it?” I can hear myself, and I’m aware how pathetic I sound. I want to be good, really I do. I feel like there are words inside me, I just don’t know how to get them out, or whether they’d behave in the way I’d want them to even if I did. They’re seeds of ideas that, despite my best intentions to water them regularly, just don’t seem to grow. They try their hardest, but they wither, wind burned by the constant gusts of everyday routine.

“I feel like there are words inside me, I just don’t know how to get them out.”

“Write.”

“You know, I don’t think I have a proper imagination like everyone else.” I whine. “I think mine’s broken. I can’t seem to come up with plotlines, or original characters, and don’t get me started on realistic dialogue.”

“Write.”

The light is fading now. Soon I’ll have to turn the lamp on and illuminate all the jobs around the flat that I’ve been ignoring in favour of sitting at my desk and having an imaginary conversation with my own brain.

“Write.”

“I can’t!” I insist. “My descriptions are half baked, and what I write isn’t complex or clever enough. I’ve not even had any training.”

“But you want to write.” The voice soothes. “So, write.”

I’m irritated now.
“What makes you think I can?”

“Just write.”

So I do, almost blindly. Mind engages, fingers begin to move, and the page is at last home to some words. I’ll change them later, or delete them entirely, but they’re there, at least for now. It’s a start.

The more the words appear, the more the dingy flat around me disappears. Half formed ideas, snatches of overheard conversation scribbled on a pad of paper, and an entire iPhone notes entry of observations get to work. My trust in the part of me that thinks I can write does the rest.


Jess McHugh | @justjesswriting | justjesswriting

Jess works in digital marketing, and lives on the pretty Sussex coast. When she’s not working or writing, she loves to read, take half-decent iPhone photos, and walk her three dogs on the downs.

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