Let’s be totally honest. Writer’s are insecure, like…200% of the time. We occasionally have little bouts of confidence and genuine belief in our abilities, but the overwhelming majority of the time we’re little balls of misery and self-loathing, rocking back and forth in the corner, insistent that we have no talent, no prospects, and that anyone who ever said they liked our books was a dirty, dirty liar.
That said, I personally feel that the most powerful moments of insecurity come right before something is about to be published.
I’ve been working on “The Other World” for more than a decade, no joke. That wasn’t all consecutive, of course. It began life as a therapeutic way of dealing with my then-boyfriend breaking up with me. Those early drafts were very, well…terrible. It was a Mary-Sue story in which everyone loved the main character except for herself, and she made a massively huge deal about her own breakup, as though it was literally the end of the world. It was absolutely horrible, but at the time it served it’s purpose. It made me feel a little better, and it was a reason to put words to paper.
Eventually it grew and evolved. I’m not joking even a little bit when I say that I restarted this particular story from scratch at least a dozen times. It was my NaNoWriMo novel twice, and I would regularly return to it and completely rewrite it whenever I would get bored or frustrated with my other works. And as time went on and I learned more about proper styles of writing, what turns readers off, and so forth, the story changed more and more and more. Eventually it became a series. Characters transformed. Main plot points shifted dramatically. To be perfectly honest, at this point what I have in my Scrivener file has extraordinarily little in common with the original story. It has matured spectacularly from what it started out as. Even I – as a completely self-loathing writer – can see that. The story that I am currently performing final edits on is nothing like the self-absorbed cathartic ramblings that I first put down back in college. It is much, much better. Infinitely so.
I know this. And yet, as I wait (im)patiently for my cover artist to send me some ideas, and I finish those final edits on Book One of the series, I find that little voice beginning to whisper in the back of my mind. “This is complete crap,” it hisses. “Your beta-readers are liars, and you’re a talentless hack who will never have any real success as a novelist. You should delete the entire file and never speak of this story again.”
That voice is a bitch. I know this, and yet it is exceptionally difficult to quell her. I have become the master of procrastination, taking much longer at each step of the writing process than is reasonable, because that voice slows me down, weakens me, and convinces me that it’s pointless. She’s a complete and utter bitch and I hate her.
So I say this to you now: moving forward I am going to do my level best to smother that voice and bury her deep, deep down where I can’t hear her hateful hissing. I’m going to trust that my beta-readers weren’t just being nice to spare my feelings, I’m going to work with my cover artist to create something beautiful and attractive, and I’m going to put that something out there for the world to see. Then I’m going to take what comes as it comes. And then, regardless of the results, I’m going to sit at my laptop, and I’m going to get to work on finishing Book Two, and I’m going to start the process all over again. Because that’s what a real writer does. We murder that voice in cold blood – no matter how many times it resurrects itself – and put ourselves out there regardless of the vicious whispers.
Who’s with me?