Dealing With Writer Insecurities And Self-Doubts
My Own Experience
As some of you may know, I recently finished the first draft of my new novel, “The Long Walk Home.” This project began about six months ago, and I have given it my all. In fact, I have openly declared to the Facebook world that this is as well as I can write and I am proud of this book.
And now I have a confession to make: I am terrified of actually finishing this novel. I have two more re-writes to do and then it will be time to turn it into an ebook and start shopping for an agent; my best guess is it will be ready to release to the public sometime near the end of April….and I am dreading that moment.
Think about it for a moment. Writers will understand I am sure. If this novel represents my best work….the culmination of all that I have learned to this point, the very best writing I am capable of….and nobody likes it, it does not sell, and agents and publishers reject it…..then what does that say about my writing ability? Does it say that I really am not that good? Does it say I am wasting my time? Does it say that I am living in a fantasy world when I think that one day I can write something that will be read and praised by thousands? Does it say that my best just ain’t good enough?
I Am Certain of This Point
“I have self-doubt. I have insecurity. I have fear of failure. I have nights when I show up at the arena and I'm like, 'My back hurts, my feet hurt, my knees hurt. I don't have it. I just want to chill.' We all have self-doubt. You don't deny it, but you also don't capitulate to it. You embrace it.”
All writers have insecurities.
I would venture to guess that most people have insecurities of some sort. It is a human condition. Unless one is an egotist of such extreme as to be considered unhinged, we all know what it feels like to be nibbled with questions about our abilities.
I have to constantly remind myself of that fact. Most of the great writers in history, if not all, have laid awake at night wondering if their work would be accepted, and if the Hemingways and the Steinbecks have experienced self-doubt then who am I to think I should not?
But that is logic speaking, and insecurity is not about logic.
Here Is Another Point of Which I Am Certain
It takes courage to be a writer, especially with the online world we now face. If it is true that writers share a part of their heart and soul with their work, then openly sharing that work with the reading public is one of the ultimate acts of bravery. There is no safety net when we push that “publish” button. We get no “do-overs” once we have sent our work across the Web. Every single time we publish an article, story or book, we are placing our necks on the chopping block and inviting anyone with a computer and five minutes of spare time to swing at our necks. Every single time we publish something we are placing our already fragile egos on the public pillory to be flogged.
If you don’t think that takes courage then you really have no insight into the writer’s psyche.
And the same can be said for artists and musicians…..it is a willful act of suicide whenever we take our work and go public with it.
And yet we do it, and do it again, and when the adulation has trickled in and been overwhelmed by the one or two negative reviews, we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, bandage our wounds and do it once again.
We might as well wear a sign that says “Please Hurt Me.”
So How Do We Deal with It?
Well, quite frankly, some writers do not deal with it but rather quit writing. I have received quite a few notes from writers who tell me about negative comments or lack or support and how they have stopped writing because of it all…..and I find that profoundly sad.
I have received quite a few notes from writers who tell me that they have never attempted to write that novel that is chewing a hole inside of them because they are afraid of the reactions they will received and yes, I find that profoundly sad as well.
You see, despite my insecurities and self-doubts, I keep writing, and once I finish this novel I have two more waiting for me, and once I finish those I am sure I’ll have more ideas, and I will keep writing until they pry the pen from my cold, stiff fingers.
So why am I willing to risk it all while others are not? How am I able to take my fragility and push it aside?
Pay attention and I’ll share some thoughts with you.
Surrounded By Love and Support
I made a decision seven years ago to surround myself with positive and supportive people. I need them. I am not too proud to admit that. I need my friends. I need my wife. I need the strength that they give me, and I need the positive strokes of support that they give me as well.
Writing is a terribly lonely business, as are all of the Arts. It is just us and our words against an ocean of negativity, and that ocean will drown us if we do not have a support system. I had a mentor tell me once that the most dangerous real estate in the world is the six inches between my ears. I believe that, and because I believe that I make damn sure I have people around me who can counteract the dangerous thoughts of quitting that I have from time to time.
If you do not have such a support system then get one, and if you have negative people in your life who cannot support your writing efforts, get rid of them!
My Responsibility As a Writer
The world needs writers. The world needs artists and musicians. I understand that need and I feel the responsibility that it places on me. I have the ability to add to the beauty in this world. I can inform with my words. I can inspire with my words. I can provide comfort to those who need it with my words, and it would be, in my humble opinion, a sin against society if I did not write but instead ignored my responsibilities.
I have been given a gift. Who am I to toss that gift aside and not use it? I refuse to do that and quite frankly you should refuse to do it as well. We need your words. We need the song that you can sing. We need the beauty that you can create. Please do not turn your backs on that.
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So I Would Say This to All of You
Do not give up, and do not give in to those voices inside your head that say you cannot do it. Do not surrender to the nagging doubts. Do not wallow in fear and allow it to quiet your voice. Do not allow others to silence you.
I have no idea if “The Long Walk Home” will be a commercial success, but I do know that the moment I publish it I will become a personal success for me. I will once again have beat back the demons that haunt me, and I will once again declare to the world that I am a writer and I’m damn proud of it.
2014 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”