Boing, boing, boing! There goes my confidence as it bounces out the door. I assumed colossal bouts of insecurity would only happen during the writing of my first book and there was no need for me to repeat those feelings the second time round. Surely, I’ve learned so much from the previous experience, right?
Wrong. And don’t call me Shirley.
The love-hate relationship with your work
Writing my first novel went something like this:
- I love this book!
- This is so much fun!
- Hahahaha, it’s funny, too!
- Huh, at second glance, it’s really not that well written.
- Actually, it reads pretty poorly.
- I NEED TO HIDE IN A COUCH FORT BECAUSE I SUCK!
- OTHER WRITERS ARE SO MUCH BETTER THAN I’LL EVER BE!
- NO, I’M NOT READY TO LEAVE THE COUCH FORT YET!
- Can someone bring food to my couch fort?
- Maybe I’ll re-read those chapters again.
- Oh, they just need a little filling out.
- I’ll clean up some other things while I’m at it.
- It reads much better now!
- Hahahaha, this is funny!
- I love this story!
(I won’t even get into the sheer panic of sending the manuscript to beta readers.)
When I expressed my emotional roller-coaster to my friends who are writers, they knew exactly what I was going through. Apparently hating your writing is a thing. It seems if you write, you most assuredly think you suck. No matter how much effort you put into creating your manuscript, no matter how otherwise confident you are, you just want to run and hide and never show your book to anyone who can comprehend your language.
Thanks. I feel much better now. Sorta.
History repeats itself, I guess
And now onto the journey of writing book 2. So far, it’s gone like this:
- I love my new protagonist!
- I love these new characters!
- Hahahaha, this is funny and cute.
- Oh wait, is it too dialogue-y?
- I’m not sure.
- Never mind, just finish the first draft. You’re only on chapter 10.
- Neil Gaiman writes so much better than me. Maybe I should read his books and live vicariously through him.
- Nobody would want to read my book.
- No, keep going, you need to keep going.
- Maybe it’s not that dialogue-y.
- I have no idea what to write for chapter 11.
- Those pillows look like they would make a good couch fort.
So I suppose I’ve learned exactly nothing. Or perhaps the lesson is this: keep writing no matter how badly you think you suck!
Because maybe, just maybe, you don’t suck at all.
How does anyone ever get published if we’re so horrible?
I had a discussion at an art studio the other day about people who get published. Are they lucky? Or is it that they put themselves out there? A woman who works at the studio was confident that the artists who push themselves are the ones who get published or, in the art world, exhibited. This brought up memories of people like Walt Disney, who I believe was rejected hundreds of times for the concept of Disneyland. I also think of J.K. Rowling, whose life was no bed of roses. Yet, we think of the Disney and the Harry Potter franchises as massive success stories. I’m realizing they are only successes because their creators did not back down in the face of rejection. The key is to never give up.
But wow, imagine believing in yourself so much that you keep going despite hundreds of rejections? This takes guts and a half.
Thankfully nowadays we writers have the option to self-publish. We also have access to free marketing tools like social media to help promote ourselves. However, even with self-publishing, we still need the self-belief to keep pushing ourselves to finish our books and to think them worthy of publication. We need that smidge of confidence not to back down.
When anxiety strikes, what do we do then?
Accepting we might be scared to bits is the first step. The next step is to complete the work. We write, get feedback, incorporate edits—the whole shebang. After that, we submit the work. Yes, even though we want to breathe into a paper bag—while wearing our Rainbow Dash onesie with a plate of cupcakes at our sidefrom the comfort of our couch fort—we must submit the work to a publisher or we must publish it ourselves.
Because heroes are made from risk takers, right? Right!
So, I still have no idea what to write for chapter 11. And I’ll make a note to check my dialogue balance, after I eat some pickle chips. I think I might want to wear my Rainbow Dash onesie, too. Or my minion feet pyjamas. What? This is important to the process, trust me.
Keep writing, fellow scribes! I bet dollars to doughnuts that you don’t suck! Just get yourselves out there despite the fear. I’m cheering you on! *waves pom-poms enthusiastically*
|Cait Gordon has been a senior technical writer for high tech and government organizations. Her first novel is being sent to the universe. She hopes the universe likes it. (The second book has begun and a third will happen, too!)|
Image, “Panic Calm Buttons Show Worrying Or Tranquility” by Stuart Miles.