I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the ways we, as writers, see ourselves. Not how we see other writers, how we actually view ourselves.
Be honest for a moment. It’s hard to see your own work without comparing it to another writer’s, isn’t it? This can be really good: we can learn from others’ work and make our own better. We can compare our style, topic, or even voice (though this last one might not be the smartest idea) to another author’s, helping better explain our writing.
These comparisons can lead to a lot of heartache, too. If you’re anything like me, you’ve thought along these lines before.
What if others don’t see my work as…
- Commercial enough: Will it ever sell? Will it appeal to a lot of people?
- Literary enough: Will it be respected? Will it only appeal to a few?
- Strong enough: Will it only draw the dreaded rejction “too quiet”?
- Hip enough: Am I trying to be cool and not getting it? Are my characters really authentic?
- Long enough / short enough? Do I fit within my genre’s range?
And the biggie…
- Good enough? What if others are being kind in their critiques, not sharing what they really think about my work?
Then there’s comparing your own work to itself…
- I only have one story in me? / I’ll never write anything as good as this story again?
- I’ll write and write and never sell?
- I haven’t found my voice yet?
- All of my work is a joke?
- I work and work and never improve?
You get the idea. I think I can say with a degree of accuracy that writers can be insecure. It’s hard to gauge our skill, ideas, or style in the midst of creation and often, even after. The world is largely quiet in response.
A healty dose of comparison can be good, keeping us on the right track. Too much comparison will keep you from writing the stories you have to tell, even those really, really bad ones.
Writing is risky. There is no guarantee others will like it or even you will like it. You might end up looking foolish, untalented, perceptive, or great. Comparisons can only get you so far. It’s only when you’re willing to move away from the security of comparison (because even though it can be discouraging, it can also feel very safe), you’ll be able to tell the story you need to, in all its wonderful (or terrible) glory.
Andrea Cremer says
Great post, Caroline. I just sent off Book 2 to my agent and suffered a major crisis of “oh no what if it’s no good.” I doubt those moments of insecurity and the emotional risk that accompanies writing ever go away!
Anita Saxena says
I worry about the same things too! I guess it’s just part and parcel of the whole writing gig.
I’ve had every one of those doubts… this morning (and every other morning since I started writing 2 years ago). Writing is so hard sometimes, but if we don’t keep doing it we won’t keep getting better, right?
Heather Sunseri says
Oh, yes, I definitely feel those worries about every day! Insecurities are so difficult to overcome at times!
Kristen Torres-Toro says
Caroline, I know those fears so well. I seem to hear at least one of those every day. It helps to remember compliments I’ve received, but even if I hadn’t, writing is just something I have to do. Hopefully one day I’ll see my dream realized…
Christina Lee says
Yep!!Sometimes I read my stuff and think–I love this…and then little doubts begin creeping in…
Tabitha Bird says
Wonderful and timely post. I feel this way a lot lately. All the ‘what ifs’ have moved in upstairs and I can’t quieten the noise!
Jemi Fraser says
We all seem to have the same little doubting voices chasing us around, don’t we? Confidence is tricky.
My utter naivety in the ways of the publishing world made book one a breeze to write. But as I attempt to write number two…do I only have one book in me…seems to be my constant mantra.
Some days the fear can be almost paralysing, but other days the sheer joy of writing rushes back and I know it’s all worth it.
Lisa and Laura says
Tell the truth, are you reading our minds?
PJ Hoover says
Insecure? Who, writers? No way 🙂
Okay, you’ve been spying on every single writer out there, haven’t you!
Sharon Mayhew says
I’m constantly worrying if my writing is good enough. I belong to a critique group, and I think I am the weakest link. I read their work and am overwhelmed by their skills. I doubt myself constantly. But does it make me stop writing, no…it makes me want to writer better. I know they make me a better writer.
Stephanie Thornton says
I’ve had all those doubts at some point. I’ve just started Book #2 so I’m glad to know I have more than one story in me.
But I do worry that my book isn’t literary enough or that my voice isn’t strong enough. I guess I’ll find out when I start querying in February!
Yaya' s Changing World says
You mean, I’m not the only person who has a panic-attack every single time I submit something? Yeeesh! Who knew? ~ Yaya
Wow, I’ve asked every single one of those questions at some point. It’s nice to know I’m not alone!