Writer’s insecurity

I have no idea where I am with my goals. I’m pretty sure I did three chapters this week, but it might have been four. I did work on my revision every day and reworked an entire chapter this morning, and that makes me feel good.

But, insecurities and doubts have been looming behind me, waiting to strike. I can feel their hot breath on the back of my neck, and I have been trying to ignore them. It’s hard.

I’m not sure why they’ve suddenly swarmed around me, but insecurity and doubt is something every writer deals with. Writing is a lonely job. Most of the time, the only company we have is our characters, and as good company as they might be, they can’t tell us if what they’re doing is right.

And then there’s the idea of what’s right, anyway. Harry Potter is a favorite book series of millions of fans–including me, well, one of my many faves–but there are readers who don’t get it. Who’s right? They all are. They’re being honest to their own likes and dislikes, and everyone has different tastes. (You know the saying: You can’t please all of the people all of the time. It’s true.)

That’s the dilemma. Writing is not black and white. Sure, there are grammatical standards that we should follow and general plot, character guidelines that make a story good, but there are so many ways to tell a story, so who’s to know if we’re doing it the right way?

Well, we are, along with some faith in ourselves, our knowledge, our experience and our talent.

But when you’re writing in a vacuum — even with a good critique group supporting you — it’s next to impossible to not be insecure at some point. I recently read Anne Lamott’s writing memoir Bird By Bird (I recommend it if you can find it) and she describes going through this. It was refreshing and somewhat comforting to know it happens to the best of us. It still doesn’t make it any easier, though.

Lamott also described how insecure she gets when others are reading her work, and I think that might be why I’m having these feelings now. A friend and fellow writer took the first two-thirds of my novel (the amount I had revised) on spring break holiday with her daughter. They had planned to read it while they lounged on the beach and give me a full report when they got home. As much as I’ve carried on this week and thought I wasn’t obsessing about what they will think, as the weekend rolled around and my subconscious knew they were coming home, I started to get anxious. That has continued to build, and I’m pretty sure it won’t stop until I call her in the morning — because I don’t think I can wait until she calls me.

As much as we try not to be, we’re all unsure about our work. The trick is to not let it overcome us and stop us from doing what we love. Anne Lamott said that, and it’s absolutely true.

How do you deal with insecurities and doubts?

Write On!

6 Responses

  1. mand says:

    This week, i’m dealing with it by taking a break.

    But i feel insecure about doing that…

    Just can’t win! The only way i know is to remember that i’ve decided to KEEP GOING regardless of whether it’s ‘worth it’ in terms of successful result.

  2. Absolutely, Mand. You’ve got to keep going. Get to the end of your novel no matter what. And don’t worry about getting bogged down with issues in the first draft; that’s what revision is for. Breaks are good, but don’t take too long of a break, because then you’ll lose the thread of your story. You want to have it fresh in your head. And, like you said, don’t worry about the result. The journey is the most important thing. Persevere and you’ll get the result.

  3. mand says:

    Thanx, Sam. 80) This is why i like blogs about other people’s slogs! The encouragement.

    I’m strongly resisting the impulse to do any revision or get feedback of any sort before i have a whole first draft. I just know it would put me off my stride completely. (Apart from my dear Reader, who is non-literary enough to say little more than, ‘When’s the next instalment?’ for which i’m very grateful.)

  4. mand says:

    Ooh, just noticed your comment on my own blog! Thank you – should have read all my mail before replying! ;0)

  5. My pleasure! Hope it helps.

    And on your note about resisting the impulse to revise and share now — I strongly agree. When I started writing my first draft, I didn’t write every day, so to get back into the story, I would edit what I had written already. I ended up editing my first six chapters so much, I started to feel frustrated that I wasn’t getting anywhere. That’s when I made the commitment to write every day and get to end, no revising, no interuptions, just get to the end. I’m glad I did.

    Happy writing!

  6. mand says:

    Nice to have confirmation that my instinct is ‘right’.

    I think i just needed rest. Physical, emotional, the lot. I can feel the Slog shifting under my feet, about to rise again…

What do you think?