How are you doing?
Did you write last week?
Are you writing this week?
Today we are covering a special topic, one that applies to every writer I have ever met from newbies to professionals.
I am talking about insecurities.
With the writing life in mind, I bring you my top three writer insecurities – squirmy details and all – and what I do about them.
I bet you can relate. As writers, we are faced with possibilities. Sometimes they are a plague of doubts and our overactive imaginations can get the better of us.
Want to know a writing secret?
All writers have insecurities.
It’s a universal truth that all writers, newbies to professionals, have them. But there is a difference in how the newbies and professionals tackle their anxieties.
Oh, the beautiful, horrible thoughts that run through our minds!
I blog, but does anyone really care?
I am smart, but does anyone really want to pay attention to my intellectual life?
Oh, grief, what if I am not smart enough? Or as smart as I think I am?
I never learned how to write – I was playing and thinking about ______ when they were teaching grammar!
My goal is to write something that helps someone, but what if it never does?
My writing sucks.
A writer pirate will come along and steal my work.
They are going to hate it.
Aliens will attack Earth and I’ll never finish my book [okay, this one may be only for sci fi writers].
I’m going down some kind of artistic death spiral and will never be able to get out of it.
Oh, my gosh, my mom/grandma is going to read ______ and think I’ve done _____.
They are going to disapprove.
The reviews are going to be horrible if I get any.
No one will come to my signing/workshop.
I will never find an agent/editor.
I spent money, time, and effort on this and I’ve got squat.
I cannot _________, so I’ll never succeed.
I am going to write something totally disturbing and everyone will think I’m a serial killer/terrorist.
The FBI is reading my search history and has a file on me.
My block is so big, I will never overcome it.
Readers will never be invested in my characters.
I am inadequate and I’ll never write as good as King, Roberts, Tolkien, or insert your favorite writer.
I have been at this for years, but I still feel like a newbie.
I’m a writer, not an entrepreneur!
One day, I am going to wake up and wish I had done ________ instead of writing.
What if they actually read my work?
What if I spend all this time and effort and nothing ever comes of it? [that one makes me squirm]
Aggh! The are horrible, bad, nasty thoughts! If I told any of these to my best writer friend, she would call an emergency intervention with my Awesome Club.
Okay, enough of that feeling. Shake it off.
We’re going to combat all this stuff.
Take a breath.
See the pretty water?
Remember that this is a moment in time. This will pass.
These are anxieties that everyone has. A few years ago, I was at a book signing for a really successful romance writer and she told me that even she’s terrified that her next book won’t do well! And I’ve seen her on the bestseller list constantly since the 90s!
Now it’s time for you to get comfy and me to get squirmy. Ready? I’m going out on a limb here.
Dar’s #3 Anxiety: The Gremlins
No, not those cute little gremlins in the movie Gremlins.
I’m talking about technology.
For example, I wrote a three-page awesome post on this topic last week for you and it disappeared into the bottomless computer. I think there is a place inside the internet or the computer where a little robot is cackling because it ate my work. It’s probably related to my Tom Tom named Tommy.
I’ve had whole novels, short stories, and articles disappear into my computer.
I saved them. I swear I did, but the Gremlins came. I guess the muse that theoretically protects writers didn’t agree that the work was worthy, so they go poof.
You don’t want to know how many computers I’ve accidentally killed or how many keyboards I’ve blasted through until you can’t tell what letter is what unless you know them by feel and heart.
Dar’s #2 Anxiety: Readers Will Hate It
I got an email this morning from a source and it went to my spam, and yeah, I thought it was strange at first, but then I noticed it actually came from a legitimate email address, and there was only two word in the email. It said “f… you.”
Now, there are two ways I can take this: it’s strange weird spam, or I can take this information and run with it.
You know me. I’m going for the latter.
How did I know it was hate mail?
I took the email address and cross-referenced it with the statistics profile from my blog. Said hate-mailer wasn’t impressed with an annotation/review I posted for a reputable writer’s book. That person probably read it and thought it was the best thing ever. So yeah, it’s hate mail. Oh, and if Mr. or Ms. Spammer is reading this now – I didn’t actually hate the book – I gave it 3 stars – that means I liked it, but it wasn’t my favorite.
I could take it personally. I might after this post, but I won’t. That person reached out with passion in mind (granted, destructive passion), but that person had something to say. That’s energy – granted, not the kind we want as writers, we want everyone to love our work, but realistically not everyone will.
Dar’s #1 Writer Anxiety: Speaking In Front of People
Okay, I’m in the squirmy area now. The feeling in my gut is like a pit and I don’t want to talk about this. But here we are – I promised truth and it’s about to come out. Forgive me now.
I don’t like talking in front of people.
I’ve done it tons of time. I’ve given readings, been on committees and boards, and been the MC at an open mic night. And I had to push myself to do every single one of these.
When I went to grad school, the first residency Victoria Nelson offered a class in speaking. I got up there and I froze even though I prepared for two hours. That class helped a bit.
But I didn’t feel like I was good enough after. So I took a class in voiceover art thinking it was going to help me level up my game and talk all sexy into microphones.
I learned in that class how to control pitch and voice inflection, but I didn’t learn how to get rid of the butterflies.
I get them every time.
As writers, we are gifted with abundant imaginations! We dance with demons and fear and hope to come out unscathed. But with great power comes great insecurities, and we need to be able to turn that mushy, butterfly feeling into fuel.
For me, it boils down to three components: courage, faith, and persistence.
It takes a strong person to step up to this writing life. To say I’m going to be brave and write what I see as the truth and y’all can live with it. Frank Herbert was right when he wrote the Litany against Fear in Dune:
“I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
We writers must do the same thing – feel the fear and let it go through us as if we are not a part of it. Only we remain [hopefully with coffee].
Oh, you sparkling, magical being of light and energy! You know you’re amazing and fabulous and need to get those words down!
Mel Robbins in her TED Talk in San Francisco mentioned the probability of you being born exactly as you are to your parents with the dreams and thoughts you have are like 1 in 400 trillion!
You have the dream – you have the want – and now you need to believe in yourself like no one else has, because you are the greatest cheerleader for your work. You are the one who will stay up with the cranky characters in the middle of the night and take notes in the shower on [sometimes] waterproof paper because you must write.
Let’s be totally honest here, if you’re a writer you’re a bit cracked. And that’s okay because to do big things we need to dream big and live our stories in a way that no one else has. We must be curious and have faith that what we’re about is important work. It’s the reason for everything. It’s our one thing.
We need to have courage. We must have faith. But the key to doing and achieving our goals is persistence. We must press on in the dark of night. We must go on even if there is no light nearby.
We must be curious. We must work hard at our art and craft. We must do the reading. We must do the playing, and yes, we must do the writing, not because it is required of us, but because we require it.
The word writer was written in your skin in invisible ink. Writer. Writer.
And that, dear writer, is why even though we are plagued with doubts, we will never let them overcome us. We will feel the fear and let it pass through. We will harness courage, faith, and persistence. And we will write.
Now go write your novel.
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