Let’s be honest. We all have fears. As humans, as writers . . . . I don’t care if you are Stephen Effing King . . . wait a minute, even he is scared of something. Supposedly, he sleeps with the light on because he is scared of the dark (wouldn’t you be if you were him??)
So, in this post, we’re going to get down and dirty on some of these fears as they pertain to writing, specifically. I know I’ve been through my share of turbulence, finding my own equilibrium in this giant spinning world of words, where it sometimes feels like it’s everyone for themselves…. It can be maddening. It can be discouraging and lonely. But just remember, you are not alone.
Following are eleven bogus beliefs that many writers share, and how you can look at them differently. Maybe this will help you to release their vice grip on your writing life (and life in general), which can arrest your growth as a writer (and a human being.)
#11. “I‘m going to fail.”
Yes. Yes you are. And you are going to do it beautifully, and it is going to hurt like hellfire, but you are going to rise from that fire like one great Phoenix with mighty, fiery wings spread wide, and you are going to soar through the heavens and set them ablaze with your glorious redemption….
“Failure” is Just Success in Disguise
It’s true. Just take that word out of your vocabulary because if you’re looking at it right, there is no such thing as failure. Edison made a few thousand light bulbs before he finally discovered the right cocktail of ingredients to make them in a way in which they worked right and could be provided to consumers at a reasonable cost. “Thomas Edison was interviewed by a young reporter who boldly asked Mr. Edison if he felt like a failure and if he thought he should just give up by now. Perplexed, Edison replied, “Young man, why would I feel like a failure? And why would I ever give up? I now know definitively over 9,000 ways that an electric light bulb will not work. Success is almost in my grasp.” And shortly after that, and over 10,000 attempts, Edison invented the light bulb.” (Link)
So, no failure. Only figuring out what works for you and your writing life and what doesn’t.
#10. “I’m being selfish.”
Well, maybe you are. But there is good selfish and there is bad selfish. Good selfish is doing the things for you that make you feel good about you. They are the things that bring out that inner glow, that bring you bliss. Bad selfish is when you might take that shit and run to the moon with it. I’ve been there, oh man. And it was not pretty. It’s like, “eff you and your needs! I’m writing important crap here!” Right? Yeah, that would be tipping the scale to the “NO” zone.
As with everything in life, there has to be balance. I have four kids, and I guaran-damn-tee ya I don’t write nearly as much as I’d like to. Of course they time all of their needs for when I sit down at my computer. Of course. I have to bite my tongue and sometimes hum a sweet churchy hymnal and splash holy water about my face in order to refrain from hanging them by their toenails from the living room ceiling fan. Four kids, four blades, hmmm . . . . But they’re kids. It’s not their fault I’m a single mom. Gotta roll with it. But that doesn’t mean giving up writing. They are VERY aware VERY VERY aware of what happens when mommy doesn’t get her writing time in. Observe figure A:
So, what it boils down to is communication and compromise, the lovely miracle balm for every healthy relationship. I want my kids to be happy and they want me to be happy. So, let’s sit down (for like, the 100th time) and remember how we can do that for each other so we have a happy, relatively peaceful home. As peaceful as it can be with three school-aged children, a toddler, a puppy, and a writer, anyway. 😉 Once we come to an understanding of each other’s needs, we can then compromise to meet in the middle. Whatever you do, don’t sacrifice your “thing” (writing, art, music, sports, working out, hiking, etc.) because you think you don’t “deserve” it, or whatever silly excuses you come up with. Seriously. No one wants to be around a miserable soul, and that’s what happens to people who stifle their bliss-cultivators. They become miserable, depressed, negative, and cold.
Don’t do that.
#9. “I’m too different from other authors.”
Oh jeez… where are you? Get your ass out here so we can get something new for a change, sheesh! Different is good! Just because you don’t fit in a nice little package with “the norm” (whatever that is) doesn’t mean you aren’t flipping amazing. There are readers out there waiting for you and your words. There are readers for every type of writer, and you never know, you could be a trendsetter! Sometimes, in writing, it’s okay to break the rules. Rules are made to be broken, and in writing, sometimes, obliterated. Of course, it’s important to have an editor and an array of open-minded beta readers make sure that what you’re doing is being done in the best way possible. But you don’t have to take every bit of advice that comes your way. Don’t be too stubborn, be open to suggestion, but ultimately, if it feels right, I say just do your thing. Shine on like the rebellious little soul that you are.
#8. “I‘m not different enough.”
Hey, we can’t all be the next big new and different thing. And honestly, the world needs more [fill in blank with favorite badass authors] for real! There’s no such thing as too many great writers. Just because you are similar in style or voice to someone else, doesn’t mean don’t write. It means, hell, you already know where you belong! Congrats! But rest assured, no two writers are exactly alike (save for plagiarism), so as long as you go deep within yourself to write the best story you can, working closely with an editor and beta readers and/or other close writer friends, you will carve your own groove. It may be similar to another’s, but it is still your own.
#7. “I‘m not good enough.”
You might be right. But the only way to get better at anything is by putting in the time and actually doing it. If you use this excuse before you’ve even put a few good years into seriously developing your craft, then you are just making excuses and you’re going to self-fulfill your own prophecy.
Or, maybe your self-esteem just sucks for whatever reason(s). Quit with the negative self-talk already. Get a couple of positive people in your corner who will be honest with you while also encouraging you to push onward. Be careful not to seek validation though. Feeling good about what you’re writing because it’s your story to write is where that feeling of worth and significance and value and fulfillment will come from. If you’re constantly seeking permission from others to be “good enough,” you’ll seem needy and annoying and be a total bummer to those around you. Hold fast to the belief that if you do your best, stay open for suggestion, and remain willing to grow as a person and a writer, that you won’t ever become good enough… because you already are.
#6. “If I write what is really in me to write, people will hate it or think I’m insane…”
There are very few things in my own personal category of “things no one should EVER write about.” Very few things. Some of those things caused Amazon to shut DOWN for a while a few months back. There are some sickos out there who maybe need extensive electroshock therapy and should be brainwashed of all knowledge of the English language. Or any other language for that matter. But for everyone else, write on, I tell you. One day, I’ll be blogging on the topic of “taboo” subjects, especially for the YA category (because that is a whole ‘nother subject), but for now, let’s talk about your story. Are you holding back certain things because they touch on some dark part of you that you are maybe afraid to visit? Go there, it’s cathartic. This is how we as writers sort things out in ourselves and begin to heal and make better sense of things. Are you afraid if you put that whatever-it-is in there that people will judge you? How do I say F&$# them in a nice way? Don’t let outsiders write your story for you. People can be shallow, close-minded, and ignorant when they start telling you what the hell you should–and should not–write about.
Or. Maybe it’s your own voice telling you not to go there. Sometimes, the timing might not be right for certain things. I have a 20K word start to a work of fiction inspired by my past (titled, “The Dead Girl’s Lighthouse”) which I started last year and haven’t visited since. I fully intend on going back and finishing it, but I had to step away. The wounds were still too fresh to not be very emotionally affected by what I was writing. But I am so looking forward to going back when the time is right and tackling that one by the horns, because I lived it, and I know it’s going to make a great story. It will make tons of people super uncomfortable, of that I have no doubt. But you know what? Good. Because that’s life in the lives of many, and maybe they need to–or don’t realize they need to–see it. To get some depth and perspective on life. To be grateful for what they have. But who I’m really writing it for is that person who is on the verge of life, who is searching for that beacon . . . that spark in the dark. I’m writing it to show them a way out. I’m not writing it for anyone else.
#5. “…people will hate it or think I’m insane… and I’ll get bad reviews.”
For the love of all that is fluffy and smothered in caramel, PLEASE don’t write for reviews. If you throw that sex scene in there–those twenty sex scenes in there–to sell copies, well . . . that makes me want to say mean things to you and be a total asshat.
On the flipside, if you leave something out because you think people will give you a bad review, you must first ask yourself this question: “Do I know my characters and my world well enough yet? From personal experience, I struggled with a few scenes in “The Treemakers” because they are somewhat “taboo” subjects for the YA audience. Without spoiling anything, I’ll just say that I had to have a heart-to-heart with my characters. It turned out that I did know them well enough to know how the story would’ve really happened, what they would’ve said and done without any censorship.
So, the second thing you must ask yourself is, “Am I being true to my characters and my story by keeping or removing this scene/event/theme/etc.?” For me, it would’ve been artificial to remove those things from the story. I can’t help that that’s how it happened. Over the year of writing it, that’s what the story grew into, and no amount of coercion or persuasive argument from myself or anyone to make it different would work for me. If I removed those things for fear of bad reviews or making people uncomfortable, the end result would be half of a story. And I definitely don’t want to serve up half of a story. What I can do, though, is work with my editor on making sure these events are presented in an appropriate way for my target audience.
What I write isn’t for everyone. No one writes stuff that everyone loves. There will always be someone who hates your book, my book. So what. Sure a bad review stings, but it’s obvious that person was not your audience, and when you tell the story that’s in you to write, you’ll have a hell of a lot more people that love your book than people that don’t.
Keep it real. Stay Authentic.
#4. “Change is scary.”
So, maybe what you’ve been doing hasn’t been working for you…. Time to do something different. I’ve seen too many writers get stuck in one mental construct of what writerdom is, and will always be for them. They write the same stuff over and over that gets poor reviews and doesn’t sell. If you’re one of those people who don’t give a damn if people read and like what you write, then I’m probably not talking to you. Because I do care. To say I did not would be a lie. If I’m spending all of this time writing it, it isn’t complete until it is read and enjoyed by many. But that’s just me. I don’t just write for me. I write to share a story, to shine a light in the dark, to tell the truth, to make people experience and feel and go on an inner adventure… and if I’m not achieving that, something’s missing. Sure, it’s scary moving out of our comfort zone into unfamiliar territory, but it’s worth it in the end.
To figure out which direction to go, go deep inside yourself, to whatever your mushy core holds intensely, like a precious gem. Mine was surviving years of bondage by addiction, losing custody of my children, fifteen years of suicidal depression, and the overcoming of all of that and getting my kids back. My redemption and overcoming. The wisdom that could only come from so much pain, a lot of which was self-imposed and afflicted. That was the core from which “The Treemakers” was born.
What’s at your core?
#3. “I can’t be a successful or happy writer if I don’t have an agent or big publisher and a fat advance.”
I’m one of those people that once believed this was true. I no longer believe this. It took me hitting rock bottom with my 100 rejected ms submissions before I decided that’s not how I wanted to be. I was tired of feeling like I wasn’t good enough, just because I didn’t get that “yes.” What happened when I made the decision to go indie is that I took my writing life into my own hands and took control of my future. And damn, did it feel good. I’d call that a huge success, and I’m happy as hell, even though I’m a single mom living off of food stamps. But I’m doing what I love to do, and I’m in control of the process, which makes me feel like a superhero. My kids are happy, and they believe in me. Everyone I know, in fact, believes in me. And wow, after the past I’ve had, what a great feeling that is. I count my blessings every day that I have parents who believe in me enough to help me out financially so I can follow my dream.
If I can be happy as an indie author, so can you. Even if you have to fit time to write in a work schedule–trust me, it’s not easy fitting it into four kids, homework, toddler chaos, cheerleading, girl scouts, PTA, this club, that club, etc, etc, but it’s possible to make the time.
Yes, you can be happy and successful as an indie author. It’s definitely a fantastic possibility. As with all things worthwhile, it takes hard work and sacrifice. I’ll let you know how the book sales go after I publish next month. I guess that’ll be the real proof in the pudding, right? 🙂
#2. “ Indie author’s are not successful and don’t produce quality work.”
This can be very true. But it can also be very untrue. I’ve worked my arse off on this book. With an editor, even! I’ve rewritten almost entirely from scratch and have almost a completely different end-product than I did when I began this thing. There’s no way I’m putting junk out there. No flippin’ way. And I know TONS of other indie authors who are with me on that. There are also TONS of indie authors who have become super successful doing this. If you put in the blood, sweat, time, tears, and money, it is more than possible to be a successful indie author. It’s probable. Believe.
#1. “I don’t have the strength, patience, or willingness to rewrite.”
Come here, let’s cry together. I feel your pain, I really do. I was supposed to publish “The Treemakers” this July. (Follow this link for more info about my project specifically.) To make it short, a rewrite became apparent. I cried and panicked and threw in the writing towel for two whole days. And then, I bucked up and rewrote. Three months later, I have a 90 % entirely new story I am so stinking proud of.
So don’t shut out the possibility. Maybe you won’t need to rewrite the whole thing like I did, but if things are pointing in that direction, go for it. Don’t hold back. Don’t cling to the old. Let go and rewrite. It’ll be way awesomer than it was, I promise. Stay willing and you will keep growing, as a writer, and as a human being. ❤