Whereas some people glow with confidence, I tend to have many doubts, particularly when it comes to writing. They flit in and out of existence, but they still drag me down from time to time.
For example, all these thoughts rushed through my mind as I wrote this word vomit:
*This blog post sucks. No one will read it. Why do I even do this? I have few followers. I’m not a New York Times Bestseller. I don’t even have a published book out yet.
*The title is lame. Couldn’t I have thought up something more unique and enticing?
*Is this relevant to anything at all, or am I just filling the Interweb void with more useless white noise, like all those stupid little Facebook groups that post click-baity shit all day?
But wait: I was booted by a publisher earlier this year, only to land a new contract with a different publisher two months later. And a short story I wrote in 2013 has been accepted for publication in an anthology, which will be my first official fiction credit.
One would think that’d be enough to defeat any writerly doubts, right?
And that makes me feel quite abnormal.
But What is Normal?
Am I especially self-critical, or is it normal for writers to doubt their abilities from time to time?
Is it normal to look at your written work one day and adore it, then eyeball it with utter contempt the next?
Is it normal to doubt the publishability of a piece even after signing a contract?
Is it normal to think your editor or publisher is laughing at your submission, rolling their eyes, and second-guessing their decision to represent you?
Is it normal to envision future readers using pages from your book to wipe their hairy hemorrhoid-laden asses?
Do You Feel Me?
I’ve often thought those with published titles on the market eat confidence for breakfast and shit out golden prose galore. And emerging authors must also eat giant heaps of certainty and produce rose-scented turds as well, right?
Through recent interactions with both emerging and established authors (and stealthy Facebook Group stalking), I’ve come to realize writerly doubts aren’t unwarranted. In fact, I’ve concluded they’re a normal, natural part of any writing process.
And just like that bout you had with herpes back in high school…
…they can be overcome.
To defeat lurking doubts, you need to identify the source of your writing insecurities first.
Then you’ll want to dissect those doubts. Rip those fuckers apart as if you were digging into a dead, bloated body to retrieve the last iPhone in existence. Slice ‘em and dice ‘em until all that remains are justifiable, fixable issues.
And finally, put your “uncertainty medications” (also known as weed and alcohol) aside and squeeze the soul-sucking juices out of them.
Oh, For Crying Out Loud. More Examples?
Let’s apply this advice to common writerly doubts, shall we?
What prompted your uncertainty surrounding your writing abilities? A bad review? Harsh feedback from a beta reader or friend? Lack of replies from the umpteen publishers you’ve submitted to? Did you read someone else’s work, compare it to your own, and then sulk in a corner for three days?
If you received a bad review, dissect its content. Was there any specific feedback you could apply to your next work, something constructive? If so, heed the advice. If it was nothing more than a vicious, lame-brained rant, ignore it. It’s not worth losing hair over.
The same goes for any type of feedback: If it’s constructive and merits a nod of acknowledgement, don’t just brush it under the porn mags littering the floor of your grungy-ass man cave. Apply it. And if it isn’t something you can learn from, pick up those magazines, flip past all the sticky pages, and give yourself some much-needed relief.
If you’re receiving form rejection letters or no replies at all from publishers you’ve submitted to, fuck ‘em. Not in a “social-media-hashtag-tirade” kind of way. Understand they have personal tastes, too, and that doesn’t mean your work sucks. Move on. Keep sending out proposals. Eventually, someone will understand how great your story is and take you on.
And never, ever compare your work to someone else’s. Not in a negative light, anyway. Maybe their style works for their stories, but it might not work for yours. Emulate those you admire, but let the story flow the only way it can: Your way. Stay true to your voice.
Second-Guessing Written Work:
Did you notice run-on sentences and weak paragraph structures after reading your novel for the billionth time? Did the dialogue in your first published work seem to fall flat during a crucial scene? Did you stumble upon a massive plot hole or embarrassing grammar/punctuation errors after submitting your work to a publisher?
Always remember: You are human. You will make mistakes. Learn from them. Ask your publisher to make changes on written work, if allowed. Wait for the editing phase after your work is accepted, and then work with your editor to fine-tune issues you may have noticed after hitting “Send”. These professionals want the work to represent them as well as you. Trust them.
Publishability, Ridicule, and Toiletries:
My doubts regarding publishability, snickers, and publisher/editor mockery aren’t legit in any way, shape, or form.
I believed my story was worthy of landing on bookshelves and online catalogs, and my new publisher agreed. They wouldn’t risk their reputation or finances on something they can’t put in reader’s hands. (Plus, my publisher fucking rocks. Enough said.)
Also, worrying about whether or not someone will use your book as toilet paper is unjustifiable. Of course they won’t. And if they do, they’re just assholes.
These kinds of fears are a mixture of overactive imagination and paranoia. Entertain them briefly, then shiver at the horrid image of “hairy hemorrhoid-laden asses” and boot them to the curb.
Don’t let unwarranted doubts drag you down. You’re better than that.
Other Personal Fears
Other personal fears can make you doubt your work. Did you agree to a tight deadline you’re not sure you can adhere to? Fear of publicity or recognition? Fear of stalkers?
If you fear you won’t meet your deadline, evaluate your free time. Stop getting on social media every five minutes. Close doors, turn music on, go to a coffee shop—You have a fucking deadline to meet! And if none of that works for you, reach out to the publisher, explain your situation, and ask for an extension. The worst they can do is tell you no.
Many people fear publicity and recognition, but if you want to sell your work, you better swallow your fear. Take some classes, ask others for pointers, picture everyone naked—Embrace the limelight, and it is yours.
Fear of stalkers? Ha! Everyone secretly wants one. You’ll be admired from afar (or from the bushes outside your front window). If it crosses the line, get mean if you have to. Threaten bodily harm. Inflict bodily harm. Press charges. Or just throw rotten eggs at them.
I think many writers cripple themselves with similar mind-whirling mayhem from time to time, and it’s absolutely normal.
So stop denying your uncertainties. Wallow in them. Embrace them.
And then beat the ether out of them and watch them float away.
(They’ll be back, no worries.)
Stay tuned. There’s more randomosity coming soon.