As a writer in this brave new world of 2016 I have a lot of worries. I worry about what people will think about my book (particularly if certain family members or friends will read it and then think I’m a total weirdo). I worry about cover design (Is it eye-catching enough? Does it pull in the readers I want?). I worry about getting bad reviews. And I worry about the next book I’m writing.
These worries feel very big and real to me. Sometimes they even keep me up at night.
But then I’ll read a book by a writer who changes everything for me.
When I started writing my first novel I was scared to death. I didn’t even know it was a novel at that time, but I was terrified nonetheless. I was afraid of sounding stupid, of discovering I had no talent. I was petrified that I was being utterly presumptuous by even calling what I was doing “writing.” Me—a writer—what a joke!
But what really gave me that sickening feeling of fear was the act of physically sitting down in front of the blank page. It was so emotionally uncomfortable I felt like I would rather being doing anything else.
If you’re an artist or a writer—or both—then you know what I’m talking about when I say “inner critic.” It’s not just a way of describing a tendency toward self-judgment. For us, the inner critic is a loud, nasty, disgusting creature who invades our thoughts, whips us mercilessly, and sometimes decides to chain us up in the dungeon.
That might sound extreme, but if you’re an artist or a writer, you know how accurate that description is.
Age can be a touchy topic for artists of all types. There’s a glamorous myth that says all the geniuses come into their talent at a young age, and by the time they’re 30 they have already reached astonishing heights of prowess.
But like so many other sexy tales that figure into writing mythology, this one has little basis in fact.
It took me two years to write the rough draft of my first novel. Two long excruciating years. I doubted myself at every phase. I hated the way I opened the book. It was too clumsy and awkward. I was embarrassed about the middle. It was convoluted and wandered down too many dead ends. I cringed when I wrote the ending. It was completely cliché and way, way too obvious.
For two years I fought with myself, the book, and all of my ideas about what writers should do and what good writing should be.