There’s a lot of feel-good quotes and advice out there for writers on the internet. Don’t get me wrong, I need to hear this sort of stuff just as much as the next person. It IS important to “believe in yourself,” “just keep going,” and “never give up.”
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.
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.