Someone asked recently what I thought was the hardest part about writing. Honestly, sometimes the hardest part is the actual writing. Why is it so hard? Fear. It’s fear of Not Being Good Enough. I have a habit of composing brilliant scenes in my head that never come out quite right when I type up the words. I’ll send a chapter through my critique group who might like it and offer some good suggestions for improving it further, but when I sit down to work on my edits the only thing I can focus on is the quality of the writing because to me, it falls short. I’m probably my own worst critic. Even when I think something is initially good, that doubting monkey on my shoulders whispers, “But it it’s not good enough. It could be better.” And thus begins the downward spiral of not being able to write because it will never be good enough and if it’s not good enough should I even try?
Well, I try because I’m compelled to write. Other writers understand that feeling. I have to push aside the doubting monkey (don’t worry, no animals are actually harmed) and tell myself that it may not be perfect, but yes, it’s good. My publisher thought so. I have readers who think so. So I just have to push through the doubt and keep on writing. I’m not sure there’s any other solution than that. Write a paragraph. Repeat, until you have written a page. Then repeat again.
My five-year-old has been talking about what she wants to be when she grows up. (For the record, it’s currently a teacher, a princess, a ballet teacher, and a princess teacher. I’m sure pink will be involved.) She asked me what I had wanted to be when I was little. I’ve wanted to be an author forever. When I told her this, she looked at me and said, “And now you are.”
Yes, I am an author. It’s still an amazing feeling. I hope I can keep on doing it.
Do you ever feel this way about your writing? What are some of your tips for working through writing doubt?
I absolutely often feel this way. I work and work on a paragraph, a scene, a chapter and still wonder if it’s good enough. Sometimes my critique groups tell me that they love what I’ve written. Sometimes I submit something I may think is pretty good and get lots of comments as to how to improve it.
I reread what I’ve written and wonder whether it’s good enough. Am I good enough? But nothing makes me happier than sitting in front of my computer screen all day and writing, bringing characters to life and creating a world for them to live in. Just thinking about it makes my heart race with excitement. And I have to do it.
Glad to know I’m not the only one! And true, despite the agony sometimes, I couldn’t imagine not writing.
I know the feeling of a gut-sucking chest wound of doubt. Sure, we both have good novels out, but I’m constantly afraid that my next attempt (a chapter) will not measure up, and be horrible. I lost three weeks to my last bout of anxiety.
Fortunately, I found a piece I needed to solve a current plot dilemma, and rammed it through. Afterward, I read it through, and it wasn’t bad, in fact, it was pretty good.
I have no solutions, only perseverance to get through the gloomy times of doubt. Then there is a morsel of nourishment and refreshment from my writing muse, and I feel much better.
Like I said once at a Writers Conference, “My regular friends ask me how I keep returning to an empty page with the hope to fill it with words that make a novel. I like my writer friends who understand why I cannot stop returning to the blank page.”
I like the quote. That sums it up well. I also feel like the next book, chapter, etc., won’t measure up. Although there are some many things I’d change in book 1, knowing what I know now, that book 2 has to be better! Sometimes rewriting is much easier for me, once I get something down. It’s the blank page that’s terrifying.