Writing Is Uncertainty.

DISCLAIMER: I am not half as depressed as this makes me sound. Just keep that in mind.

I've been thinking lately about how I compare to other writers out there. I can't help but feel like I'm somehow different, broken, wrong. I always hear authors talk about how they doubted themselves back when they were writing their first five novels, but learned to get past it for the manuscript's sake. Kinda like a paralyzed dude triumphantly standing up from his wheelchair at the end of an inspirational movie. But then they leave it at that.

Well, I'm sorry to say, I'm not satisfied with that. I feel like I need to know more. I need to know if their pain (wow that's dramatic) is anything like mine, if their doubt is as soul-consuming. Do they struggle to understand their own writing's worth, like me? I'd like to someday see one of the authors I respect write about their issues, to really see if I'm so different and destined for failure.

Who knows if I'll ever get that wish. I guess they have a reputation to maintain, and such things would hurt it. Well, I don't have a reputation, so for what it's worth, here's my little list of things that I struggle with. If anything resonates with you, or you feel the same way, let me know, please.

I have no idea if I can write worth a crap.

When I write, the sentences often make me cringe.

I often hate my own imagination.

There are times when I look back at my day's writing, and feel a pit form in my stomach; I know I'll have to throw it all away.

I don't know who my characters are. I just hope to god someone else will. We talk all the time about building a strong personality with flaws and quirks, but at the end of the day, it means nothing to my brain.

As far as my own plot goes, it's all over my head, no matter how much I outline. I fly by the seat of my pants, praying I'll end up somewhere safe.

The concept of pacing completely eludes me.

I have no idea if my book is even the slightest bit original.

I don't know if my potential readers will get even the smallest bit of excitement from my action scenes.

When I try to write emotions, I feel they come off as corny and contrived.

When I post about writing, I feel like everyone is laughing at me. "Look at that idiot, he thinks he's an author!"

I don't know a damn about making people laugh.

I will never be a part of the "published author" community.

I don't have what it takes to get an agent or editor to like my books.

No one will ever want to read what I write.

Only spambots visit my blog.

When I look at all the people around me selling books, I know I'll never be as good as them. There are thousands of people writing, right now. I have no chance.

I'm wasting my life, doing this whole writing thing.

Everyone will lie to me when they read my book, tell me it's good. They most likely never read all the way through it.

I often feel like my family, of all people, care less than the strangers.

It's easy to end this by telling all of you to not let these things get you down. To keep going, and all that. I wish I could tell myself the same, and believe it. I won't stop writing any time soon, but I shudder to think that it will always be this way. Am I ready for a life of uncertainty?


  1. I feel many of the same things when I'm working on photos. Especially when I'm comparing them to other photographers' work. My art is a bit different than yours because I have more immediate viewers and people to praise me. I think if you had more people actually reading your work, you wouldn't be consumed by your own critique so much. I guess that's the sucky part about writing. I think every artist or creator worth ANYTHING will find flaws in their own work, and continue to be inspired by the work of others. Keep remembering how you feel RIGHT after you get a review of something you wrote, and right after you read something you're proud of. When I read a book, I'm not always comparing it to other authors' books; I'm taking it for what it is. You have your own things to offer.

  2. Well, I can't just read this and NOT comment. First off--you're not alone. Every single other author I've ever met (and I've met a slew) feels the same way at some point or another. And it's not something that goes away once you're published. The neurosis just shifts from "is this good enough to get published" to "is this good enough to sell." The first thing you need to learn (in my opinion) to be a successful author is to ignore that nagging voice in your head saying "you'll never be good enough." Because it's right. You can always be better. Always.

    That said, it doesn't matter. My advice is write what you want to read. Write for yourself, especially at first. If that means you want to write five novels of fan fiction, so be it. One of the most helpful thing I've done as a writer was find a book I loved, and then steal that plot, point for point. Put my own characters into it, and treat the whole thing like a sandbox. Don't worry about getting published yet--that'll come in time. Just figure out how the plot works. How the pacing unfolds. How the characters get built. It's analogous to an apprentice painter copying a masterpiece--it teaches you a ton, and it lets you not worry about a lot of the nuts and bolts. There's so much to master with writing. Trying to master it all at once can be really daunting.

    The trick is to keep writing.

    Also, ignore advice you disagree with--if you strongly disagree with it and have good reasons.

    Finally, I don't know if you're in a writing group, but you should be. You need to get other input from breathing readers and writers, and then learn from that input. Writing groups work well on so many different levels--you learn what works and doesn't work by watching others.

    I don't know if any of this advice helps at all--I can say is that write because you love it, not because you need to be good. The good part will come with time. If you never love it now, you won't love it later.


  3. I think everyone has these kinds of insecurities. Most just keep plodding along and working at their craft. The more you write and read, the better you will get at expressing your words.

  4. Insecurities and writing are a packaged deal, you can't have one without the other. As long as you don't let it drown you, I think it's pretty normal to feel that way about your own writing. Just hang in there, and keep going.

  5. I totally agree with the others on here! They've said pretty much everything I would have. I wrestle with those nasty negative thoughts on a regular basis, too. I've written several blog posts about them. Ray Bradbury says "stay drunk on writing so reality cannot bite you in the back parts". The longer I write, the more true that becomes true. The trick is staying the course. Just be stubborn. :)

  6. Anonymous1:46 PM

    Good post, good replies.

    I agree with Pickett, writing and insecurity go together. If published authors seem to have "learned to get past it for the manuscript's sake" I think that's just because they're experienced.

    Negative thoughts are like plants. Or maybe more like bacteria, or parasites? They grow when we let them feed on our doubt.

    Experienced authors (I'm guessing) have learned to squash them before they get to this compelling, "write-about-it-or-explode" stage.

    Instead of getting to stage four, the infestation is kept down to stage one or two by constant weeding/medication. They still have the disease, they've just got better management plans.


    Like I said, I'm just speculating.