Dealing with self-doubt

Seven years ago, I started writing a YA novel with my cousin. From the first line she ever typed on her keyboard, she began introducing herself as a writer.

The project was foregone and we went our separate ways yet she persevered, writing another novel and another – six in total in the past seven years. She created a writers group and attended book conferences. She went through rejection letters and endless rounds of editing without ever parting with her outstanding confidence that she would make it. Her manuscripts went from ok to good to absolutely marvelous under my eyes.

You should check her latest novel out, it’s called Ghostboy, Chameleon and the duke of graffiti and her name is Olivia Wildenstein. Outstanding novel and inspiring writer.

I, on the other hand, have been writing for as long as I can remember. My first story was put up on the school’s walls when I was 8. I’ve written children stories, novellas, a YA novel, and the latest to date, a mystery comedy. Yet despite my numerous creations, I couldn’t seem to see myself as a writer. I feared I wasn’t good enough; I lacked depth; my writing wasn’t honed to perfection. I felt like a fraud pretend playing to be an author.

My self-doubts crippled me, so did my laziness.

If you look at my cousin’s example, she’s spent an insane amount of time perfecting her craft. My insecurities shielded me from doing the work that’s required to succeed. If I’m not good enough, there’s no point overworking myself. I won’t make it so why go through the hassle?

Writing never seemed like work to me. It’s just something I do, something I love doing. But editing ? Twittering ? Blogging ? This is a full fledge job in a world where beautiful writers are many and publishing deals are scarce.

I decided to shed my laziness and insecurities one month ago, when I attended the London book fair. There was a conference given by some of Amazon’s self-published bestsellers. They explained their marketing strategies; they demystified the publishing world for us aspiring writers.

Suddenly my definition of being a writer expanded. These were people with no agent, no impressive publishing house to back them up, yet they called themselves writers. Moreover, their books were out there for the world to read.

Just like my cousin, they believed that doing the work – firing up their computer every day and writing down their stories – was enough.  That they made it to the bestseller list is beside the point. Publishing didn’t make them writers, writing did.

And now with self-publishing, nothing stands between our need to share our stories and actually doing it. If you’ve written a novel and YOU feel it’s good enough, then publish it. Throw caution to the wind, and face the world head high saying, “I’m a writer”.

It took me thirty-one years to understand this, and with a new found self-confidence, I’m ready to speak these long time coming words.

I am a writer. 

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  • Hi Astrid, thank you for this blog. Your thoughts mirror mine pretty closely; it took me a long time to muster the courage to say – ‘I am a writer’ – I had been writing for a long time, mainly songs, and poetry for my daughters, but never felt I was worthy or good enough. It has taken me a long time to get past this feeling.
    I recognise everything that you have said. I came here via Twitter, and it seems funny to me to find somebody who has felt the same, as most people who promote themselves on the internet seem to be insanely self-confident and have only been at it for 5 minutes. I just want to be able to create something meaningful and worthwhile, and hopefully leave a legacy that my daughters will be proud of…
    Anyway, thanks again for sharing your thoughts; I think it was very brave of you.

    • Dear Jean-Jacques,
      I think that all writers, including those who sound so confident on Twitter, share our insecurities. I believe it is inherent to a creative personality.
      Wish I could find the exact quote but the other day I read a scene describing authors quite perfectly. In a nutshell it said: the shy, the introverts, those who are deeply insecure make for the best writers because they spend all their lives on the sideline, observing and analyzing the world around them.
      I do believe this to be true. How could someone too confident develop the empathy to create characters and understand them?
      If I am certain of something, it’s that we aren’t the only writers struggling with confidence issues. Somehow it makes me feel less alone 🙂

  • Hey there, you said everything that nearly every writer feels. Dealing with insecurity seems like part-and-parcel of the whole writing process. I, like you, waited because I didn’t feel like anything I wrote was really good enough. (And perhaps it wasn’t.)

    And now I’m getting ready to go the self-published route for various reasons, some practical, some philosophical. I’ll add the caveat though that even though I’ve polished these manuscripts for some time, and I’ve done many beta swaps, I’m working with an editor, and I highly recommend it. He likes my work, but it’s depressing how many repeated words and excess commas slipped through a manuscript I would’ve sworn was clean.

    It’s hard to part with the money, but I think it’s worth it to put my absolute best work out there. Just passing it on, in case it’s useful.

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