Literary agents, publishers, editors, synopses, query letters… all scary things, all demanding, demeaning. Sometimes they can be daunting, haunting, loathing as well as loathed. Oftentimes heartbreaking, disconcerting, dispiriting.
None of them hold a candle to yourself. You truly are your own worst critic. You alone can put out your flame or make it burn brighter. Others may hold better cards, but you alone can win the pot or lose it all.
Self-doubt has to be one of, if not the, biggest killers of writers.
We kill ourselves over our words. Writing in feverish bursts and spend long hours pacing a wear-hole in the carpet thinking of what to write out next. We put blood, sweat, tears and probably a lot more bodily fluids into our works.
For what? Adoration? Appreciation? Money? Fame? Perhaps to some degree, yes. I can all but promise you that no writer, or aspiring writer, sets out thinking, I know! I’ll become a multi-millionaire by writing a book, or movie, or poem…
We Write Because It Is All We Know
We write because we love it; because we feel we are born to do it. Perhaps we have a deep burning for the great novel or a penchant for a blockbuster movie. More than likely though, we just have a story to tell and decide to put it down on paper instead of talking aloud.
Hours get poured into our work. We do research on the parts we aren’t sure about. We learn formatting and industry abbreviations, turn days into weeks and weeks into years pumping up our word counts and page numbers.
We invent people, and creatures and things. We develop and inhabit worlds and invent languages and gadgets.
At the end of it all, what do we get? A single moment. When those two words appear on the paper that makes everything, for a moment, worth living for: The End.
The End Doesn’t Last Forever
What follows though, isn’t always so happy and world-loving. We re-read, edit. We rewrite and polish and go through draft after draft. All because what we wrote first was just not good enough. Dammit.
Once upon a time, those rough words leading to the two most famous words in an authors collection made us the happiest, boastful and ecstatic people on the face of the Earth. That momentary home run. That single instance of brilliance. All of a sudden, it is gone and our words are crap. Erase. Delete. Reword and undo.
It just isn’t good enough.
Self-Doubt Starts to Creep In
We make it better. We take out old, boring, shitty words and insert new, exciting, multi-syllable words. Then, for a moment, we are happy again. We start using celebration words like “final draft” and “for my next project” and while we contemplate the sacks full of money, the women (or men, if you are into that) and the fame that will soon be populating our doorsteps, we are thrust back into reality.
Rejection letters, editors notes, friends asking for clarification, even dear old mom stops doing cartwheels over the astounding work you have placed in her lap.
We get smacked back to our tired, lonesome selves in the dark corner of our houses that is illuminated by a small wattage lamp or a computer screen. It wasn’t as good as we thought. It could be better. I will be better. I have to make it better. We say these things to ourselves. Everyone will love it when I am really done this time!
Truth hurts, junior. With seven billion people on the planet, only a handful of them will ever read your works. Two handfuls at the most. Of those, only half will like them. If that many.
Self-Doubt Strikes Fast, Hard
Reality spins. We delete, crumble papers, throw fits, cry, yell, give up, quit. At least for a little while.
As a writer, I will tell you a secret: Our work is never going to be good enough for ourselves. There is always one more draft, one more chapter, one more scene. Something we can add or remove or change. We will never find The End. Not in reality.
No. Self-doubt is the biggest killer. A silent killer. I am sure there are countless wordsmiths out there that are forever unknown because they tried to make the perfect draft. They gave up on themselves and never sent a single word out into the real world. Fear. Rejection.
That final draft, that final scene, that final word that beings your work to a close: let it truly be the end.
Yes, rewrite your drafts, polish that manuscript. Get it to the point you feel the world is ready for it. Get it edited and proof-read. Peer groups and writing groups and editors and agents. Use them all.
Lose The Self-Doubt
There is no room for it in this game. There is enough negativity; too many trials and tribulations here. There are already more than a fair amount of people that will tell you no, reject you, put you down, demand change. Ignore them all (Unless of course, they are paying you–then perhaps, you may want to do a little dancing).
You have to believe in yourself. You have to trust your own instincts. When it is done, it is done. If it needs a change, change it. Know when, though, enough is enough. Put it down, walk away and walk away with that happy-go-lucky feeling you get when you finally type The End. Mean it. End it. Move on.
Your work is perfect. Your words are golden. You are a superstar.