It’s not a good thing for a writer to brag. Or at least not good for this writer to brag because fate aims to keep me humble. But I feel as if I’ve made great strides recently and actually gotten a lot done. It’s too good a feeling not to share.
Since I’ve managed to come back, I’ve finished one short story and today I’m going to say I’ve finished another novella. I’m going to say I’ve finished, because it’s about as done a rough draft can be. Now it’s a matter of cleaning it up, tying things together, and making it all make sense. There were a lot of things in the rough draft I didn’t plan for but worked out perfectly. I may not know what’s always going on, but my subconscious seems to have a plan at least.
It’s been nearly a year since I put out my last book, one which hardly counts because it was a novella companion to Ruin, meant to offer an alternate view point of the world. I have to admit that I feel like I have failed in some way. I’d definitely planned to have more than just one book out this year.
I can’t completely blame real life. I can’t blame writer’s block either. I can’t really blame any one factor. The truth is that I’m still getting a hang of everything– not just the self-publishing, but the whole act of writing something and then working hard to make it polished. I’m not just writing straightforward stories. I’m always trying to push myself in small ways.
I’m still learning what I can get away with in book format. Sometimes, I feel like I’m a real writer, doing writerly things and experimenting with ways to tell my stories. Most of the time though, I feel like a sham. That’s what I let stop me cold. I’ve always suffered with self-esteem issues. (I know many people do.) And sometimes I let them get the best of me.
I think I stopped writing in April. I just didn’t feel I could. So I took a week off. Then two. Then a month. Then bad stuff happened that had no relation to my writing.
Here’s what I’m learning: Even when I don’t want to write, I need to write or else I let the dark part of me triumph. I haven’t quite learned how to make myself do it other than sitting down in front of the computer or on my notepad and just doing it. I have all sorts of simple ways to trick myself into writing. Ultimately, it always comes down to just taking the time to face my fears and get to work.
Yesterday, a good friend of mine made a post about her decision to self-publish. It’s beautiful, a funny and honest look at one writer’s thought processes.
As I read it, I thought, “YES.” (In caps like that too.) I’m sitting here with my cat in my arms and cackling silently to myself because I don’t want to disturb the cat, so I probably do look a lot like a villain, making plots and twisting writer’s thoughts.
Here’s the thing, my master plan. This has been my dream for the longest time. It’s even why I went to school to become a teacher before I realized that being a teacher wasn’t really for me.
What I most want is for writers to see their own worth.
Writing is not an exclusive club. If you write, you’re a writer. It is honestly that simple. It gets more complicated when we talk about good or bad writing, but that’s not what this post is about.
This post is just about you, my writing friends. Your voice is unique. There is no one else who can tell a story like you can. In fact, inside you there are probably stories that will only occur to you and no one else. If you don’t write it, no one else will.
Artists everywhere are prone to angst. We all know this. We remind ourselves of this as we work on projects, when we feel down, like we’re not quite good enough. But among the arts, I believe the writer is the most troubled.
Everyone speaks in words and everyone tells stories. Because of that, writing stories is looked down on as one of the most pedestrian of trades. This seems to create an inherent need for us to prove ourselves to the world at large. I think this is where the rules and the comparisons come in. Writers absolutely feel a need to be able to point to something that proves their worth or they think they’re just some kid pretending.
It’s understandable, but I think, over time, we’ve taken it too far. Now people are starting to believe they’re not real writers unless they’re published or they make money from it. Strange terms like “aspiring” make their way into conversations because writers no longer want to confess they’re writers because they fear the scoffing.
Well, stop it. If you are a writer, you will know you’re a writer. If you’re a writer, you’ll want to write even when you’re told you shouldn’t. You’ll write, even when you feel horrible about your writing. You’ll write because you want to be better, because there’s a story inside you begging to be told. You’ll know you’re a writer because you’ll feel it.
You can deny it all you want, but there’s no escape. If this sounds like a curse, I don’t mean it to, but it probably is. You’ll write one story, and you’ll love it. But shortly there after you’ll think, “I can do better.” And you will. Because you’re a writer, it’s what you do, and when you’re doing what you’re meant to, you can’t help yourself. Whatever path you take, take solace in the fact that you’ve found something that means so much to you it makes your heart race and it makes you flinch. This is one awesome and terrifying ride, but I’d rather be doing this than just about anything else.
Amy Rose Davis has this wonderful post on confidence. I love that she looks within her family to try to understand the issue. Because when it comes down to it, I do think it is partially a personality thing. Like my niece. The girl has the most shining personality that just draws people to her. She’s beautiful, but I always make a point of telling her that her beauty is so much deeper than her skin. She never judges people or talks bad about them. She also seems to have an innate sense that she is awesome without ever having to say it.
That’s not to say she won’t have bad days. But her natural state seems set on, “Yeah, baby!”
Confidence is a strange and slippery thing. It’s important and at the same time it can be dangerous. Too much and it’s a turn off, too little and you get run over by anyone willing to take advantage of you. Overall, I think confidence is necessary in anything you do. If you aren’t feeling confident about something, then it’s a good idea to figure out why. Is it just you or is it what you’re doing?
I started out this post by saying that I’m awesome. Today, I really believe that. I wish I could explain how that comes to be. It’s sort of always been that way with me and also not always been that way. I suffered through a strong lack of self-esteem for a large part of my life, and yet I still can write this post.
At some point, my gut just takes over, like it has a mind of its own. When I hit on something I feel is the right path for me, I know it, and I hold on and don’t let go even when the doubts hit and I start to wonder what the hell I’m doing. That’s happened to me already with this first book. Sometimes I’m scared to look at it, but I’ve also said that I read through it and found it to be exactly what it needed to be. So I just continue pushing forward, doing what comes next, letting my gut lead me.
So here’s my secret: I really have no clue what I’m doing. I have no credentials, no writing degrees or business degrees, no real business experience (unless you count working on the sales floor which I kinda do), no publishing experience, no attempts at publishing. What have I got? I started a blog and shared stories and got a small readership and some great friends. So what makes me think I can do this?
I don’t know, but I know I can. I believe in the story more strongly than I believe in myself. Maybe that’s the secret? Focusing on the specific aspect of something rather than looking at the entire picture? So instead of seeing me + the book + my efforts + my marketing + whatever else goes here, I only see The Book and soon, The Books/Stories, and I latch onto those and decide to believe in them no matter what anyone can tell me. So far, I haven’t really been put to the test. No one has come along and said, “UR DOIN’ IT WRONG.” I’m waiting for that so I can go, “Maybe, but I’m doing it my way, and my way feels right.”