Today I just found out about the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (I know, where have I been right?). If you’ve been living in a cave like me and haven’t got a clue what it is, it’s a new monthly group thought up by Alex J. Cavanaugh for writers to express their own doubts and concerns and to offer assistance and encouragement to others. The first Wednesday of every month will be Insecure Writer’s Support Group Day and participants will be posting about their insecurities and providing advice to fellow writers. I signed up straight away, as this is right up my street and I could definately use some support.
Onto my confessions:
I’ve enjoyed writing ever since I was a child and I’ve always been interested in language and literature. As well as achieving a good degree in Literature and Philosophy I’ve been writing poetry and short stories for years, blogging for the last couple of years and reading pretty much anything I can lay my hands on. I’ve always dreamt of having a career in the media and publishing industry-writing articles and features for magazines and publishing poetry anthologies and novels. Last year I finished my first novel during NaNoWriMo and it felt amazing. My friends and family have always been really supportive and encouraging, telling me that I’m a great writer and that they have no doubt that I’ll achieve my dream.
Despite everything I just don’t believe them. I’m painfully shy about my work and I have found that starting this blog has helped a little because I’ve had some good feedback that’s encouraged me. But it’s easier to share my writing with my internet friends than my real ones. In real life I am really afraid of having my friends and family (and even my partner) read the novel I’m working on. They are all excited to read it but I’m terrified that when they do they will be disappointed by how awful the writing is and how lame the plot is. A very negative part of me keeps criticising every word I put down and telling me that I am wasting my time-that I’m simply not good enough to be a proper writer.
Last night was a prime example of this destructive thinking. I’d had a productive hour of writing in my lunchbreak at work and was feeling positive about my progress and eager to finish. When I got home I started typing everything up, but as I did I became more and more disappointed with what I read. It seemed like a pile of useless drivel. I then became frustrated over which point of view and tense I should be using. On my sister’s advice I had switched to first person but was now doubting whether this was a good idea, and I was torn over whether to use present tense or past tense as I felt that some of the high-action scenes would sound better in present tense. After reading some articles on tense and point of view I discovered the general consenus is that first person present tense (FPPT) is acceptable for YA fiction but is really difficult to pull off unless you are a brilliant writer. I then fell into a pit of despair thinking: “But I’m not a brilliant writer, I’m an average writer at best. How can I ever compare to all the published authors I’ve read? I love the idea for my novel but let’s face it, I just don’t have the writing skills to make a success of it.”
This is typical of the way I criticise myself. I have a terrible habit of comparing myself to others instead of being proud of my own work. I read other writer’s blogs and although I don’t begrudge them their hard-earned success I do envy them and feel that I can never compare to them. For example I recently met someone my age who had my dream job and I checked out their website in the hopes that it would inspire me. Sadly, it had the opposite effect. The site content was so intelligently written and witty and they had such amazing credentials that I was overcome by feelings of inadaquacy-how could she have achieved so much and be so successful when I don’t even know who I am or what I’m going to do with my career yet?
I often feel like a very small fish in a huge, endless ocean. There are so many amazing published and aspiring authors out there with so much talent that I just don’t know how to stand out and at times I just feel like giving up. This goes back to my childhood hangup that if I wasn’t the very best at something then there was no point in trying. I’m a bit of a perfectionist and quite competative with people my own age (probably because I’m the eldest child in my family and a proud leo to boot).
I know I have to get over this because my fear of being a bad writer is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. That’s why I signed up to the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. It’s comforting to know that I’m not alone in my self-doubt and that even the writers I look up to have self-esteem issues. On the first Wednesday of every month I plan on sharing tips on how I’m coping with my insecurities. My first one is to read this post by the awesome Tahereh Mafi. It’s really inspiring and relieving to be given ‘permission’ to write a bad book. I hope that other writers can identify with my experiences and find comfort in that too. After all, we’re all in this together.