I am participating in the “Writing Contest: Overcoming Writer’s Doubt”. I haven’t found the answer to my crippling bouts of writer’s doubt as of yet, but I’m writing and drinking wine, so there is hope.
It’s easy to write. The hard part is what comes after the writing, which is the doubt about what you have written and the inherent insecurity that no one will read or share or give two shits about what you have just poured out on the page. Every day, well Monday through Friday, I sit at my computer and write words. Then I edit those words and send them out into the world. This is where it gets dicey and the easy part officially exits the building. Who will read it? Who will share it? Will it go viral? Unfortunately for my self esteem, the answer to those questions is usually….the same fifty people who read it two days ago, maybe my mom and no, there is no viral in my future. Being a writer in the age of technology seems to most people, those who don’t write, to be a utopia. There are thousands of places to put your writing, millions of people connected to each other, and more prompts that you can shake a pencil at. Unfortunately, that plethora of opportunity can be precisely when the writing stops being about writing and starts to be about something else, acknowledgement.
Having people read and appreciate your work begins to feel like a necessity and when you don’t get it, things get a bit rough. In creeps the doubt and it starts whispering in your ear that maybe, just maybe, you weren’t cut out to write. Then the spiral begins and if you are like me, you start contemplating a somersault dive straight into a volcano, because this writing thing will never work out. Then that gut wrenching thought, “I’m never going to be on par with the millions of talented writers out in the world”. As an unseasoned writer, it’s easy for me to play the comparison game and come up short in more ways than one. Writers who have spent decades writing and have numerous books published. Folks who have built up a social media following that leaves me both speechless and painfully jealous. Writers who are doing it better, longer, faster and seemingly easier than I am. It’s not the truth, it’s my perception and that perception cripples me on a regular basis.
There are days when I dream about being a writer in the 1960’s, long before social media, a time when you sat at your typewriter and just wrote. There were no emails to check or podcasts to watch. In order to be a better writer, you wrote. Then one day, after years of piecing together a manuscript, you submitted it to a publisher and then you went back to writing. There wasn’t a writing conference to attend or a blogging workshop that you had to sign up for. You needed to write. And writing is the easy part, at least for me. The hard part is all the other crap that comes along with writing in 2014. The doubt creeps in when the only people who “Like” my blog post are my mom and that random stranger, who is more of a stalker than a reader. Frequently, I threaten my husband that I am giving up this unicorn dream and getting a real job. Today is the day, I scream, that I quit writing and go back to a life of servitude and an hourly wage. I’m done, I promise, because this writing thing is just too damn depressing. This doubt can even be triggered by a random stranger who leaves a comment on my blog about how I am a horrible person and perhaps I should consider learning how to write. Thanks for the tip, anonymous. Writing and sharing in the age of the internet feels like being caught naked in the shower by thousands of strangers who want to point out all of your flaws. It’s challenging, even if you feel like you look half way decent naked.
My answer to curbing writer’s doubt can be summed up in two words, wine and writing. There is no quick fix and the slumps that come along with writing seem to appear even when you feel that you are doing your best work. So after I throw a fit, threaten to quit writing and cry on my husband’s shoulder, I get back to work. I grab my box of wine, my laptop and I focus on that little voice in my head that usually sounds like my mom. The voice quietly says “You are a writer and you have a story that people want to hear.” Sometimes that has to be enough to get me through until the next meltdown, which as a writer, is just around the corner.