As writers we all doubt ourselves from time to time. Writing stories is hard, messy, overwhelming and overall insane. Imagine if pregnant moms had to piece their babies together by hand, every cell, every bone, every organ and get it all in the right place – that is essentially what we as authors do. I would totally go for growing a book in my belly and having it come out perfectly formed 9 months later. Hmmm….interesting alternative universe idea right there.
Because the writing process is so difficult we start to doubt ourselves. Can we really do this? Are we good enough? And we begin to believe lies about ourselves and our writing. I am here to tell you these lies need to stop! You, dear author, are amazing. Your story is amazing and you can do this.
Here are the five doubts and lies you need to stop believing so you can start loving yourself and your writing.
1.) You’re Only a Real Author/Writer if You are Published: This lie could not be farther from the truth. Listen to me. If you write (once a year or once an hour) then you are a writer. You are an author if you write. Even the dictionary says so.
2.) To be a successful writer you need a degree: This is a real insecurity for me. I don’t have any formal education in writing, and sometimes that creates a lot of self-doubt. After all, I’m competing against other authors who have master’s degrees in creative writing, and others who know all the grammar, structure, and styling rules inside and out. I was educated on the taxonomy of invertebrates #lifeskills. The only way to combat this self-doubt is with a serious reality check. You do not need to be formally educated in something to be successful at it. Were your parents formally educated in raising you? No? You turned out pretty okay (I mean I assume so since you are reading my blog). Was Oprah formally educated in running a talk show? Was George Washington formally educated about how to start a new country? Was your cat formally educated on how to be the cutest thing in the whole wide world? No, no, and no! A formal education is great, but it doesn’t equal success. Do you know how many writers have a formal degree but spend their days sitting at a desk job? Me neither, but I bet it’s a lot. More important than education is drive. If you have the drive, determination, and grit you’ll make it. The skills will come. What matters more than your knowledge is your character. NOT the characters you create, but you. Beautiful, wonderful, amazing you! If you want this you won’t let anything stand in your way. Still don’t believe me? Check out these successful authors who all made it in the publishing world without writing degrees: Harper Lee, Michael Crichton, John Grisham, Danielle Steele, Mark Twain and Charles Dickens.
3.) You’ll Never Finish: As I’ve mentioned before, writing books is a lot of work. It can feel like an insurmountable hill. There will always be edits to make, things to improve. It can start to feel like you won’t ever be done with your story. This isn’t a lie I permanently believe, but it is one that can really discourage me in moments of weariness. The finish line can seem so far away that I can’t see the path that will lead me there. The good news is we don’t need the whole path right now. We just need our next step. Not the big next step, the small one. If I write this sentence, what sentence comes next. That is it. Word by word, line by line, page by page you will build your book and you will finish. It might take 1 year, it might take a lifetime. I promise it will be worth it, don’t give up. You’re almost there.
4.) You can’t write because your writing isn’t good enough: This lie is similar to the lie we tell ourselves about a degree, but can be so much more crippling. That feeling of fear you get as you stare at the blank page, hating every word you try to put down, comes from this lie. Every writer experiences this, and do you know what that means? Every writer hates the way they write. We are all in the same boat with this one and I have three notes of encouragement for you.
- The more you write the better you’ll get. You might have a 6th-grade education and an idea to completely rip off your favorite novel. Write that. Write it terribly, write it shamefully, write it so awfully that it doesn’t even make sense when you reread it. Then, keep writing, the next story you attempt will be better. You will start at the bottom, but it will get better from there. The only way to get better is to practice.
- You don’t have to do this alone. Do you ever read the acknowledgments section of books? I always love reading that part, because it reminds me that every author needs a team. No author writes, “I’d like to thank myself because I did all this on my own, oh and maybe my cat, she’s cute.” No, often they have so many people to thank they can’t include all the names. They have editors, beta readers, cheerleaders, mentors, publicists, and so much more. You don’t have to bring your story to the finish line on your own. Find your team.
- You have a biased viewpoint about writing. You can only read books written by other writers. It is physically impossible to read something that wasn’t written by someone. That’s hard. This means that we are only exposed to the champions of our field. We read these completed works and think there is no way I can ever do that. But, reading published books and thinking you are terrible in comparison is like these Olympic swimmers thinking they are awful compared to Katie Ledecky. We see that they are in the pool at the Olympics, they just see the bubbles from Katie’s feet. We need to remember that most of the people who read our books don’t also write. They are just readers, on the sidelines. As writers we are all in the Olympic pool, and that’s pretty darn amazing.
5.) My Story Doesn’t Matter: Sometimes it can be hard to see how one story in a sea of books could actually be worth writing. There is no book shortage, there aren’t even any truly original ideas for stories out there anymore. Why spend so much time and effort just to add one more story to all the noise? This lie and the following train of thought steals the joy you get from writing, and all the hope your story possesses. Even in a world full of stories, yours matters. You are a unique individual and even if you wrote the exact same plot as another thousand stories, you would tell it differently and your version would have value. Your story might struggle to make it farther than your computer, it still has value. You might be the next J.K. Rowling, that story matters too. You might write a serious piece about the political climate of our world, that matters. You might write werewolf romance novels full of bad puns and teen drama, that matters too. Your story matters because you matter.
Writing is hard, but it’s your passion and mine. So, we soldier on, stop believing the lies, and write write write.
Do you have any lies about writing you are sick of hearing? How do you boost your writer confidence? This feels like a place to insert a sappy quote, but I think this post is sappy enough.
Stay amazing my friends,