I browsed the net for some time this morning in search of some article articulating my biggest writer insecurities. I looked for the words that relayed all the sorts of nervous tension that builds up inside when you’re writing up a storm, yet, at the end of the day, have nothing to show for it. You may not have your book deal or your seventy published short stories. You may have more successful friends whose victories you cheer on, while reflecting on your small pile of published works.
I’m just going to shout my biggest writer insecurities into the void, and see if anyone shares my sensation of inferiority and dread.
1. No Book
I have published several articles, and maybe published one or two short stories in my days. But my passion is and always has been writing novels. I have been working on some novel or other since the age of fourteen. I told myself as a kid that I’d have a book out in the world before I turned eighteen. I think I chose this goal in part thanks to Christopher Paolini, the author of Eragon, which, in middle school, was one of my favorites.
I’m actually happy I didn’t reach that goal. I wasn’t ready for the writing scene as a kid. I hadn’t worked through my quirks as a writer yet. I wrote things because they sounded cool. I wrote a fight scene in a police station in one early novel because it sounded cool. Not because it made sense thematically or logically. A fifty page fight scene in a police station, where police officers fought with their night sticks against katana-wielding assassins just sounded cool to me. It made no sense, and probably had some problematic implications that present me would cringe about.
But I’m 26 now. And I still don’t have my book published.
I’m sure an older reader will just shrug and shake their head at that. “26 is young. You’re doing fine!” they may say. But it doesn’t feel young. Mary Shelley revolutionized science fiction when she entered her 20s. And I? What am I doing?
Do I think I will publish my book someday? Yes. But do I fear it won’t be soon enough? Also, yes.
2. I [Secretly] Suck
All writers believe they are the worst. A sense of inferiority remains the most prevalent of writer insecurities, perhaps in part because we all read our own work over and over again. We read again and again our mistakes, our awkward sentences, and, even when editing a fifth draft, find new mistakes we overlooked the first four times.
But maybe I don’t suck. Maybe the fact that I can notice my mistakes is, in effect, a means to not sucking so much. I don’t really know. This list is starting to sound like a laundry list of insecurities that I’m just throwing out into the void while acknowledging in small part that it may sound either a little crazy or a little inane.
3. I Should’ve Chosen a Different Career
You know, artists often have doubts about their commitment to a given field of study. It’s only natural for one to wonder what life would be like if they chose to be, say, an electrician instead of a writer.
Sure, maybe I would’ve earned more money as a lawyer, but would I find that as satisfying as putting words on paper? Would I find it as satisfying as exploring my ideas through language? Probably not.
Sure, money isn’t everything. I’m not writing for the money. I’m writing to entertain, to bring someone joy, even if it’s only one person.
4. That I’m Not Writing Enough
Another big writer insecurity is that I should be writing more. Sitting on my butt with a coffee on hand while playing Deep Space Waifu is fun and all, but I shouldn’t be wasting my time with a casual game like that! I got to write!
But rest has its value. I used to work a job where I’d write six articles a day, and that resulted rather quickly in creative burn-out. Writing a lot is good and all, but you can’t be creative for eighteen hours a day unless you want to explode or break under the weight of it all. And I produce better work when given time to take a walk or read another book.
In fact, exploring other creators’ work is vital to reexamine my own writing through a new lens. How can I recognize my own merit as a writer unless I’ve seen the mistakes or successes of other writers?
5. No One Will Read You
This is the biggest of all writer insecurities. That no one will read your work. That you are shouting into the void without a soul to see it. And, in all sincerity, this is a pretty solid fear to have. The only positive I can find in this situation is that, somehow or other, someone always ends up finding my work. Even on this blog, which is kind of far off in its own corner of the internet right now, finds readers.
So maybe something good will come of me shouting into the void. Maybe it’ll even come soon.