I write a lot about my ideas and philosophies when it comes to what a decent (fantasy) book needs and what a decent author should realize. But, I’m saying these things from the experience of someone at the bottom. I don’t know if I insult people with what I say because of my seeming naivety, or if people perhaps think I’m a fool for being so optimistic and hopeful. If so, I’m sorry, and I’d give you a cookie if I could, to convey my sincerest apologies.
But the truth is, I’m not. I’m not optimistic or hopeful, and many days I have to have my close ones push me on because I’m so downtrodden on what I’m trying to accomplish. I realize the difficulties and the insane wall it is to become a successful author; and the thousands of manuscripts that will be on those tables along with mine, all with their own wannabe authors with dreams just like mine. I don’t know if this is normal or not, to be so insecure about your own work, but I’d like to think it is.
One day last week I was on a forum and someone posted a thread asking for help to get published. The guy said he had written a zombie novel, and that his friend had compared him to famous authors. Every line in this guy’s post was oozing with confidence and optimism, and even when we told him he was going about it the wrong way, he still wouldn’t let the wall down, claiming that we were attacking him and that he would get published with our help or not. Now, I don’t doubt he’ll be (self) published some day, but I just have to wonder how other people can feel that way. It worries me, really, because a lot of the time, I don’t feel that way.
And I don’t know why I don’t feel that way. Is it normal to just get sick of your work, hating it and loathing it every time you open Word? Is it normal to want to give up all the time because you just freak out that you don’t have enough symbolism, not enough character development, no real arc, even when you have people telling you over and over again that you do? Am I just being realistic, or am I exaggerating problems that aren’t actually there because I’m building up a resistance if/when I ever do get rejected? Psychologically it makes sense — by never believing in myself, I won’t be so destroyed if the worst happens. But should I really be feeling this way?
Now, I can feign confidence when I have to; I’ve trained myself pretty well at doing it. If I have to convince a room full of people that I’m their guy, I can do it (I wanted to be an actor before realizing I was actually a decent writer). But faking it doesn’t stop my real feelings. Faking it doesn’t change the fact that I’m always worried about my work, always worried if other people will enjoy it or not. Because, even though people love to say ‘write for yourself, not for others!’, you still need some people to like your work if you actually want to be a full-time writer. If you intend to eat and have a house, at least.
This isn’t to say my book is bad, it’s to say that I hate that I can’t objectively judge it from my own eyes. Because honestly, if I had to read any of my favorite books five times over, making sure every sentence and line was perfect, I would get sick of those books too. So it comes to the point that I don’t even know if I’m sick of my book because I’ve analyzed it so much, or just because it’s a bad book. I’d like to hope it’s the former, but again, I don’t know.
I’m not always depressed about it, either. Some days I’ll edit something wonderful and my feelings will be completely opposite to what I’m feeling now, and I’ll just be smiling from ear to ear the whole day because I just know I’m going to make it some day. Truthfully, writing is making me more bipolar than a teenage girl on a daily menstrual cycle.
It just sucks. It sucks that I will inevitably be feeling this way for the rest of my life, just because that’s the kind of person I am. Even if everything goes my way, I’m still going to be worried when I get a reply from the publisher, I’m still going to be worried when my books hit the shelves, I’m still going to be worried that I wasn’t on the NYT Bestseller list long enough, and I’m going to be worried that my sequels won’t live up to the first. And now that I’m listing it out, I’ve made my worries that none of those things will ever happen ten fold…
It’s just who I am. It’s a neuroticism that won’t go away, and I have to live with it every single day of my life. I guess it’s the reason why I’ve held back for so long, because I never really wanted to get my feet wet and start feeling this way all the time. And it’s the reason why I love talking about my hopes and my dreams, my ideas and my philosophies, because it makes me feel like I’m more than just one of the other 999 manuscript authors on that table. It makes me feel like I’ve got something that they don’t, even though that may be entirely a lie just to make myself feel better.
Every time I get a new follower on my blog, it makes me feel better. Every time I get an email or a message from someone saying that they appreciated one of my posts, it makes me feel better. Because truthfully, every time I press that Publish button, I’m scared out of my mind. I’m afraid that I’ll be judged and I’ll be ridiculed for something I said, or that a potential publisher will laugh at my inexpertise. But I do it anyway, because only by doing these things will I ever have a chance to make myself more than what I am right now.
It’s probably naive of me to think that other writers don’t feel this way; I’m sure many do. What I’m saying is, just as I have to tell myself every single day, no matter how much you might hate yourself and everything you type down, you still have to keep going. There’s a reason why you started doing what you’re doing, whatever that may be, and you shouldn’t stop just because you lost a bit of confidence along the way. I hope some day my words will come with the experience of a successful author, but even if they don’t, at least I can look back at my life knowing that I tried.