As writers, especially aspiring authors who have no real way of validating what we do, self-esteem is often a painful hurdle. I’m not talking about looking in the mirror and knowing you have to lose a few pounds, or wishing your hair was a different colour, or simply hating the way you think others see you. What I’m talking about is writing self-esteem.
First, I’ll clarify what I mean by no real way of validating. As an unpublished author you don’t have an agent who believes in you, nor do you have a publishing house editor who wants to help make your work the best it can be. You may have friends and family who are honest with you and genuinely tell you what they think: the good and the bad, but these aren’t industry professionals. And sometimes (read: all the time) most writers find themselves asking if their honest friends and family aren’t just being nice with their praise.
Writing is, in itself, a lonely craft. You have the idea (along with allllll the voices in your head), you sketch something down (whether it’s a vague catch phrase or a full blown point by point plot outline), and then you write. Because, let’s face it, no one else can write those nagging little people in your head as well as you can.
Or so you think.
After that first adrenaline rushing spurt of writing your story – doubt starts to creep in. You may not notice it at first. It may trigger your inner-editor. You think you’re just being meticulous, when in reality it’s your sub-conscious telling you that your work isn’t good enough.
And it’s right, but you believe it for the wrong reasons. You believe it because you think that means you can’t do it. Because you think it means every idea you have is worthless and no one will love it anyway.
STOP. RIGHT. THERE.
This is exactly where I was a year ago. And then I said to myself. Myself, I said: THWAP. Stop being an idiot.
I’ve had a few friends go through this spiral of self doubt recently, so I’m going to share, over a couple of posts, how I pulled myself out of it. Granted, I’m not published yet, nor will I be for a while. I know I’m not ready yet, but I have become extremely productive.
I make it sound a little more simplistic than it was. Let me back up a bit.
What no one else can do for you
This is the first point of conquering that horrible, nagging writer self-esteem. This is something I can’t tell you how to do, only that you have to do it. If you can’t take this step, no amount of encouragement, #writemotivation or wishful thinking is going to do it for you.
I hate to tell you this, but genie’s? They’re not real. You’re not going to find Aladdin’s magical lamp, rub it, and have a genie pop out granting you three wishes. Writing has to be practiced, practiced, and did I mention practiced. Without that practice you can’t improve.
The first step you have to take, whether writing here, there, everywhere, or currently wallowing in self pity about how unfair it is the world hasn’t recognized your latent talent – is to understand what writing means to you.
If you can live without it? If those voices in your head aren’t there driving you crazy most of the waking day and haunting your dreams at night? If you don’t feel any different for not telling a story, be it real or make-believe? Then maybe you don’t really want to write.
And if that’s the case, take my advice and stop torturing yourself.
But, if (like most writers I know), you love telling those stories. If you love and can distinguish every person hiding in your mind? If you wake up in the middle of the night from an awesome dream and have to write it down (So grateful for smart-phones)? Then maybe, just maybe, you have what you need to take the step.
If you truly believe you want to write, that you have enough love for a story and want to do it justice by getting it down? Then you need to make the conscious decision and call yourself a writer.
No one but you can take this step.
No one but you can believe in this step, because the belief of others won’t hold you through the bad times. Don’t get me wrong, belief from others will help, but if you don’t truly believe with some part of you that you’re a writer, then no one can help you do so.
Intertwined with this acceptance and calling yourself a writer – is the conscious decision to BE a writer. To write and revise. To write some more and rewrite where needed. To persevere.
Once you have this down, paving the way for the rest of the steps is much easier. But you need to decide and execute this first step all on your own. Don’t listen to what anyone else thinks. Listen to the stories in your head and the inspiration you draw from – and make the choice.
I’ll talk about the next steps another day. The motivation, the planning, the time management and taming the pesky inner editor. For today we’ve covered the most important step.
So, how did you take this important first step? Are you still waiting to take it? Do you tell those niggling doubts in the back of your head to shut up, or do you still let them get the better of you?