What is it about authors? Why are so many of us nervous about our work, lacking in self-confidence and, let’s face it, scared to put our writing out there?
I’ve not met an author yet who doesn’t at some stage whisper conspiratorially that they’re worried they’ll be ‘found out’ one day.
It’s as though there’s a group of critics who sit in judgment and they’re going to be hyper-horrid about our work. ‘This is rubbish,’ the critics will shout. ‘Call yourself an author? You’re a fraud.’
For too many authors, this anticipated judgment is enough to stop them believing that what they’ve written is, actually, quite good. And that’s just a start. If their confidence has been knocked to that extent, how are they going to find the nerve to start looking for editors, agents and publishers?
‘No-one will want to read my stuff,’ the dejected author will say. And the lovingly produced manuscript of about 80,000 words, dealing with important issues in a well-told story, will get put into a bottom drawer.
I hazard a guess that we’ve all done this at some stage. We’ve let the self-doubt creep in because of something someone has said or, worse, what we imagine they might say.
Just last week, I read blogs by two different authors – both of whom have had books published – and they both admitted that their self-confidence was easily knocked, and that they have doubted at one time or another that their writing was any good.
The first author said a negative review of her first manuscript made her consider giving up writing altogether.
The second said no-one might believe it, but he had no self-confidence at all; he had to ‘push’ himself every single day.
Oh yes, I thought. I can believe it, and I know what it feels like to have to push yourself every day – to trust yourself and what it is you’re producing.
When I started writing – at the age of about nine – teaching myself to type on my mother’s Smith Premier typewriter, I decided I was going to be a famous author, writing books that would change the world.
I’m nowhere near the height of fame (apart from being recognised by two people in the village where I recently gave a talk about ‘Being A Writer’), and my books won’t change the world. But it’s fabulous to have feedback from readers who’ve said how much they enjoy the stories that my co-author, Sue, and I produce.
It takes nerve to write, whether that’s short stories, poems or full length novels. But unless you’re in a creative writing class where you might expect to get support, encouragement and positive feedback, the chances are you’re sitting at your computer, working on your own with only your own inner voice telling you that what you are writing is OK (if not brilliant) and that you must keep going.
Yes, I know it’s hard. Sue and I recently put one of our novels forward for a television book club. We were rejected because our books are sold in independent book shops and through Amazon, but not in the major stores. (No, I don’t get the reasoning either.)
I confess, it knocked my confidence: we’re not good enough, I thought. That’s it: I’m giving up writing.
‘Don’t be so daft,’ Sue said.
I’m lucky that I have her support and that of Kate, our publisher at Lakewater Press, but for many of you working on your own, dealing with the knocks and bruises of writing, my advice is to involve yourself with other writers – on Facebook sites such as Book Connectors, Books for Older Readers and The Book Club. You’ll find lots of supportive reviewers, bloggers and authors.
I admit, I had never heard of these social media sites until a few years ago. But I’m so grateful now for the encouragement I’ve been given and the friendships made (even with reviewers, bloggers and authors I’ve never met face-to-face – just talked to via Facebook and Twitter). In my experience, everyone is friendly, approachable and positive – just what the self-doubting writer needs.
Don’t give up
One final point: as you look at your neatly typed manuscript and think, ‘Am I any good? Is it worth it?’ remember, lots of other authors have felt (and feel) that crisis of confidence too. But they manage to overcome it, sit down – and write.
So please don’t give up.
Take a deep breath, tell yourself you are doing something fantastic – and something that many other people find too difficult or daunting to tackle – and keep going.