Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Finding The Positive

One thing that strikes me as I read through both published and unpublished writer's blogs is that a lot of them are confessing to the same thing: they doubt themselves.

They doubt if they are any good at writing, they doubt if they are ever going to finish a manuscript, they doubt if they will ever get it published, that anyone will read it, that anyone will like it, that they will ever be able to write another book.....rinse and repeat.

It is a fear that I have felt myself - only not about my writing.  Now before you strain something from rolling your eyes so much, I don't have a big head (but then again, if I was egotistical, I would say that, wouldn't I?).  I'm not a literary giant or some genius, I just happen to think that writing is a talent I started with and by working hard, I have added skill to that talent and as a result, my writing is good.  Not great, and certainly not perfect and maybe not even publishable, but good nonetheless. 

It pains me to read blog posts from people I have been following for quite some time, who suffer from pangs of insecurity when I know that their writing is something that I would absolutely buy if it were on a book shelf. 

I think there is a social stigma that says if you admit publicily that you're good at something, then everyone is going to think you're arrogant or full of yourself.  In Australia we use the term "Tall Poppy Syndrome" whereby it's almost mandatory for the average Joe to deride or mock people who have acheived fame or fortune - thus bringing them back down to earth.  No one wants to be the recipient of that kind of attention or be labelled as big headed or snobbish so we undermine our skills and talents and make little of our achievements.  But of course that doesn't stop some people who believe that they were the true deservers of the "good luck" that smiled on another (even when that "good luck" is a result of years of hard work). 

As an example, I can recall a writing competition I entered a few years ago, and it turned out that one of the winners had self published or something before entering the competition.  Many people believed that this was in violation of the rules and even though the competition administrators ruled that it was in line with the T&Cs, several people were unconvinced.  Now instead of mentally shrugging their shoulders, looking at the writer's work and trying to see how it had nabbed the judges' attention (ie learning from her) they decided to post snide and hurtful (and in some cases, nasty) comments on a public forum.

I saw it as the literary equivalent of bullying - someone making themselves feel better by making someone else feel small.

It's just not cricket, people.

With that kind of reception waiting for you, it's no wonder some people are scared out of their bloomers at the idea of making their writing public.  They see it as an invitation for mockery, criticism and rejection.  I agree it's a pretty wild and yet somehow thrilling idea - kind of like the first time you have sex with someone.  You know they like you enough to go home with you (they buy your book) they like you enough to start removing clothes (they start reading) but the whole time, part of your brain is wondering "Are they turned off by my cellulite?  Do my wobbly bits freak them out? Are they wondering how to get the hell out of dodge right now?"  Well there's not much you can do about any of that except work out a bit more, diet and accept that you're never going to look like a broom handle (and frankly, who'd want to?)  From a writer's point of view, read more, write more, learn more, publish more and accept that you're not the next E.L James (and at the risk of repeating myself, who'd want to?)

My advice: find the positive.  It might be a self-help book, it might be joining a crit lit group that can ease you into accepting criticism and learning to shake off the nasty comments made by jealous bullies, it might be repeating positive affirmations: "I can do this.  I am a writer.  I will be published.  Gerard Butler will leave his Argentinian supermodel for me....."  ummmm, well maybe that one is just for....well let's just move on shall we?

There's lots of good advice out there in InternetWorld and urge you to seek it out and apply whatever appeals to you. 

But please, don't give up.  Somewhere out there, there is a person who is just waiting, even though they don't know it, to read your book.  It will change their world, or their mind, or their opinion, or the way they view something.  And if you don't write it, they will be left hanging. 

Don't let them down.  Don't let yourself down.  Now go and write!

No comments: