Last night, I received a question from a talented writer.
How do I silence the little voice in my head that keeps telling me I’m not good enough?
You’ll not find a proper answer from me because my little voice continues to tell me that I’m not a writer. But I can give you my perspective based on the experiences of putting Irredeemable together and writing For Exposure. I can also talk from a more confident position as an editor and publisher.
The Writer’s Perspective:
Here’s the thing. Like I mentioned before, I have a little voice, too. It’s an asshole about stuff. It reminds me of all the rejections I’ve received. It reminds me of mistakes I’ve made in my fiction. The little asinine voice takes glee in pointing out typos and random grammar errors not picked up during proofreading. It’s like an annoying sibling who points out all your flaws.
I do my best to avoid looking at the contents of either of my books because when I do, I will find something that I want to rewrite. Or a misplaced comma. Or a formatting error. It doesn’t matter how big or small, because every mistake feels HUGE.
Due to all these negative feelings, the voice makes me feel like I’m not good enough.
When I teach writing workshops, I tell my students to find one or two “Cheerleaders.” What do I mean by cheerleaders? These are friends/family/colleagues who love your writing. All your writing. Good or bad. As we refine our craft, we need to hear the GOOD along with the BAD. Few of us are narcissistic enough to believe all that we create is perfection. So we’re going to be heavy with doubts. Our cheerleaders will offset these doubts to some degree.
I had to find a busload of cheerleaders to finish For Exposure!
The Editor’s/Publisher’s Perspective:
When you sell a story or novel, your fears of not being good enough should dissipate, right?
Usually, the self-doubt grows larger. The work will be finding a larger audience beyond your crit group and friends. The public will find out that you’re an imposter!
The reason this happens is that writers tend to forget who they are writing for. You are writing for YOURSELF. You write as artistic expression. You write for financial gain.
Yes, a smart writer will also write for their fans. The fans and readers are the ones with the money. The publishers and editors are the ones trying to get that money. If a publisher/editor feels that your work will give them access to that money…well…you have succeeded. You’ve created your art. You’ve sold your art.
Too few creators are able to make this happen for a writer to be paralyzed by doubt after they make it happen for themselves.
You keep writing.
You can doubt. Imposter syndrome might eat at you when you lay in bed at night counting sheep. But You. Keep. Writing.
As an editor/publisher, when I buy something, it is because I am *confident* it is good enough. *That* is what matters to a professional author.
I can rah-rah all day long with the best of them. But I also suffer from imposter syndrome. To the person who asked me the questions about the little voice, I say this: you’re not alone, that damn voice infects most writers! Try shoving your novel contract down its throat the next time it speaks up. That might muffle its nonsense enough for you to get some sleep.