Saturday, 6 September 2014

Self-confidence, Fear and Writers

Hi Guys,
Bit of a delay between my last post and this one - apologies for that, but I simply didn't really have much to write about.
However, yesterday I was responding to a post on a writing forum and realised that I did have something to blog about. The importance of self-confidence to writers, and particularly writers who haven't yet published.
You will recall that I have previously talked how important it is to a writer to actually publish. It is what will turn a writer not just into an author, but also a better writer. And a lack of confidence is what will turn a writer into a never was. Sorry for the harshness of that - but I believe it to be true. As a writer these days, the single biggest barrier to becoming a better writer you face in these days of self publishing, is yourself.
Too many authors - and a lot of you will recall that I have previously harped on about the lies author's tell themselves as they go through the submissions process - allow themselves to be held back by insecurity. All those lies writers tell themselves about why their work was never picked up by an agent, are a form of insecurity. And they are destructive to a writing career - even more so than rejection.
You can get over rejection. You can survive bad reviews. You can improve your writing by receiving harsh criticism. And in fact these things are all in their own way, a part of growth of an author. But if you can't get past the fear of these things, you are doomed. You will never become the writer you could be. And it is fear that I believe holds so many back.
Fear comes in many forms. It lives in doubt - about you, your writing ability, the quality of your work. It lives in the trade publishing world of submissions to agents and publishers. And it absolutely thrives in the self criticism authors constantly subject their own work to. And while yes - it can be a valuable tool in improving your work - if you let it become your master it will destroy any chance you have of becoming an author.
This is why I say the trade publishing route to writing success is so limited. It's not just in the lies writers tell themselves about why they never heard back from an agent. It's in the process itself. It is a trap for so many. An endless trap. A cycle of fear and inadequacy that will cripple many. And the cycle runs like this:
You write your book, you submit it, you hear nothing back, and you assume that you heard nothing back because the work was not up to standard. So then you rewrite, you improve out of sight so you believe, and you submit again, and you hear nothing back. Which means that your work is not up to standard. So you rewrite and submit. Endlessly. And then some day, five years, ten years down the track, you just give up.
This is what's called a vicious cycle, and each repeat of it destroys self-confidence. But worse than that it's also a strangely comforting process. A rut a writer can find a place to call home in. Because in going through this cycle a writer learns that - yes - he can survive not hearing back from agents. Yes, he can survive getting the occasional rejection letter. But he never has to expose himself to the even harsher world of publishing and reviews etc. You can learn to like your rut.
This is why I say to all of you who have yet to publish - you must publish. You can choose to self publish, or you can throw your hat into the ring and hope to be picked up by an agent. But in the latter case you must set yourself a deadline. It may be a period of time - say a year. Or a set number of submissions to agents. But whatever it is, stick to it. And then at the end if you have not been picked up, bite the bullet and publish your work yourself.
Yes it's scary, and it's hard. Yes there is a lot to learn. Yes it can be brutal. Yes you will make mistakes and be picked up on them. And yes those first few one star reviews will make you wish you'd chopped your fingers off instead of letting them touch a keyboard. But if you do it, you will discover that you can get through this. And you can write. And you can become an author. And you can become the best writer you can be.
Cheers, Greg.

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