June 6, 2012

My Monster Rises: ROW80 Update

Several of my writer buddies have signed contracts lately, either with agents or publishers or both. While I'm insanely happy for them, these moments allow the dreaded insecurity monster to creep into my brain. This monster hates my muse and runs her off at every given opportunity.

My route to writing was natural, but not academic. Writing has always been second nature. Growing up, teachers told me I had a knack for writing and grammar/punctuation. The product of an engineer father and a poet mother, I majored in finance but took every English elective I could fit in my schedule.

Until last week, I'd never been a member of an in-person writing group. My first novel, co-authored with my mother, was a passion project and took ten years. Although it was well-received, my monster convinces me that it was a fluke.

I wonder if I should get a Masters Degree in Creative Writing, take more writing courses, and/or throw myself into all things author. In the last year, I have embraced the writing community. I've discovered some talented writers and amazing books. Sometimes I find this encouraging, other times my monster uses it to make me question my own writer status.

I'm left wondering, who the hell do I think I am?

Then, I'll pick up a book with obvious and upsetting editing issues or a boring story, and my muse will start to take over again. I can do this. Yes I can. Yes I can.

Now to find the balance. The highs and lows of writing have really surprised me. When I was in the closet, there was no pressure or worry. I wrote for the pure love of writing. Now that I've declared myself an author, my monster lurks around every review, critique, blog post, wordcount, and so on.

Knowledge may be power, but it's also overwhelming. There are so many how-to articles on writing good novels and row after row of craft books. Am I supposed to read them all, consider them all when I write? My head is spinning. Sometimes I miss the days of writing in a vacuum. Now I feel like my writing is an open wound.

Where do you turn when the insecurity monster takes over?


My A Round of Words in 80 Days (ROW80) Update

Writing: I struggled to write 1,019 words toward my WIP this week. I'm proud that I didn't give up, but I'd like the wide-eyed optimism and confidence of the pre-publication girl back.

Reading: Just finished two amazing books. Both reviews will be up this week on Mom in Love with Fiction. (These two books coupled with several writer friends signing contracts lately have created the perfect environment for the monster to take over.)

Blogging: Daily.

Social Media: I'm struggling to stay above water. It's such a time sucker, although a productive one. Time is cowering in a corner with my muse lately.

Editing: Insecurity is taking over here, too. I think I'm helpful and have an "eye" for errors and missing story elements, but I've never actually done a beta read or critique in a writing group setting. I'm wondering if I need some classes to gain confidence, and not just trust my "knack" for editing. So many questions lately.

Many congratulations to my newly contracted/signed writing buddies. I couldn't be happier. The writer side of me respects your achievement and journey, and the reader side of me can't wait to read your books!


Melissa said...

'Knowledge may be power, but it's also overwhelming. There are so many how-to articles on writing good novels and row after row of craft books. Am I supposed to read them all, consider them all when I write? My head is spinning. Sometimes I miss the days of writing in a vacuum.'

Isn't THAT the truth! No matter what, don't let the monster win. ;)

Are you part of Alex's Insecure Writer's Support Group? (They post the first Wed. of every month. And I'm still making my way down his list. LOL) I am. I'm #288.

Elizabeth Anne Mitchell said...

I've thought about Alex's group, too. Right now I'm doing a 15-day "workshop" with Jeff Goins (at http://goinswriter.com/great-writers/) which is aimed at making one believe in oneself--and boy do I need that! The closet was so much more comfortable, but I need to get out there, no matter how scary it is :) Shall we all hold hands and jump together?

Annette Gendler said...

I'd say it's part of the writing life! That twinge of jealousy creeps up on me as well when I hear of a friend signing with an agent, or finally publishing that book. But then again, I think that jealousy helps us figure out our priorities. If we feel that jealousy, clearly this is something we want. Insecurity, I think, behooves every artist. Otherwise, we wouldn't work continuously to improve our craft.

Lisa Cherry said...

Use the monster as a friend rather than a destructive enemy. As a monster, its damaging your confidence and self esteem and self belief, as a friend, it's asking you to just check that you are on course and that you must demand that you give your best of yourself (which it very much sounds like you do). Re frame the monster! There are many different routes to the mountain and many different mountains ;0)

Lisa x

Sonja Haller said...

I agree with Annette, the highs and lows and jealousies are part of the writing life.
And I sure relate to this: "I'm left wondering, who the hell do I think I am?" My guess is that so many other writers believe that to.
You're inspiring just because you continue to write on!

The Daring Novelist said...

Here's a secret:

Classes and writer's groups do something different for you than you expect: they don't teach you how to write nearly as well as they teach you how to deal with the insecurity monster.

The fact is, even the nicest sweetest, least demanding group is going to give you criticism. And much of the time that criticism (especially the mildest stuff) is wrong. And when it's right, it hurts AND it feels good too, because you suddenly know something you didn't.

And in more intense workshops, it comes at you so fast and furious, you CAN'T fret over it. You don't have time.

So you might go through a crisis or two, but you'll come out not only a stronger writer, but also a stronger person who is sure of what she wants. (If you survive....)

Ruth Nestvold said...

No, no, no! Don't compare yourself with other writers (because naturally we only compare ourselves with those who are more successful). Do your best to concentrate on achievable goals like hours spent writing or words produced.

Good luck on getting back on track!

Rebecca J Fleming said...

I think all writers suffer a bit of envy at some point, but it just motivates us to make our own writing better. Good work on the progress, every bit counts :)

Eloise said...

I know this feeling even though I just started. Send story into contest and poof, nothing. Mine must end up on the editor's floor/recycle bin. It's even more mystifying to read the winning story and wonder what about it was special. I know that sounds like sour grapes, but I don't mean it that way.

I'm reminded of an article you sent me some time back by a writer who submitted the same story *unchanaged in any way* to the same competition he sent it to the year before, and won. First go-round, he didn't even get a mention.

I comfort myself (thin comfort at times) with the knowledge that even Dorothy Parker was insecure...

Jo Michaels said...

I'm with Ruth. Don't ever give up on yourself.

Try this: forget you wrote a book. It's whatever, right? Who cares if the next one you write falls on it's bum, never to be a decent seller? You wrote it. You did that. You didn't write it to make millions of dollars but because you had something to say, right? You write so others can read, right?

Remember that. If people don't want to read what you have written, it's their loss. Many people go their whole lives without realizing a single dream. You realized your dream and published a book. Dream achieved. The rest is just gravy, baby.

You can't keep looking over your shoulder or you're gonna trip and fall on your face. :) Eyes ahead, chin up, and just do what you love because you love doing it.


Tia Bach said...

Melissa, I need to look into that Insecure Support group!

Elizabeth, I would love that!

Annette, You are so right. I think my problem is that I've always considered myself a writer, but I never worried before whether other people considered me a writer.

Lisa, I love the "reframe the monster" advice.

Tia Bach said...

Sonja, I've definitely had a lot of highs and lows since I declared myself a writer. It's always scarier to have your passion public.

The Daring Novelist, Thanks for your honesty. I need to look into some classes. But where to start? Hmmm.

Ruth, Great advice. Thanks.

Rebecca, I know you are right. Some days I see the motivation, some days I'm just left with questions.

Eloise, A great reminder. Beauty is the eye of the beholder.

Jo, I love it! I am doing what I love. I am blessed.

Kim Switzer said...

Hug your monster and bring her some tea. She's just trying to protect you. But then, after you give her some tea, send her to a movie or something. Talk back. Tell her "thank you, but I don't need to hear from you right now." (You don't necessarily have to be so polite, of course.) It's not what the monster says to us that's the problem, it's what we do with those words. Talk back to them, refute them, see them as the smokescreen they are, the thing keeping you from your writing love. You *are* a writer. So tell the monster to hush up and leave you to your words!

Julie Glover said...

Beat back the monster, hold the muse hostage, and write. :)

Sometimes, I need to remind myself that writing is the task I love the most. I can't give up something I relish so much, so I just have to make it work.

Tia Bach said...

Kim, Thanks for helping change my outlook. So looking forward to more of your inspiration!

Julie, Amen!

Tia Bach said...

All of your comment helped me so much this past week in refocusing my energies and reframing my monster. I want to include some of your comments in a post about gratitude for encouragement.

If any of you would prefer I didn't include your comment in the post (with a link to your website), please let me know.