The Biggest Obstacle
For my first entry I wanted to talk about something that plagues most, if not all writers. Whether you’re established or, like myself, just starting out. Whether you’re going to self publish and be independent or traditionally published. Whether you’re writing novels, short stories, comics or even tabletop campaigns. The biggest obstacle is not writer’s block. It’s not a lack of motivation. It’s not even finding a publisher to take you on. It’s you.
Specifically, it’s your self doubt, and general anxieties about writing. It sucks. It can sap your motivation and make you hate what you create. These are not things that simply go away either. Even once you’ve written a couple of books and sold thousands of copies. For some people it’s can become a death sentence to their love of writing altogether. But it doesn’t have to be.
There are successful authors out there who sell enough copies that, at the very least, they can support themselves entirely on what they make through their craft, who still feel this way — perhaps even more than most. Decades of experience over dozens of books doesn’t make you immune. You’re not alone and you’re not broken. Doubting yourself is simply an unfortunate part of the process.
Then, when you do finish a book and start selling copies and become successful (whatever that means to you) and your self doubt is coupled with accomplishment, there is another beast entirely that will come to live with you. A beast named ‘Impostor Syndrome’. Most people, I think, would have heard this term used before.
Ever been complimented on you work and instead of feeling proud you just feel lucky? Like you’re not really skilled at all, you just managed to fake it long enough and you’ve fooled these people into believing you’re a decent writer? That’s Imposter Syndrome. It’s the main reason I put off doing this blog, in fact. I’ve learned a lot over the past years about writing and want to help others with what I have learned. I feel I’ve been upfront with my intentions and skill level for this blog in the outset, but even so I still can’t shake the feeling. Who am I to give advice or insight? I haven’t even published my own book yet! I feel like I know just enough to get into trouble. Like a kid who takes one karate lesson and then acts like a master to all his little friends and someone ends up breaking a bone.
So what do to fight these things? Short answer: we don’t. We accept it and push through. There’s a reason alcoholism is a common trope for writers! I’m kidding of course — I don’t condone becoming an alcoholic. The point is, we each have to figure out what works best for us (as with all things), so long as we first learn that having doubts is normal. Anxiety about our work is normal. Feeling like a fraud is normal. Personally, instead of fighting it and it eventually winning, because it will, I try and chuck a reign over it and use it to drive me to constantly improve my work. It works for me better some days rather than others.
Joanna Penn, an author and podcaster I follow, that I will be talking about in future blogs, has an article and video on the subject that goes a little more in depth, which I recommend checking out. I’ll put the link in the ‘resources’ section below.
With all that said, there is one more important thing I want to touch on quickly as I feel it’s an important extension to what I’ve said, and that is your self worth. Your value as a person, and as a writer. We are defined by what we do, but that doesn’t mean by the profession we have. Wanting to entertain through books or whatever it is you do, is so important in this world. Without the arts we would have nothing.
As such I’ll leave you with this quote from one of the greats.
“I used to be embarrassed because I was just a comic-book writer while other people were building bridges or going on to medical careers. And then I began to realize: Entertainment is one of the most important things in people’s lives. Without it, they might go off the deep end. I feel that if you’re able to entertain people, you’re doing a good thing.” — Stan Lee
Joanna Penn’s article on self doubt: