September 26, 2011

the writer's curse

I’ve come to realize that as writers, we are cursed. I think most people who pursue some sort of artistic career can say the same of their profession. The curse eats away at us, makes us doubt, feeds us with insecurity and despair, until we dare to give up.

That curse is fear.

I’ve been reading quite a bit lately. Amazing books. I’m nearly finished with A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin, and I am in awe of how seriously epic his books are. And somewhere in the back of my mind, I think Why on Earth am I a writer? I could never write something so brilliant as this. I’ve regressed into that awful place of comparison, where I pit my writing against the greatest authors of our time and watch as my words are ripped to shreds, stomped on, spit on, and carried away on the wind. I can never compare to Martin, Rowling, or Jones. I can never write something so great, so why do I even try?

As a result of this, I’m afraid to write. I’m afraid that I’m a terrible writer, that my words are no better than a third grader’s book report. I’m afraid that it’s all been I pipe dream. Me, a writer? Pfft. I think that’s why I’ve had such trouble finding a project to work on next. Each one suffers through that fear of it not being good enough, of it being the wrong story to write.

And maybe I’ll get over that fear soon and dedicate myself to a project. I hope so, anyway. But even then, there is still more fear. Every page that I write is another step into uncertainty. I constantly ask myself: Am I wasting my time with this? I’m afraid of taking risks with my writing, worried about what readers want, and whether or not I’m any good. What if I’m writing utter drivel?

Say I manage to finish the novel. Then I have revisions. What if I mess the story up? What if I make it worse trying to make it better? What if the story isn’t as good as I thought it was? I’ve never managed to successfully revise anything, so why should I be able to revise a novel?

And say I get past that… Then I have to submit it to my beta readers. I fear what they will say. All of the fears that I’ve had over the course of writing the novel resurface, and sometimes, even the positive words of my beta-readers do nothing to console me. Oh, they’re just trying to make me feel better. They don’t want to upset me, so they’re just being nice. Maybe they are, maybe they’re being honest. I have no way of knowing for sure.

Then I come to the querying stage, that constant state of fear. Rejection is the bullet through the heart. A form letter says that my writing is not good enough. It confirms those fears. And so I’m hesitant to even submit a story at that point, even if I’ve worked long and hard on a novel. It’s just going to get rejected anyway, right? Why bother sending it?

Maybe an agent loves it. Maybe they ask for a partial. I’m over the moon! Wow, I’m really not a terrible writer. All of those fears were unfounded. I can write. I will write. It’s what I love to do. But then the days go by after submitting the partial to the agent. I don’t hear anything for weeks, months maybe, and every day that passes, the fear creeps back in, until I’m back in that pit of despair.

Until, lo and behold, the agent emails me and requests a full! Do what? The emotional roller coaster of being a writer ascends to the highest peak, and it’s a thrilling ride all the way down, screaming my head off, giggling insanely, and more thrilled than I’ve been in a long while. How could I have thought those things? I’m a writer. I’m a writer. I’m a writer. I can do this. I can do this. I will do this. But, as before, the wait slows to a crawl, every day sending another wave a fear soldiers to my door.

I’ve never gotten past this point, and always, the fear comes back. It’s the curse. I understand that it will always be there. I will always be afraid of writing, of what people will think of my books. I can accept that, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

Do you suffer from the writer’s curse? How do you get over it?


  1. I have some fear, but I feel that as long as a certain woman who writes vampire fiction can get published, I can, too.

    I don't have all of the feelings you described because I haven't written anything very long yet. There's less angst when you just write short stories.

  2. Maybe I'm the only one... That's a sad thought.

  3. Oh, you are so not the only one! I go through crazy highs and lows. Sometimes I feel like my book is awesome and excellent.

    Then I read someone else's truly brilliant words and I'm crushed, ground into despair. I mope around my house feeling worthless and useless.

    A time comes in every manuscript when it feels dead and dull and done for.

    After it's published, I can still see all that it could have been, how much more spectacular it could have been if I just had more skill.

    I wonder if I have any talent or if I'm just fooling myself. I cling to those few reviews that have told me my book was life changing. And I hope that I have more of it in me.

    It is definitely a curse common to many writers.

  4. I feel that every time I read a good book. I wonder why I even bother! Just keep writing...

  5. I have to say, when it comes to writing, I am fearless. I dive into the story, not caring about good or bad as long as I can write. Revising, editing, some fear. But the big fear is the overarching fear that I'll never get anywhere with it--that I'll never find an agent, or a traditional publisher, or be capable of self-publishing...that I'm doing it all for nothing, in the end. Which is silly--if nothing else, I did it for me. But somehow the fear and the ambition both say that isn't enough...

  6. I feel the same way often. And usually after I read a great book written by an awesome author. To get over it, I just think back to what some friends told me - everyone has to start somewhere to get anywhere. And that gives me enough hope to get going!

  7. Thanks for the comments ladies ;) I wish I could just forget the fear and not worry about it. It's good to know that I'm not alone, but I'm sorry you all suffer from some form of it too!

  8. I went through this really recently! And I wrote things...but I thought they all sucked majorly! Just ride the wave and now you're great!

  9. I go through this every time: after finishing drafts, while editing, and after posting a post.
    I just force my self to write. Else, I just walk around the house, the neighborhood, and go some where I rarely go until I just forget how miserable I am at writing, and my subconscious tells me its time to write again.