On Twitter, I see a lot of authors who either post or retweet something like this:
My writing routine consists of me starting strong, then questioning my ability, hating my work and then sobbing that I will never write again. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
I’m not like that.
I know that a lot of writers do feel that way, at least from what I can see on social media, but my natural inclination is more hopeful. Stephen King once said, “Optimism is a perfectly legitimate response to failure.” And that’s how I tend to react to a bad day, or a disappointment. I’m pretty confident that if I just keep trying, I’ll get there.
Even when I was just starting out, I figured that I had an English degree and it had to be useful for something! There’s that natural optimism for you. Of course, I have my own moments of insecurity, like when I was submitting to agents. I had my favourite agent picked out, but I had convinced myself she wouldn’t want me. Silly–because she did! And I signed with her. But still… disappointment is part of the writing life, and like so many others, I prepare myself for the worst. But the worst is never career ending, it’s just… carrying on without that one success I wanted so badly. Still writing. Still submitting. Still getting published. A lot of times, the worst never happens.
I have sixteen Harlequins out so far, and that helps with my confidence, too. So when I sit down to write, I know what I’m doing. Can I improve? Of course. Am I perfect? Not a chance. But I don’t live in a haze of self-doubt, either.
Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.
- It gets easier. Really! You learn how it all works, and you see some success. You learn the process and stop second guessing everything you do.
- Rough drafts are rough. They are crap. Give them permission to be crap. Those are not the finished product you see in a published book. They’re like a skeleton of work that needs to be fleshed out and have life breathed into it. But they’re a necessary part of the process.
- Good books are not perfect books. In fact, every book you write will get some good reviews and some bad. Every reader brings their own experiences and biases into your novel. Some will feel at home there, and others won’t. That’s just part of literature! Even editors do the same. So one editor might not think your book is worth very much and another one will love it so much they can’t stop ranting about it. It’s subjective. Plain and simple.
- Persistence is the magic formula. Just keep trying. Every author you enjoy, at one point, was a newbie who was just writing and writing, trying to see if she could make it. It’s hard to beat someone who just won’t quit. So even if you get a rejection, keep at it. There are more books where your first one came from.
Even after a crummy writing day when nothing would come together for me, I don’t feel like failure, a loser or a hack. I don’t feel like an imposter. I’m an author. I write. It’s hard work. Some days flow better than others. But at the end of a writing day, whether it was productive or not, I’m still a writer.
Welcome to the process!