The Writer Who Doubts

July 29, 2015

In the fall of 2013, a shiny-faced girl with stars in her eyes decided she wanted to write a novel. After all, she had written a small novel in 8th grade for a year-long class assignment. It was called a "masterpiece" but was essentially a poorly constructed "quest fantasy" that has hopefully been lost to the world at large. So, with visions grandeur in mind, the newly minted writer opened her word processor and began to write.

Little did she know that she wouldn't finish that novel. That at 35K words it would be shelved, perhaps never to see the light of day again. That girl was me.

Writing is a strange and curious thing that I have only started to endeavor to understand. There are times when I wish I had just picked up knitting. But life had other plans. Big plans. I'm currently working on my second full-length novel (third if we are counting the first unfinished one), and there comes a time, usually once the manuscript has become fairly large and clunky, when I start to doubt everything. Flying through the first 10K words is a glorious honeymoon stage where every word feels just right, but times will come when it takes great pains to get through each new plot point. And that struggle, I hesitate to say, makes me wonder if the whole novel was that great of an idea to begin with. One those days when writing just one sentence feels like a marathon, I start to wonder "Who am I to write this story?"

Writing is one of the hardest things I've ever done. When I started, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. As a writer, when most of the time it's just you and your computer, it's easy to get myopic about your writing – to think you are the only one out there who isn't getting anything done. But over the course of my short writing career I have read everything I could find on the craft and sought out the wisdom of other writers, and guess what, these times of struggle happen to all of them. I even see some of my favorite authors weeping and gnashing their teeth on twitter over tricky manuscripts. It isn't hard just for me, it's hard for everyone.

But this feeling, that burning question, "Who am I to write this story?" is my old friend Impostor Syndrome rearing its ugly, many horned head. Have you met Impostor Syndrome? Me and this particular beast are well acquainted. I still consider myself a new writer and am therefore prone to moments of doubt. My hope is that I can silence Impostor Syndrome in time, but for now the monster needs proper supervision so he doesn't chew on my shoes and potty in the house.

"Have you met Impostor Syndrome? Me and this particular beast are well acquainted."

When the doubt comes, when the words don't flow, it's easy to forget those first 10k words, the first spark of inspiration that made me decide that I didn't just simply want to write a story, but that I needed to write it. I hold onto that need, because writing is always hard, and there are characters and stories stuck inside me. They need to be let out whether they are written by an impostor or not. I'm not qualified to offer writing advice, but I simply leave you with my honest belief that everyone has a story to tell. Sometimes writing comes easy, and sometimes it doesn't, but the desire to share stories is hardwired into human nature. And if it is human nature to share stories, then there are no impostors (Unless you are a robot. Hopefully there aren't any sentient robots reading this post). So find a way that works for you to get the words on the page, because if it comes from the human experience, it is worth being written.

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  1. I've definitely been struggling with Impostor Syndrome/the doubt monster for years. I've never finished a manuscript, and I think that uncertainty is largely to blame. So thank you for writing such a lovely post—it always helps us writers to know that we're never alone.

    By the way, I'm loving the new blog design (and your website, which I just saw for the first time today). And thank you so much for the sidebar shoutout!

    1. Well, darling, I love LOVE your writing! Seriously, I was reading your story a few weeks ago and I was so floored by the prose. I turned to my husband and was all, "This girl is FIFTEEN and she could write circles around most of the published authors I read!"

      I can confidently say your doubt monster is terribly unfounded. If it makes you feel better. I didn't finish a full novel until March of this year and it was a long. time. coming. I've no doubt you'll finish OTMS.

      I'm glad you like the blog design! I can't take much credit for it since it's 99% template, but thank you!! And you're welcome for the sidebar shoutout! I still need to beef it up now that I'm getting back into blogging.


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