Aaargh, self-doubt and writer’s block. Two ugly little words. Naturally, they are unwanted but definite parts of being a writer, and sooner or later you’ll have to cope with one or, Gods of Writing forbid, both at once!
Never you worry, though – I’m here to help with both. *makes calming tea for everyone*
Every writer in the history of writing has suffered from self-doubt. Personally, I find it encouraging when self-doubt runs me over to know that even my favourite writers go through stages like ‘Oh sweet lord, what was I thinking? I can’t do this! I can’t write! I’m a fraud and everyone knows it’ and ‘Everything I’ve ever written is terrible and that one one-star review proves it and I should just give up now!’ Usually, I’m able to just shake it off, but here’s a trick for when self-doubt is threatening to overwhelm you:
When you can feel self-doubt spreading its ugly diseased wings to swoop down on you, go to Goodreads and find one or more of your favourite books. You don’t need to spend much time on this, but just have a look through the reviews. I can guarantee you’re going to find some extremely negative opinions. Why should that encourage you? Because, if a book you love gets such negative feedback, it’s okay for you to receive the same. I know it’s tough when you doubt yourself, but the point is that every writer gets the same rubbish, and there’ll always be someone who hates what you do. There’ll also always be someone who loves what you do, and those are the people you write for!
Accept you can’t please everyone. Your book won’t work for some people – and some of those people will get surprisingly offended, no matter how hard you work. And that’s fine. Your book will also find love. Work hard, do everything you can to give your book baby a good start, and realise your work deserves better than ‘good enough’. Know you’ve done everything you can. You’re awesome, and your story deserves to be read!
But what do you do when writer’s block strikes, and you can’t write said story in the first place? This may be controversial, but I don’t believe in writer’s block – not in the “I can’t write without inspiration” sense, anyway. A lack of inspiration does not equal writer’s block, friends! Sometimes writing is hard, but not writing at all and waiting for that ever-elusive inspiration to find you isn’t going to fix it. Inspiration is nice, but it won’t come if you don’t show it that you’re serious. In the wise words of Maya Angelou:
“What I try to do is write. I may write for two weeks ‘the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat,’ …. And it might be just the most boring and awful stuff. But I try. When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, ‘Okay. Okay. I’ll come.’”
You want to take this writing thing seriously? Maybe even turn it into a full-time career? Well then, my friend, you’ll need to treat it as such! Showing up every day and sitting your butt down to write whether you fancy it that day or not is the way to go, trust me.
Be careful, though, and look after yourself. Sometimes writing is difficult because you need a break. You don’t want to burn out, so if writing starts to feel like a chore and you just can’t coax the words forth, take a breather. You’d get annual leave in any other job, too, so make sure you’re not too hard on yourself and treat yourself to a day off here and there. Go for a walk. Play a game. Cuddle your pet dragon. Do whatever it is you need to do to recharge and relax.
So, to recap: You can’t please everyone, and that’s fine. Your story deserves to be read. Your passion deserves better than ‘it’ll do’. Work hard, but take breaks if necessary – burn-out’s a bitch!
Love yourself and your story, and success will follow. It might take years—because, as we know, overnight success is a lie—but it will come.
About Sarina Langer
Sarina is the author of the Relics of Ar’Zac trilogy. The first book in the series, Rise of the Sparrows, was released in late May 2016. She’s currently working on Book 2, Wardens of Archos (to be released Autumn 2017), and a new fantasy duology.
She’s obsessed with books and all things stationery, has a proud collection of over twenty notebooks, and squeals every time she buys a new notebook, pens (hmmm, fountain pens ❤ ) or highlighters.
In her free time she reads fantasy and sci-fi novels, plays video games, and researches human sacrifice traditions and the end of the universe.
Her familiar, the Sellybean, has become a mascot to her blog and her writing, and is probably sitting on her notes/laptop/chewing her pen as you read this.
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