We at Write Yorkshire are lucky to be in a Grade A writing circle, although we'd be the first to admit that it often feels more like a support group than a creative collective! We've become quite aware, through our time together, that our insecurities are usually not unique. Writers, as a species, tend to share a lot of the same worries, quibbles and fears; so, we decided to show some solidarity with our readers and 'fess up to some of our biggest insecurities.
My biggest insecurity is that I’m just not a writer. There are no books in the shops with my name or my pseudonym on them. I don’t have a column in a newspaper or a magazine. I don’t win competitions (because I don’t enter them, mainly), and I’ve been published precisely three times in my life.
On my worst days, I feel that I can barely call myself a writer at all.
On my better days, though, I can look at the state of the storage on my laptop, and see that it’s full to bursting with stories, poems and scripts. The Notes app on my phone contains such gnomic phrases as, ‘Dialogue idea - Marilyn Monroe and Edith Sitwell?’ and ‘Therapy clinic for ghosts?’. I practice dialogue in the shower and when I’m driving, I edit my texts before I send them to make sure they’re A) amusing and B) grammatically correct, and, of course, I produce content for Write Yorkshire every single week.
All the above, is what tells me I’m a writer. It’s not about success, although I’m sure a bit of that would be very nice indeed, thank you very much. Being a writer means that you’re a person who expresses yourself through the written word, and it matters not a jot whether anyone else sees it at all.
So, what I have to tell myself on the bad days is:
I’m a writer, because I write, and I write, because I’m a writer.
I write a lot from personal experience, so I'd say my biggest insecurity when it comes to writing is revealing far too much of myself to strangers, without even meaning to.
Usually the things that hurt the most, or did hurt the most, flow the easiest into my writing and I'm always just a little terrified that my readers will get to know my deepest, darkest secrets or the grimiest parts of my history before they know anything about who I truly am, the sunnier, happier side of me that so often prevails. It's difficult, because writing about those topics is so cathartic for me but I also feel like just writing for myself is wasted potential (this rule is hypocritical, as I'd never apply it to anyone else!) so it sort of just has to be read by others, or else faces the dreaded delete.
I'm not really sure how I should overcome that one though, do I stick to writing about lighter topics? Or keep a secret folder just for my darkest pieces? Or would I be wasting a part of my potential if I did that? Maybe my insecurity should be asking too many rhetorical questions...
That I'm not good enough. That I don't deserve to write.
I know it's ridiculous but I can't help feeling that way. It's like imposter syndrome I guess. I think every writer must feel like this. You feel like no matter what you write, no matter how hard you try, it's not good enough.
The important thing to remember is that it's not true. We are good enough. We all deserve to write. It doesn't matter if people like your writing or not, just write anyway. Everyone has insecurities but they are not important. Don't let it get you down.
In insecure moments, I quite often worry that I have no real depth of grammatical understanding. I worry that I freestyle punctuation a little too often. I throw in wildcard commas, abuse dashes and sometimes, very occasionally, completely make up words. I justify this to myself with phrases like ‘authorial discretion’ and ‘personal style’. It concerns me that one day someone will see through my elaborate fakery and call me out on it.
I find that I often struggle to find the line between arrogance and an honest self-assessment of my work. If I think what I’ve written is good, I worry that the smug little f*cker within is telling me lies. Often I can’t tell if what I’ve written is good or not, particularly if I’ve been working on something for quite a while - I go a bit quality blind.
What if I’m not as good as I think I am? What if I’m not living up to my potential? What I don’t even have potential? What if I’m wasting my time? What if I never actually manage to finish a full-length manuscript? Or worse, what if I finish manuscript after manuscript and they never get picked up because they’re no good? Or even worse than that, they are good and get missed. There are loads of fantastic writers out there that get overlooked.
In the grand scheme of things, I’ve been a reasonably successful person. I tend to attribute a large part of that success to luck. What if my luck runs out?
I don’t think these insecurities are unique to me. I think most of us can relate to a lot of this. I think I find that comforting. I hope it’s comforting for you too.
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