Self Doubt

Do you ever go into the book store, look at the shelves and wonder what the heck you were thinking?  Do you wonder if it’s pure arrogance on your part to think that your work is good enough to sit on those shelves too?  I do… all the time in fact.  But doing it now is a source of motivation for me now while in the past it served to do the exact opposite.

Perhaps I should explain myself a bit more.

There was a time that I loved going into the book store to see what new worlds were waiting to be explored.  Then, when I made the conscious decision to try my own hand at writing, it became something much different.  A place of terror and self-doubt.  I knew the statistics just like many of you do.  There are thousands of books published every year.  That’s thousands for the millions of writers out there.

It doesn’t sound like a very likely career choice if that’s all you think about.  But, I’ve also heard that publishers are desperately looking for new talent.  The previous generation of writers is dwindling… or their work is anyway.  So which message should I be listening to?

If I were honest with myself (and I usually try to be), I’d say both messages are equally relevant.  There are LOTS of books being published, but there’s room for new writers to show up.  Still, not a very inspiring thought… those shelves seem to both watch me with doubt and with welcome.  It really depends on the day.

Still, is it the job of the book store to motivate me?  Not as such.  The book store can provide some wonderful marketing and it can provide you with a friendly place to hang out and make a friend.  But your coach and mentor it definitely isn’t.

Am I confusing you yet?  I’m doing a pretty good job on myself, in case you’re wondering.

I think that’s because writing is such a personal thing.  The last thing you wrote is probably both the best thing you’ve ever written and the worst too.  Both extreme opposites at the same time.  It just depends on the time of day, the alignment of the stars.  Maybe even the type of coffee you just drank/spilled on your keyboard/threw at the dog… whatever.

Why shouldn’t how you feel about it (and your chances at success) be any different?

I remember when I was doing my writing course.  I had just gotten back my last lesson and my instructor’s note said, “Ask me any question that is bothering you.  There is no question out of bounds.”  That told me very clearly that my final lesson was upon me, which was good.  But it also let out that little demon of self-doubt.  So I asked the question that had been on my mind since I had signed up for the course:  “Am I good enough to be published?”

His answer was simple, short and to the point.  “Anything I saw that needed work, I’ve already told you about.  Your book is coming along in a very professional way.  There is no reason why it can’t get published.”

So why do I still have those moments of self-doubt?  Is it because it’s easier to say “Why do I think I’m good enough?” when “Why don’t I think I’m good enough?” seems just as likely?  Hard to say.

It could just be because I haven’t YET succeeded.  That’s when my favorite motivational words come to me.  I know I’ve mentioned them before, but they always point me in the right direction.  It was Dave Duncan who once told me “Remember that all professional authors were once amateurs like you.”  Those words of wisdom keep coming back to me.  They inspire me, just like my SWN colleagues inspire me.

Every last one of them is writing more and better than they have in the past.  I’m starting to see the “Why” change to “Why not” for them and it’s fantastic.  That’s why I can go into the book store and get motivation from it.  In my mind’s eye, I can see my own work on those shelves sitting beside the works of some of my idols and it feels pretty good.

Is my work the best there is?  Of course… well… maybe… OK, probably not, but it IS good enough to be published… and it’s going to keep getting better.  Faith in oneself feels a lot better than that self doubt anyway.  Am I just fooling myself?  I don’t think so, but time will definitely tell. 

We’ve all said that writing is about 5% inspiration and 95% perspiration.  Maybe perseverance and hard work ARE the key.  I have a friend who would definitely say it was so.  He’s got 4 books published and another coming out soon.  His writing resume is pretty darn impressive.  And only 7 years ago, he was in the same spot I am now.  It sounds like a long time… it’s not.

Who says I can’t make it?  Not me!  The time for “Why not” is definitely now!  Hang in there and MAKE it happen.  Don’t wait for it and be intimidated by those shelves any more.  I know I’m not going to be.


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