I’ve been doing the planning and research for a new book since January – and you know what? It’s been going really, really badly.
I used to think as soon as I’d had one ‘yes’ from a publisher I’d never doubt myself as a writer again.
Ha. Aha ha. Yeah. You’d think I’d never met myself.
I’ve heard ‘yes’ three times now, and it made me happy each time, but it doesn’t seem to have made any difference to the way I feel about my ability to write a good book. Interesting, right? All that validation, and yet here I am, flailing in uncertainty, over-thinking everything, not writing, and getting more and more miserable by the day.
Self-doubt has often held me back, but I thought I’d slain that particular monster. This time last year, I even wrote a blog post about it. Anyway, I thought Old Me might have some good advice for Current Me, so I went back to that blog post, and here’s the advice that resonated the most:
“…ignore advice from friends, ignore the Booker prize winner, ignore what’s fashionable or popular. Don’t write what you think you ought to be writing. Write what you want. This is about you finishing a novel…Right now, you need to go for your own weird, personal gold.”
I thought I might be a strong enough writer by now to take trends and advice into consideration. Some writers seem to be able to do that. They’re versatile. Someone points out a gap in the romance market and they fill it and they do it well. I guess those people are true professionals.
But I think, for me, the creative process doesn’t work like that. Or it doesn’t yet. Perhaps because I’m still relatively new to all this. If I try to do what I think someone else wants – I do nothing. Or it comes out half-dead, with characters like brightly-painted corpses. Why that should be, I don’t know. Lack of confidence? Lack of imagination? Selfishness? I admire these writers who can seemingly write anything, but I don’t think I’m one of them. Perhaps, by chance, what I do might align with what someone out there wants, but I don’t think I can ‘choose’ to write something in such a planned way.
So, I’m scrapping some stuff. I’m trying to stop worrying what editors might like or readers might want. I’m going back to basics. What do I want to write? Really, truly, deep down? I haven’t quite decided, but already I feel better; less scared, less confused, more creative.
I’m going to write exactly what I want, because that seems to be the only way I can write anything at all. And if it turns out I’m a one trick pony, well, at least I’ve found that out, right?
What about you? Can you pick up on trends or write to market? Or do you feel you have less choice in what comes out, like me?
It’s true in literature as it is in music or art – never try to second guess or ride on the coat tails of someone elses success.
When I set off to write The Witch and Jet Splinters series everyone, and I mean everyone, decided, because of the witch content, that it would automatically be emulating, in some way, Harry Potter.
“Oh come on – you’re just copying JK Rowling, aren’t you?”
This really, really pissed me off, especially as these people hadn’t even read a word yet.
When you’re faced with these kind of ‘expectations’ the only thing you can do is to get as far away as possible from what’s ‘expected’, which, in turn, gives you your own, unique slant on things.
So, be inspired by outside influences but don’t follow – that’s the only advice I can give.
Oh, and never forget that you are not alone in the self doubt stakes – anyone really worth their salt is the same. Even Jimi Hendrix had self doubt! You’d be a complete, deluded egotist to be otherwise.
Please yourself first and someone out there will latch on to it. Every time. Promise.
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Thanks Elijah 😁 I think that’s good advice – especially since I seem incapable of doing what other people seem to want anyway, even if I can see it would be a good idea. I also like your reminder about self-doubt. I know I’m not alone in that but it’s nice to be reminded! Oh, and that ‘you’re copying JK Rowling’ stuff must have been *infuriating*
Even more infuriating when you take into consideration that this was decided before I’d even written a sentence!
People are a strange beast at times.
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Thanks for your honesty. I think the writers “who can seemingly write anything” are very few and far between. Most of us are grappling with it every inch of the way, to one degree or another. Well, if it was easy, everyone would do it. Right?
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So true Shani – nobody ever said it would be easy. But some experienced writers make it LOOK easy that’s for sure. I just need to sit down and bash out a first draft, don’t I? That never changes: if some words aren’t down nothing will ever get better!