Someone I respect a great deal in the writing world* recently mentioned that they were suffering from Writer Doubt. “What’s the point?” they asked. “Why bother?”
These are normal questions that every un-agented/un-published writer asks themselves. Publishing is a tough market and for every successful author, there are literally thousands of hopefuls just begging for the chance to see their name in print. Given those odds, the chances that we hopefuls will make it are slim.
I’ll be the first to admit that my initial interest in writing was the possibility of being published. Oh sure, people say that a person should write because it’s a passion and, even if no one else reads your stuff, you will blah, blah, cliché, whatever, blah. But the reality is that I wanted to be a successful author. I loved the idea of waking up early, spending 2 hours in the gym, enjoying a huge breakfast, and then knuckling down for a solid day of writing. I secretly dreamed of the blog-interviews, the book tours, and the smiles on readers faces when the came to my signings. And I couldn’t wait to see my name on the cover of a hardback at my local bookstore.
But that’s not how a career in writing works, at least, not at first. Sometimes, not at all. Writing is hard and time consuming. Putting 20,000 to 100,000 words on paper and organizing them into semi-logical order isn’t a walk in the park. Then you have to polish them so that they keep the attention of people who don’t know you and are being bombarded with thousands of other stories that are similar or better than yours. Even then, your shiny story may not be right for the market at that time. There are even authors who get books onto shelves and then watch in horror as sales lag and they are faced with the slow death of their novel/series. Heartbreak, it seems, abounds and yet this is the world we no-names are fighting to break in to.
Believe me, I sympathize with my friend's feelings.
So what's the point? Why bother?
The point is, Writer Doubt is real. It’s tangible and it’s contagious. But it’s also a cancerous rot that will do nothing for us except chip away at our confidence. Life is full of insurmountable odds, deflating rejection, and gut-wrenching disappointment. Some people make it and some don’t, but very few people ever try. Just by putting your butt in a chair and hands on a keyboard, you’re already ahead of the game.
We bother because just like there are thousands of people out there who want to be published authors, there are tens of thousands who don’t have the courage, tenacity, or drive to even make the attempt. That manuscript you’re working on may never see a printing press, but believe it or not, it’s a shining beacon of accomplishment because you haven’t given up. And continuing to write, even in the face of rejection and disappointment, means that Writer Doubt isn’t going to defeat you.
One last thought: If you're frustrated about the publishing process, well that's something completely out of your hands. Finding and agent and/or publisher is just as much about timing as it is your writing. You might have the next great novel just waiting to be discovered, but this may not be the right time for it. Or you may have a silly little story that strikes a chord with an agent/publisher and makes them say, "Oh my GLOB! Want!" But we don't know. All we can do is just continue to hone our skill, put our ideas on paper, submit them to the Powers That Be, and hope that eventually they get noticed.
Because in the end, succumbing to Writer Doubt will kill our dreams long before anything else will.
*Note: I made sure to get her permission before writing this post.