Also known as IMPOSTER SYNDROME.
Sometimes I make myself giggle. But no, I don’t mean that guy. I mean that nagging, irritating, won’t-shut-up-no-matter-how-many-times-you-tell-it-to voice in your head that is absolutely, 100%, without a doubt, sure that you, yes YOU, are a fraud.
Snake oil salesman.
It is so sure that you fail so epically, that ‘Hurt Locker’ should be the description that goes along with your photo album.
Wow. Okay. So that was bad. But the point is there.
The voice in your head tells you you suck and you believe it.
Into the Oven is now done. It is a thing. It’s real. It has a cover, a description, and words to go in-between the cover. I am so proud of it, so excited for it, and yet I hate it so so so SO VERY MUCH.
The story is crap. It’s no better than an OUAT knockoff. It’s been done. No one is going to like it. Why did I even bother with it. People are going to make fun of it. Worse, NO ONE is going to buy it. It’s been done before. It’s stupid. It’s pedantic. It’s childish. It isn’t even any GOOD. Why did you bother? You’re just a hack. You’re a hack with your art, you’re a hack with your writing, STOP. TAKE IT DOWN FROM AMAZON. YOU SHOULDN’T HAVE EVEN TRIED.
DON’T DO THE THING.
I’m told that all writers go through this. It happens every time an author puts out a book. That nasty, no good voice which worms its way into your brain, drives its claws in and gnaws on grey matter with the power of a thousand suns rendering you immobile whilst it munches telling you all the while you deserved its existence in your head and YOU WILL NEVER BE ANY GOOD AT THE THING WHICH YOU ARE TRYING TO DO munchmunchmunchmunchmunchmunch I TASTE THE SADNESS IN YOUR WRITER TEARS YESSSSSSSSSS GIVE ME MORE TEARS! MORE, DO YOU HEAR ME! munchmunchmunchmunchmunchmunch
And then of course it has the audacity to pull an Oliver Twist and, once its done with your brain, goes for the heart with every intention of PLEASE, SIR, MAY I HAVE SOME MORE.
As if tears aren’t enough. It has to go for the tasty, tasty heart meat softened by multiple rewrites and rejection letters.
THE PAIN WILL NEVER STOP.
And you know what?
I probably will never be any good.
Someone is going to call my book an OUAT knockoff, hell, that’s where a lot of the inspiration came from, along with a few other shows and radio programs, and one or two books I’ve read along the way. Someone else is going to tell me I should have never attempted writing in the first place. And it seems, every time the voice pops up, there’s evidence to back its nastiness up. Someone else is doing better than I am, someone else is selling more books, someone else is a better artist.
The list goes on and on and on.
It’s not even Santa’s naughty/nice list, where there’s an attempt at proportion. No, no. It’s everyone else on one side, me on the other. Showing just how much I suck and how better everyone else is at literally everything else.
Does it sound like I’m whining? It sounds like I’m whining.
I AM whining.
Because, goddammit, feeling this way sucks. I’ve told myself countless times I shouldn’t, I should put my head down and put out the next book, and the chances of being a runaway success with the first book are slim to none, and why the hell am I worried about it anyway; what the hell is the point of torturing myself this way, who do I think I am to be so selfish, STFU.
Again, the list goes on.
And is disproportionate.
The cold hard truth is, no matter which artistic field you’re in, you’re going to feel this way. There’s going to be the voice in the back of your head telling you the thing you did is terrible. Horrible. No good. Nuh huh. Nice try, Johnny, now go play with the other non-writer kids. Better that way. Let the guys who know what they’re doing talk. I TOLD YOU NO, JOHNNY. DON’T YOU EVEN THINK ABOUT SNEAKING IN. I SEE YOU, JOHNNY. GO AWAY, JOHNNY. OH GOD, WHAT ARE YOU DOING? PULL UP YOUR PANTS RIGHT THIS MINUTE!
AT&T and Verizon are having a conversation, Sprint your way out of it.
Futile attempts at being funny aside, it’s a good thing the voice is there. As much as it sucks to have to endure the snide, sneering little asshole, the little voice keeps you honest. It keeps you improving on your craft. If you didn’t have the voice haranguing you on, you wouldn’t think there was something wrong with the thing you produced. You wouldn’t be fixated on fixing the things in the next draft or voraciously reading/practicing/watching the thing which you will later dismember for the precious kernels of knowledge you will later use in your own way to further better yourself. Like barbeque. Or your dad’s chili recipe. Or any instruction manual rotting in that one drawer which might, in all actuality, be a black hole or random entryway into another dimension.
Instead you would be putting out the next book and the next and the next in the same fashion as the first, not caring what anyone else thought because f*ck those guys, they don’t know nothing.
There’s something to be said for having the self-possession not to give a flying f*ck what anyone else thinks of you or what you’re doing.
I do not possess the sort of confidence one needs to execute that particular bit of programming.
I, in fact, have been known to be a slave to what other people think of me. A people pleaser, if you will. Also commonly referred to as “too nice”, “doormat”, “pushover”, “easy”, “dupe”, “fool”.
It’s a goddamned circus in my head. With irrational monkeys who won’t get back in their GODDAMNED CAGES.
Too often, it’s a fight I can’t win by myself. Writing may be a solitary occupation, but combating self-doubt is not. I’m lucky enough to have a wide circle of writer friends who understand the struggle and who can offer support whilst calling me on my bullshit.
Maybe I’m not the best of sellers, maybe I never will be, but that’s not really the point of writing is it?
You can’t write books and have dollar signs in your eyes.
You can’t produce paintings with the determination of being the next Picasso or Michelangelo.
To even learn the craft takes time. To put it in action and not come out bleeding from every orifice and screaming for mommy takes effort and a whole lot of patience.
You don’t do this shit for adoration, love, or the money. You do it because the same little voice who screams YOU’RE NOT GOOD ENOUGH obscenities is also the one you tell stories to.
If only to placate it until its next meal.
Do you WANT to be on Jimmy Kimmel, Ellen, or the Today show talking about how awesome your book is and HOW EVERYONE SHOULD READ IT RIGHT NOW? Do you want to be Chuck Wendig with his snark and his super awesome book covers? Do you want critics, big contracts, and the opportunity to be right up there with Stephen King, Tee Morris and Phillippa Ballantine; Kameron Hurley and Cherie Priest (to name a scant few)?
Hells yes. I mean, come on, who doesn’t?
We’re all human here.
But those wants shouldn’t be the driving force behind your writing.
And if it is, you’re in the wrong business sunshine. Get out while you still can.
Art isn’t about making money. Art is about expression and getting what the voices say on paper because, FOR FUCKS SAKE I WANT TO SLEEP AT NIGHT.
Practice makes for good experience, good experience takes time, time makes bad writing better, better writing means you might sell a book or two.
Don’t trade time, patience, and experience for confidence and asshole dickery. And, take what the little voice in your head says with a grain of salt.
You’re not bad, you can get better.