Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Insecure writer is decidedly insecure... and trying not to listen to THAT voice

Another month has come and gone, and it's time to release our fears out into the world by jumping on Ninja Captain Alex's blog hop of awesome and make some friends. It's Insecure Writer's Support Group time. This month's Co-hosts are Heather Gardner, T. Drecker from Kidbits, Eva E. Solar at Lilicasplace, and Patsy Collins!

I have a whole host of fears and insecurities tied up with how things have gone previously in my writing. Let me take you on a brief tour of the dark places of my writing mind.

The first time I wrote something I was really proud of, a little voice inside my head said that it was really greatrevolutionary even. It succeeded in cutting through all the old paradigms and it would bring my work to people in a way that was FINALLY understandable to the science types.

That little voice bolstered me through the dark times of waiting to hear. Would they like it? Would they hate it?

So the moment of truth would come, and I’d open the email. The letter would be two paragraphs long, inevitably something about the bones of the project being there, just needing fleshing out. And then I would open the attachment. 

Imagine, if you will, 300+ comments on a 35 page paper. No line untouched by track changes. Each and every one boiled down to rewrite the whole thing, and for the Love of All Things Pasteur, learn the difference between farther and further. The little voice, the one praising my pioneering waysmy bravery at challenging the way Things Are Doneyeah, that jerk turned on me faster than lunch on a tilt-a-whirl.

In the early comments (of the 300), the direction was, mostly, useful, but as the numbers ticked higher, the comments would circle around to the “I already commented on how your usage of the farther is, strictly speaking, an abomination to the English language!” The gradient had started with professional, but slid quickly into stabby-stabby meany pants territory.

Still, it was a dream I had, so I waded through the vitriol and venom. I rewrote the whole papers, repolished, read every comment three times to be sure I understood what was being said, and then sent it back. Six months to a year (yes, these were ridiculous turnaround times, but that’s what I was dealing with) later, I’d get something back that said “Did you do anything at all? Now isn’t the time to be lazy!”

This was a decade of my life.

And now that I’m in a better place, and working on another dream, I’m insecure about history repeating itself. I’ve already mentioned that my edits are easily a bazillion times better than what I experienced under the thumb of academia, but there’s still this lingering fear that the mean, vengeful side of editing is just around the corner.

What if my editor comes back with “did you even work on this at all?” Or “Now isn’t the time to be lazy!” Or (one of my personal favorites) “How can you be so bad at a language when it is the only one you know?”

And I’m insecure because, on some level, I am lazy. Sometimes I would rather play videogames, or walk through the park, or knit, or all of those things that aren’t writing. And I know that if things come back rougher than I’d like, I’ll blame myselfremember that night you had a glass of wine after work and shot grunts with a sniper rifle instead of working on your novel? It was THAT NIGHT that made this a FAILURE.

In short, the voice lies. And it’s been whispering to me. But even worse than the whispering, is that the voice likes to tell truths mixed in. I’m not that good at English. Quite frankly, my comma placement leaves something to be desired (or at least everyone I’ve ever worked with has complained about my commas). My word usage could be betterpuchier, zestier, less unorthodox, and while we’re on about it, I could use some a refresher on the differences between peel and peal and peek, peak, and pique.

So in short, my little voice of doubt (which isn’t very little at all) is telling me 80% of the truth.

(that means it speaks 100% lieswhen will I learn not to listen to it?)


  1. I also worry that the wonderful kind edits i've gotten so far will at some point change into something more . . . sterner i guess. Or that they'll call me out for being a slacker (because that's my biggest underlying fear, that i'm not working hard enough or trying hard enough to really deserve this)
    Stupid voice.

  2. Sometimes we have to ignore out little voices, especially the one that's doubtful, because they aren't always right.

  3. It is sometimes so hard to dismiss what isn't helpful, and that little voice, that sometimes rings so clearly in the silence between bursts of creativity, is definitely not helpful.
    Neither is an editor that makes one feel like giving up.
    I have a feeling you'll be fine though. It's the waiting that's feeding the worry, and writers like us are so very good at worrying!

  4. Crap, I really hope you don't get another editor like that! Between test readers, critique partners, and my publisher's editors, I've never had comments like that. Trust again and find someone good.

  5. You've told me not to listen to that little voice when it said things like that to me, so I'm saying the same thing to you now. ^_^ The voice is rarely helpful. If you think it has a factual point, then check and see. If it's just stating its opinion, tell it to piss off.

    Also: the people who said things like that on your graduate papers were assholes, pure and simple. I know it's hard not to let comments like that get to you, but that's not feedback. That's someone having other issues and taking them out on you. The fact that they couldn't seem to figure out that you couldn't have corrected the issues they pointed out earlier when you hadn't seen said out-pointing because they took so long to get it back to you makes that pretty clear to me. Gah.

  6. I share many of your same doubts. The list of what we 'must' do to become a great writer is endless, and often I'm discouraged before I even begin. You're right to sort through what's real and what isn't. That little voice doesn't know what she's talking about, and even if she does, PROVE HER WRONG.

  7. Clearly the little voice is wrong! Stacy Nash loved your book enough to sign you up - lots more people will love it, too.

  8. Don't listen to that little devil voice!!!!!!!

    But I get it… I listen to that voice all the time… and sometimes it paralyzes me.


    But you know what's stronger than that nasty little voice? The feeling you get when you KNOW you've written something wonderful… that spark inside of you that TELLS you you have something of worth. It's so hard to remember those moments when you KNOW you can do this--that you have the talent and capability… it's hard to grasp onto those moments of clarity because sometimes that voice can be SO LOUD. :)

  9. I've never gotten a critique like that, but perhaps my critiquers felt so sorry for me that they took it easy.

    You know you're much better than you were when you started, and that's all that counts.

  10. I can definitely relate to this. After way too many years of writing, I've finally admitted to myself that procrastination is just fear. We're afraid what we put on the page will not be good enough, so it's easier to do the laundry or play games or eat chocolate...

  11. This hits me close to home. There has to be a way to foster a louder voice that can drown out the one that picks away at you. Writers need a little sense of self-importance. Not too grandiose, but just enough to offset the degrading nag of that other voice. Having sympathetic friends helps. For me, so does reminding myself of my triumphs and my progress - maybe with a folder on my desktop or a pinboard on the wall. I hope you meet better editors and have crit that is constructive and easy to understand.

  12. I hear you! I know exactly the little voice you mean, it's whispered the same words to me. But I'm sure your revisions went splendidly. And if not, then you work some more. Your editor won't hate you. All will be well. :)

  13. I can see why that editorial advice knocked your confidence. But, like others have said, don't let that little voice win. Wishing you lots of positive and constructive editing this time round.

  14. my summation - you think too much
    get outta your head, woman! you're awesome!

    hope things are going well for you - send me a status update if you have time =)

  15. I'm horrible with commas. Absolutely horrible. I think I need a comma course.

    Just remember, the snarky mean comments are a sign of the commenters own insecurity.

  16. I learned that British commas and US commas are very different. My US editor threw them in all over the place when I first started working with her, and it took a while to realise it was just different styles, rather than right or wrong. Perhaps you just have your own style?

    Editing always makes me a bit lazy too. It's surprising how interesting tidying under your bed becomes when there's a pressing edit to do :-)

  17. I struggle with the voice of doubt as well and I too have many distractions that take me away from writing. But I just read "A Letter To My Daughter" by Maya Angelou and even she said that every time she put pen to paper she wondered if this was the time that people would see she was a fraud. I thought "wow" if even she has those kinds of doubts about herself, then I don't have a chance to rid myself of fear. I have to ride the wave of doubt and let it pass and just keep putting that pen to paper and keep going.

    Hang in there! I know you can do it!

  18. Academia writing made my creative writing so much harder. And the difference in opinions from my professors confused me. I couldn't tell if I was a good writer or a bad writer--some would write excellent! on papers, and others would tell me I didn't have a logical flow (whatever that means). It was even worse as an English major because I felt like they were going, "Shouldn't you be good at this?"

    And seeing all those comments just makes your heart drop. Cause you just really want to be done, lol!

    We're our own worse critic, of course! No one else is as hard on ourselves.


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