Guest Post by Michelle Wilson
Michelle Wilson is the author of “Does This Insecurity Make Me Look Fat?.” an inspirational nonfiction look at the power of perspective in our lives. Her second book, “The Beautiful Balance: Claiming Personal Control and Giving the Rest to God” will be available in August 2016. Michelle also writes women’s fiction and is represented by Marisa Corvisiero of The Corvisiero Literary Agency. She lives in Washington State with her husband and three kids.
A few years ago I attended my first LDStorymakers Writers Conference. I walked around wide-eyed and drooling at the privilege of learning from amazing authors and experts, rubbing shoulders with agents and editors, and meeting some awesome people. I sat through classes that fueled my passion for writing. And yet, the strangest thing happened. By the end of the conference, I found myself feeling overwhelmed. Still excited, but daunted by the idea of writing the best novel ever.
I came home and stared at my laptop. I typed and deleted. Then stared some more. Then the doubts began to creep in. What if I couldn’t write the best novel ever? What if I couldn’t even write a crappy novel? The more the questions rolled in my head, the bigger they got, and the more I believed them until finally, the big one came: What if I’m not a writer at all?
The words of Ana Gasteyer to Garth Brookes in their infamous SNL skit came to mind: “You’re pathetic (Michelle). You are a talentless loser, and I’m not supporting you anymore.”
Who was I kidding? What made me think I could do this? What made so special to think I could write something people would want to read. I was afraid to fail. I wanted to stop writing. To quit.
These doubts—these devils—in a writers mind are dangerous. If you’re a writer, you’ve probably experienced them too. They whisper cold lies that still your creativity and smother your enthusiasm.
And it’s not just self-doubt. Other devils include but most definitely are not limited to:
- Fear of failure
- Fear of success
- Unrealistic expectations
These devils make you feel out of control, helpless, and hopeless.
You and I aren’t the only ones who have felt this way. Stephen King once said, “I’m afraid of failing at whatever story I’m writing—that it won’t come up for me, or that I won’t be able to finish it.” Romance writer Sara Eden shared with me that “doubt is my constant companion as a writer. Doubt in my abilities, in my dreams, my future, even in the very choice to write. It whispers constantly, creeping into my thoughts and making me question what I do.”
We writers wrestle with demons. That’s part of the gig. I know I did. And still do.
Luckily, I had someone in my corner who wouldn’t let me believe them, wouldn’t let me quit. My husband, Jerey. He said, “The only way you’ll fail is if you stop trying.”
It sounds like something you’d see on a kitten or unicorn poster, or cross-stitched on a pillow. But his words held great meaning for me. They made me realize that the enemy isn’t my perceived lack of skill, but the thoughts I allowed to swallow my confidence in and gratitude for my passion. He helped me to understand that the power to succeed is, in large measure, in my own hands.
In the words of T.A. Barron, from The Mirror of Merlin: “But you also have choices. Yes—and choices are nothing less than the power of creation. Through them, you can create your own life, your own future, your own destiny. . . By your choices, you might even create an entirely new world, one that will spring into being from the ruins of the old.”
We have choices! And in those choices lay more power than any devil we can summon.
We can choose to acknowledge and understand our fears.
We can choose who we are. Say it with me: “I am a writer.”
We can choose to be realistic about our progress and our need for continual growth.
We can choose to not let our dream of publication overshadow our love of writing.
We can choose to be ourselves, not copycats of other writers. But, us.
We can choose to be vulnerable, to take risks.
We can choose to believe in ourselves.
And we can choose not stop trying.
For every writer, that looks different. I’ve heard it said that real writers write every day. Not true. Real writers simply write. Period.
It’s normal to feel some doubt and fear. It doesn’t mean you’re a loser, talentless, or hopeless.
You are a writer. ALL writers fight devils sometimes. The key is to starve the voices—write in spite of the devils—and feed the creativity. Write what you love, not what you think will sell. Take a break if you need to. (You’re still a writer when you’re on a break.)
You have been given a gift. Claim it. Nurture it. Love it. Live it.
Don’t compare yourself to others. Be your own kind of awesome, and do it well.
You answered the call to write. Don’t hang up.
Choose to keep trying, to keep writing.
Because you are a writer.