Most writers are insecure.
I realize I’m probably asking for a bit of defensive backlash here by applying such a negative emotional label to our craft…and perhaps I should elaborate further by saying that most creative people are insecure. It stems from putting an intrinsic element of yourself, an extension of your creative soul, out into the world, where any stupe that breathes can put in their two cents about how your work could have been better. And because your work–no matter what that may be–grew from an idea from within your mind, something that you conceived and developed and formed and tweaked and revised and perfected, it only stands to reason that you’d be worried about how the world receives your end product.
I remember being utterly bewildered upon reading the opening to an introduction to John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, which directly quoted his daily journal as follows:
“If I could do this book properly it would be one of the really fine books and a truly American book. But I am assailed with my own ignorance and inability…If I can keep an honesty it is all I can expect of my poor brain…if I can do that it will be all my lack of genius can produce. For no one else knows my lack of ability the way I do. I am pushing against it all the time.”
SERIOUSLY, JOHN!? This gives my own doubting mind a tiny smidgen of courage–I mean, if John-freaking-Steinbeck was a nervous Nellie about getting it right, I suppose it only stands to reason that we jamokes would, as well.
My insecurities are two-fold: I am first, foremost, and forever agonizing over whether or not an idea I may have is worthy of exploring–sometimes so much so that I ditch the idea before even starting. Second in line behind this obstacle is, once I’ve actually written something, I obsess over whether people like it or not. If a post receives little or no feedback within an hour, I find myself immediately questioning every decision I’ve made in my life to this point, and I’m suddenly convinced that I’d been fooling myself about having any writing talent, and I’m sure that anyone who has told me otherwise was a liar, and having my work published twice must have been flukes, accidents.
Of course, all of this is made exponentially worse by my own generalized anxiety disorder (causes a standard, run-of-the-mill fear of failure to become a low-grade, paralyzing panic, which in turn stalls many a creative effort) and mild dysthymia (causes that normal feeling of disappointment–when having work rejected, for example–to morph into a spiraling well of despair). Being aware of these issues helps to some extent–I can, for the most part, talk myself back to some semblance of reality: “OK, yeah, this may be the 15th rejection you’ve had for this story–but if you feel strongly about it, send it out there again! Remember–back in the day, Stephen King had a nail on his wall that he hung his multitude of rejection letters from!”
So–have faith, my fellow artsy-fartsy types out there. More and more, I’m finding that, as long as I love what I’ve written, and know that I truly gave it my best shot, it doesn’t (or, shouldn’t, anyway) matter if people like it or not. Yeah, sure–it would make my ever-lovin’ year if I could get another story published somewhere…or, better yet, finally get an agent interested in my novel. But–if I hauled off and knocked it out of the ballpark before putting it out there, that should be enough.
Now, let’s go write something.