Five Lies that Writers Tell Themselves
Lie: Someone else has done it before.
Recently, an author in a writers' group I am part of asked (in so many words), "What authors makes you feel like you have nothing left to offer? For me, it's Tolkien. I feel like there's no way I can possibly measure up to him, and that he's already written what I am trying to write and written it better."
Others chimed in. For some, it was a specific author. For others (me), it was any author who wasn't themselves.
There are moments when I walk through a bookstore or a library and feel a stab of despair. Why am I trying to do what so many have failed at? Why I am I trying to do what others have succeeded so well at that I cannot possibly have anything to contribute?
Every voice is unique.
I've heard the stories of agents and editors who groan--"Not another dragon book!"--and maybe they've grown tired of such books. But I haven't. I love dragon stories, and if I get my hands on a new author who spins a great tale about dragons, I'm going to read it and love it.
Heck, everything has been done before. It's the author's unique experiences, fresh perspective, and genuine enjoyment of the story that sets it apart. And nobody can do that but you.
Lie: I don't have time to write.
Ha! Don't make me laugh. Nobody has time to write.
An author has no more time to write than other people.
An author accepts no excuses.
It was an illuminating day when I discovered that, when I had more time to write, I got less work done, but when I had less time to write, I moved heaven and earth to get my writing done. Lesson? It's the will, not the time.
Authors have written books while raising children, battling illness, and working full-time jobs. You can too.
Lie: I am all alone.
Up until the last year and a half, I was the lone wolf. I chatted with other authors from time to time, but I didn't even know where to find most of them. The few I did know were not generally as obsessed with writing as I am. (Interpretation: I probably wore them out talking books.)
Then NaNoWriMo, Speculative Faith, and Realm Makers changed that all for me. I found people who thought like me. People who were in the thick of it, some of them published, some not, but all pushing toward the same goal and wrestling with the same questions.
With these communities, I've accomplished more in the last year than I have in all the years previous. I published four novelettes. I got publishers interested in my other works. I placed in a writing contest. I got people excited about reading my books. I believe I'd still be puttering along, waiting for the perfect moment to "get out there," if it weren't for these amazing fellow authors.
So don't wait. Jump into a community. If you need ideas for where to find your soon-to-be best friends, ask me.
Lie: I'm not ready.
Who's ready? I'm not.
I made some mistakes in my published books, both in the text and in the way I handled the business side. There's a lot I wish I could redo.
But, having done it, I learned. Mistakes are not failures; they are milestones in your learning. I've grown way more from making mistakes than from my successes.
(Half the time, I don't even know why I succeeded. I can usually figure out why I failed, which is another way to reverse-engineer success.)
Nobody is ever ready to be an author, to be "out there," to have their flaws exposed to the world.
But look at it this way: Just about everyone I know says that Eragon by Christopher Paolini really stunk. Those who stuck with his books say that he hit his stride later in the series. I haven't read the books and have no idea whether this is true, but here's my main point: There are people who will give you a chance, or two, or three, to prove yourself to them. Those are the people you want on your side. So give them a chance to read what you have to share.
Take a leap of faith.
Lie: I have to write what readers want.
When I started a blog, I got really stuck in trying to figure out what my invisible reader wanted from me and I constantly felt like I was letting "everyone" down. (I never could define who "everyone" was. That should have been a tip-off.)
I tried to create the perfect formula for an engaging story, based on all the advice from agents, editors, fellow authors, and even marketing gurus.
And I was miserable.
Then I read one of my works-in-progress to my sister and her feedback was filled with genuine and explosive enthusiasm. "Write more like this!"
I suddenly realized that I wasn't writing for everyone.
I was writing for her. And I was writing for me.
We were the only two people who mattered and, if others enjoyed the story too, so much the better.
Don't write for everybody. Write for that one person who truly enjoys accompanying you on an adventure only you can create.
What lies do you wrestle against? Share in the comments below!
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I write YA/adult fantasy & sci-fi that explores fantastic and interconnected worlds, with stories that burn through the darkest realities with hope and redemption.
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