If I had an easy solution for self-doubt, I’d be selling it for an obscene amount of cash.
Since I don’t have an easy solution, I’ll just have to go with my heart: one cannot be nearly as awful as one imagines in their times of worst doubt and fear. Simply put, you’re never going to be “the worst novelist ever” or even “such a bad writer that they should make it illegal for me to write.”
Doubt and fear stalk us, but unlike lions, they don’t just prey upon the weak and old and sickly among us writers. No, these hunters are indiscriminate. Pulitzer Prize-winning writers can suddenly have an attack of self-doubt that makes them wonder if their entire life was a waste. We can all be afraid that our work is somehow grossly flawed, and that we, as artists, well . . . that we just plain suck.
I’ve had a fairly unenthusiastic response from some beta readers and it’s put the cold stark terror into my heart that my novel does, indeed, suck.
It’s a hard fear to shake. Even if it gets published, even then, there will always be haters and detractors. You have to feel sorry for the big names, too, for they draw some exceptionally negative attention. Ever read George R.R. Martin’s blog and comments? Ever read any of the several websites devoted to mocking him? Yeah . . . gotta kinda wince about that. Even he must have bad days where he wonders if he’s going to just be a flash in the pan of memory and have his books drop out of readers’ consciousnesses as soon as the series is done (or he is dead.)
That maybe, yeah, he sucks, too.
Overcoming this doubt and fear . . . it’s a difficult task. It may be the most difficult part of writing. I try to calm myself by reading books by inept authors and then reminding myself that I can string a sentence together better than that person, anyway. It’s not a big consolation, but when you’re at the bottom of the well, it’s better than being alone in the cold dark.
So, here I am, reading bad prose and then trying to recall all the “good” parts of my own work. After a while, it does help a bit . . . say, I DID write a nice scene there. And, yeah, my character IS particularly cool.
It’s small solace, but it’s what I have. What do you do when the bugbears come to bite?