Uncertainty is like creeping death. It rips at our sanity, gently pulling it from us with icy phalanges, aided by our lingering self-doubt.
We write. We edit.
We write some more. We edit a lot more.
Then we do this thing to ourselves: we read other books. We do it because we have to. We want to. It helps hone our craft.
Then, unlike anything from a double rainbow and unicorn story, it hits us like a hot mortar turd: my writing sucks. No, correction, it doesn’t just suck. It’s pure dog-shit-suck. Not the good, hard lumpy dog shit either like when Fido eats paper. It’s the runny kind that gets all over; splashes off the ground like a heat-seeking melted Hershey’s.
It’s a completely different level of hell-fearing-sucktitude.
It’s not paranoia. I call it The Writers Chasm. As we claw the sides of the slick-walled vertical pit and slide into despair, the mind betrays us. Grey matter softens. That doubt thing enters. It rattles in our braincase like a BB in a vacuum container.
Look, it happens. Writers are self-loathers. We invite self-doubt like a dime store whore attracts a venereal disease. In fact, we accept it as a hallucinogenic state of minimal existence.
Your fingers tap away at a keyboard, the painter dances the brush through magical strokes, the DJ spins the turntable to the masses that move in unison – who knows – creative shit is going down. And then WHAM. There’s this strange thing that happens. You see someone doing exactly what you do, but they’re doing it at a level that exceeds human awe. There aren’t expectations for what they’re doing or how they’re doing it because that shit is levels beyond this planet. Again, human awe. Like Michael Jordan when he was Mr. Michael-Fucking-Air-Jordan. Yes, that type of awe.
Or you read a fresh book and just after that moment when you pick it up and smell it – Oh, you don’t? You should. – you begin to think, “Goddamn, this writer is really good.” The next thought strangles your mind, “I hate this writer.” But you don’t. You really don’t. No-no, we don’t hate other writers, it’s just jealousy seeping through the blood flowing in our writerly veins.You desire to make people think and feel like the book just made you think and feel. It’s a writer’s reality.
We desire to be better than what we read.
Your thoughts are that you’ll never be such a writer. Those eloquent words will hide from you or run screaming to another book – not your shitty book. The best story will find another soul to pour out of because your soul is scarred with the blackness of dread. You won’t make as much money as so-and-so author because the dolla-dolla bills will elude you – you’re underserving. Precious awards will be dolled out to other penmasters that you envy – your writing is unworthy. You think you’ll never compare to the best. Or the semi-best. Or even those that publish a lot of books and make good money doing it.
That mountain of envy looms. Its jagged shadow jabs at your very core. Climbing said Everest with your trusty quill is an unenviable task. It’s a solitary trek – uninhabited, disparaging – dejection settles in and not just because Sherpas don’t like you. You greet your depression with a welcomed hug. A snuggle at the nose by your own inadequacy. Your abs contract. You hunch over. Projectile vomit spews forth from your facehole. Your worst failures smack your headspace. Your eyes scream.
What I’ve learned from writing is that comparisons are good for buying electronics, the iPhone, printers, and even styling gel. But, comparing yourself to other writers just doesn’t work. It gets you nowhere. It gets you depressed. It allows that creeping death to ruin your writing. Don’t let creeping death ruin your writing.
There are times when we write and it’s like, “Fuck yeah, this is really good shit.” Then the next sentence appears on paper and it’s like, “Fuck yeah, this IS shit.”
That’s normal. It happens. It’s gonna happen. It’ll continue to happen. It happens to the hugely successful authors of this generation and it’s happened to those in every past generation. They just thought of it this way, “Thouests writing is simply superb at thus moment.” Then the next sentence and they were like, “Thouests writing escapes thou at thus moment.”
Be you. Don’t be them. Write the stories you write because those aren’t the stories they write. Your writing comes from you, not them, not anyone else – YOU.