In the words of author Shelton Keys Dunning, “Writing is a solitary action.” Thus, the only advice I get is me talking to myself. Not good. That is one of the reasons I started this blog–to reach out to other authors and share feedback.
I got feedback in spades to my previous post “Fear of Finishing.” The advice is good for every writer facing self-doubt. So, at the risk of pink cheeks on my part, I share the tips and counsel that seasoned author and editor Shelton Keys Dunning gave me.
Before you read Shelton’s words, know this. Writers are like actors–we die without an audience. Writers are also human. We wither without someone to stroke us and fertilize our creative machine once in a while. Hence, the necessity of a support group.
The support group can exist through friends cultivated on-line or in person through a face-to-face writers group or in fellow students in a classroom setting. However or wherever, a support group of fellow penmen is invaluable to an author in turmoil.
Now to the feedback:
Fear is as normal as it is debilitating. I’m concerned that my edit contributed to your self-doubt. Honestly though, I will champion your talent through to the hellfires and back again. This next step is critical yes, heart-wrenching and laced with every type of harbinger of doom possible. It’s how you channel that fear that will make you or break you. I want you to read the following and take it to heart.
1. You have the talent. You have more than most. I would not lie to you about this.
2. Dead with Envy is a story only you can tell. And it is a story worthy of bookshelves. Again, I’m not lying.
3. Editing is the most difficult thing to do as a writer. You get through this, you can do anything. Period.
4. Writing is a very solitary action, it isn’t always clear that you have a support group. But you do have one. And I am your biggest fan. You can lean on me.
5. My mother wants to buy your book. I’m not lying. So you have already touched readers and you’re not even finished yet.
6. Set-backs aren’t permanent. Neither are road blocks. What can be permanent, though, is the wall you build around your heart to shield you from the unknown. Surround yourself instead with supportive voices. AND
BELIEVE THEM WHEN THEY SAY THAT YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL AND TALENTED.
7. Once your story is published, do not worry about your audience. The phrase: You build it, they will come, applies here. It worked for baseball. It can work for you. Will there be people that don’t like it?
Sure. Just like not everyone likes fried pickles. That’s okay. There will be others who will LOVE it.
8. Fear of the unknown is normal. I’ve been there. I am there. You are not alone.
9. My book: The Trouble with Henry? That took me two years to publish it. Two years passed since writing “Finis” before I felt ready to hit the publish button. I’m still finding flaws, but I am my own worst critic. Just like you are your own worst critic. You don’t have to take two years for Dead With Envy, but you can if you want to. You are in control.
10. Have I told you not to worry yet, that you are talented and beautiful? Have I said that Dead with Envy deserves to be on bookshelves? Just checking.
It’s hard to find your heart when you are mired in self-doubt. Every writer faces this. Every one. Even Stephen King. And if he claims he doesn’t, he’s lying. Think back to the first time you had to send an email to someone, anyone. I don’t know about you, but the first email I
ever sent terrified me witless. What if I did it wrong? What if I didn’t make any sense? What if I got lost in the world like snail mail through the post office and if the email did arrive, it arrived broken and torn and unreadable? There are still days when I face job hunts that I stare at the emails and wonder if I’ve forgotten the entire English language. Or what about blog posts? The first blog post you ever did, how did you feel then? How do you feel now? I promise publishing a book might feel bigger than a blog post, but it’s only ’cause it took more hours to do.
It might help to write all your questions down on paper, and answer them, on paper. If you ask yourself a question and you don’t know the answer, write “I need to research this” for the answer. That way, you’ve acknowledged that you don’t know, but you can find the answer. Breaking all your fears down into little pieces and tackling one at a time, helps.
And now that I’ve taken up your blog, I will leave you with this: I am here. I’m not going anywhere, heaven forbid, and you couldn’t be safer than among your peers. I promise this too shall pass.