When it comes to having faith in my own writing, I am decidedly agnostic. My mindset, when it comes to my own work, is characterized by ambivalence and indecision. Some days, I have a large amount of faith, other days very little. Sometimes, I only have faith every tenth time I look at that dreaded word document containing my manuscript.
In my experience, with writing, it is never enough.
I can tell myself that where I am as a writer is enough, but in truth I don’t ever believe that it is enough. I don’t ever think my writing is great, or even good. When I’m feeling that there isn’t a point, because I just don’t have that mysterious It Factor, I tell myself that I am in this industry because I love it and this is what I want and pursuing a dream is worth something. Even if you don’t achieve it.
I don’t think I am alone in feeling this way. In fact, I think almost all writers at some point, are subject to feelings of inadequacy.
When you’ve just begun writing, you think you will feel satisfied if you’ve finished a manuscript. You pine for the sense of achievement that knowing you can write “THE END” will bring you. When you’ve drafted a manuscript, you feel as if you will be satisfied if you can revise. When you’ve revised, you feel as if you’ll be satisfied if you’ve revised well enough to get requests on your manuscript, well enough to get an agent. When you’re published and your book comes out, you feel as if you’ll be satisfied if you get good reviews and critical acclaim, or if your book sells a squillion copies.
But if you’re anything like me even if all the external factors affirm your writing skill you will still occasionally be plagued by feelings of inadequacy. Of not being good enough. Of not measuring up to the standard you’ve constructed in your head.
There have been many blog posts written about feelings of inadequacy, and how to overcome them. People say that you just need to believe in yourself and stop being your own harshest critic. And yet, there is no switch we can flick that will turn off this type of thinking.
There is nothing we can do to stop our own yearning for something more, and in the end I am not sure that this is a bad thing. After all, as a writer, being your own harshest critic can lead to you putting in the work, the effort, to truly create something that is your best work. It can lead you to give up, or it can lead you to constantly better yourself.
And I confess, some days, I think I’m going to be one of the ones who gives up. But most days I attack my word documents with zest and vigor, because I’m determined to take this writing journey somewhere.
I hope those of you who have experience similar feelings, those of you who sometimes feel like you’re not up to the task you’ve set yourself, will join me in taking those feelings of inadequacy and turning them into something better—turning them into a desire to avoid stagnation and celebrate the progress you experience.