I didn’t write much in the last few weeks. I either stayed in bed during my writing time or sat at the computer staring at a blank word processor screen. Not a single word would come out. I started to get a little scared, as I always do when this happens, as if my inspiration has ended our relationship, packed a suitcase and left. I should know by know that it always comes back, but I’m always scared that any time could be the last time. That any word could be my last word of fiction because this tenuous relationship between myself and my muse could end, leaving me high, dry and uninspired.
I get a lot of these small crises. I listen too much to the voice in the back of my head (not a literal voice, don’t lock me away!) that tells me that I’m not a very good writer, that I’ll never make it, that I’m just wasting my time and stroking my fragile ego.
But if I listen to that voice, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If I never take the leap of faith required to keep writing novels, edit the hell out of them and release them to the wider world, I’ll never get better. Writing will remain an unpaid hobby. Which is fine, but I have a lot of hobbies. Writing five short stories a year isn’t going to help me improve. I need to take the plunge on novels and novellas more, taking risks on ideas even if that does mean I end up with a pile of unfinished half-manuscripts because the love runs dry. Even if a book doesn’t come across as well as I’d hoped, somebody out there will find something to love and that’s all that matters. Ignoring the worlds and people I see in my mind means I’m the only person who will ever get to enjoy them – and I think that’s a shame.
It’s true that when I look back at my previous free stories, some of them could really use work. I could rewrite them all, but I think the best thing to do at this point is just keep moving forward. Those stories are free, I never charged a dime for them because I understood I was still learning my craft. I’m still learning every time I sit at the computer and write. It’s true that I might look back in ten years and regret some of my novels or think my writing from this time is awful but you only learn from experience. I want to learn. I want to grow. I believe that the work I’m doing now is worth paying for, but I also understand that I’m still a work in progress. I don’t want to wait until I’m fifty and I think I’m at the height of my powers, put out one masterpiece and expire. Life is short, something I’m reminded of every day. I can’t let my lack of confidence get in the way of doing what I love.
Writing isn’t about ego, either. It’s easy to forget that when you’re required to write about writing and promote the hell out of your work in order to sell things. It’s easy to become a writer – that is, somebody who loves looking at their reviews and stats to see if the numbers have changed. Somebody who’s obsessed with their job title instead of the actual work. Writing has to be about the stories, the tales and the characters that are dying to get out. I have plenty of those inside of me. I can’t let the rest get in the way – not reviews, stats, marketing, writing for an audience or my own embattled self-esteem. Sometimes it does. I’ll confess that I’ve fallen into this trap. I need to limit my Goodreads and Facebook time. Both suck on my energy while offering little in return.
I’m getting back on track now. I just put down another 1200 words on a work-in-progress and I have that satisfied feeling that tells me I’m going in the right direction. I’m about to open another file, 3k that I put down on paper the other day and work on that for a while. I have a clear plan for this year that requires dedication and perseverance and I intend to see it through.