I am about halfway into about my millionth edit on my upcoming novel, and I am tearing out my hair. Why am I tearing out my hair? Well, several reasons, but a large part of it is frustration with myself.
I am five drafts into this novel. Five. I finished it during NaNoWriMo in 2014, did a bunch of polishing and then set it aside for a year. After that, I rewrote it again and set it aside for another few months. Now I’m looking at it yet again, and I keep running into errors that make me want to scream, throw in my writing towel, and take up knitting. (I’m atrocious at knitting. Ask my mom.)
As an editor, I’m plagued by pervasive doubt that my writing isn’t good enough (and it’s not). I constantly feel like I should know better and that I am somehow a hack who knows nothing despite many happy clients, many successful editing contracts, and several published stories floating around the ether. We all get the feeling that we’re barking up the wrong tree and want to run away to join the circus. Even professionals get it.
What makes us different, what makes writers stand out, is we live in that moment and push through it. I’m continuing to edit, and at the end of this last pass I know this book will look great. Of course, I’ll be living in self-doubt while my editor (yes, I have one) reads it and gives me her opinion. But I am still writing. I’m not going to quit, no matter how much I scream and yell and throw temper tantrums at my keyboard.
We keep going.
The moment we choose to keep writing and push that self-doubt and pain aside is our defining one. Sure, we’re scared. We are all scared. Every creative on the planet is scared (or they should be if they aren’t). I’ve been playing violin for twenty-six years, and I still get nervous every time I step onto the stage to perform. Heck, I don’t even like playing where anyone can hear me. But I still do it.
We keep going.
Being scared is okay. Being frustrated, upset, and angry is okay. What’s not okay is letting that rule us. Is stopping just because we have this lingering doubt that we’ll never get it. The open secret that all of us feel that exact same way probably doesn’t surprise you, but it does mean you’re never alone. As one of my heroes, Kristin Lamb, says in her blog: We Are Not Alone. It’s one of her battle cries, and it’s one I want to see echoed across the net. Make it your battle cry when you slump over the keys, crying and scared because you sent a query off to yet another agent. Make it your roar of triumph when that acceptance letter comes in. Make it your whimper when that crippling moment of I’m a fraud sets in. You are not alone.
We. Keep. Going.
Every word we type, every story we daydream, every character who springs to life in our heads when we’re staring out the window on the bus, this affirms what we are. We are storytellers. Don’t forget that feeling when you first discover your next story. When it blooms to life in your chest and you can’t stop thinking about it. You wander around all day, and everyone looks at you like you’re in love. And you are. You’re in love with writing, with the creative process. Remember that high, that sense of invincibility. Let it carry you through the moments when all you want is to crawl into bed and pretend you’re a slug.
We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams.
(Ode by Shaughnessy)