Today I would like to address a virus that occasionally infects authors and would-be writers. It is a sickness that can be incapacitating and if not addressed can be fatal.
The illness? Self-Doubt
Self-doubt for a writer can be crippling. It starts as a small little voice that grows into a negative voice track that is on a loop, shouting in your head:
• You have nothing new to say.
• Your characters are lame.
• You were a one book wonder.
• Your story is implausible.
• You’ll never finish.
• No one will want to read your book.
• You have no talent.
You need to stop that negative self-talk right now. Plug your ears, sing a sound loudly to drown out the fear and self-doubt.
You CAN do this.
Here is how I know that you can do this:
Each one of you interested in writing; whether it is a children’s story, a great romance or a business how-to workbook, has a point of view. You have an experience you want to share. It doesn’t matter if that story is something your mother made up years ago that you want to capture in a picture story book or a series of lessons you’ve learned in your years of business, there is an audience out there just waiting to hear what you have to say.
Giving into those self-doubt feelings and not trying to write a book is like deciding you shouldn’t be an accountant because the world already has enough accountants.
Not true. The world can always use another accountant and the world definitely needs to read what you have to share.
You are unique and even if the story you want to write has been written one hundred times before, you will have a different spin, a point-of-view that is unique to your own life experiences.
Stand ten accountants up next to each other and they will all be different because:
• They came from a different geographical area.
• They had a different family dynamic.
• They have different personalities.
• They have suffered or endured different experiences.
• They prefer different types of people.
• They approach their job with a different attitude.
• They have different work ethics.
You can say the same thing about you and your book. You will bring a different perspective to the boy-meets-girl story than anyone else. Your writing will take on a life of its own based on your past relationships, your values, your background, your sense of humor, your writing style and so much more.
No Two Stories Are The Same
Let’s take the example of a boy-meets-girl story and let’s examine the different ways this common love story might be told:
• Time period – the story will be vastly different if set in the Jurassic era versus the year 2457.
• Point of view – it is from the man or woman? Are they strong and confident or weak and shy? Are they experienced, cynical and jaded or innocent, delicate and loving?
• Conflict – this can be almost anything and each of you, as writers, will think of something unique. Mystery, vampires, financial ruin, jealously, etc.
• Side stories – will there be comic relief, sibling rivalry, talking animals, overbearing parents?
• Ending – it doesn’t have to be happily ever after. How you end the story will be different from others.
That is just one story line. The same is true for a non-fiction book. You will bring your own unique experiences, point-of-view and best practices to the subject.
What if I Get Rejected?
You will, so get over it. A fear of being rejected is no reason to not write – it is just an excuse. I am sorry if that sounds harsh, but even the best writers have been rejected. Stephen King. Dr. Seuss, J.K. Rowling. Don’t believe me? Here is a list from Bubble Cow of 11 famous authors who were rejected before they became household names, and they weren’t rejected just once:
1. Madeline L’Engle’s book, A Wrinkle in Time, was turned down 29 times before she found a publisher.
2. C.S. Lewis received over 800 rejections before he sold a single piece of writing.
3. Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind was rejected by 25 publishers.
4. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was rejected 121 times.
5. Johathan Livingston Seagull was rejected 40 times.
6. Louis L’Amour was rejected over 200 times before he sold any of his writing.
7. The San Francisco Examiner turned down Rudyard Kipling’s submission in 1889 with the note, “I am sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just do not know how to use the English language.”
8. An editor once told F. Scott Fitzgerald, “You’d have a decent book if you’d get rid of that Gatsby Character.”
9. The Dr. Seuss book, And to Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street, was rejected for being “too different from other juveniles on the market to warrant selling.”
10. George Orwell’s Animal Farm was rejected with the comment, “It’s impossible to sell animal stories in the USA.”
11. The manuscript for The Diary of Anne Frank received the editorial comment, “This girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the curiosity level.”
Here is a thought to keep in mind: Each rejection puts you one step closer to acceptance!
The World Needs Your Book
Look in the mirror and repeat after me: “The world needs my story.”
The world doesn’t just want your story, they need it. How can you be so selfish as to deprive them of what you have to write?
There will come a time when the muse disappears for a moment or two, but when that happens, keep the faith, breathe deep and trust that she will return. If you have a yearning down deep to write a book then you must follow through.
If you need help unleashing your story, take a class, join a writer’s group, listen to podcasts, talk to other writers – surround yourself with like-minded people and encourage each other.
Replace the fears and self-doubt with positive energy.
• Picture holding your finished book in your hands.
• Visualize the window display at Barnes and Noble.
• See yourself on the Ellen show talking about your story.
• See your name at the top of the NY Times Best Sellers list!
To paraphrase Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams:
If you write it… they will read!
Please don’t let fear and self-doubt keep you from creating a legacy!