Tag Archives: Inherent Writerly Insecurity

Feeling Insecure? You’re Normal #atozchallenge


Our letter of the day is I, and what better I word is there for a writer than insecurity?

Look, even if you’re not a writer, you feel insecure from time to time. It’s normal.

But then you pour your soul out onto a lot of pieces of paper (or computer files, or one giant file… whatever your process is!) and you realize that there’s an inherent vulnerability involved with being a writer. That no matter if you thought you were writing about Dick and Jane, when you take a step back and give your manuscript a cold, hard look, you realize how many of your own issues and insecurities you’ve laid out on the page.

(Someone once claimed to have picked up a summation of my marriage from my short story, Mannequin! I will refrain from saying if he was right in his assessment or not.)

But it’s more than that. As writers, “You like me!” is something we strive for. Because, after all, if no one likes us, no one will read our books! And while writing remains a labor of love, it’s also a career — and how can you excel in your career if no one reads your works… if no one likes you?

I call it IWI: Inherent Writerly Insecurity. and yes, I’ve written about it a couple of years ago.

I think it’s important, because it spurs us as writers to do better. To focus on making the best book possible, which seems to have emerged as the unofficial theme of this year’s A to Z challenge for me.

And it spurs us to ask for help (hey, that was yesterday’s post!) and to steel ourselves for the feedback that comes with that help. Because as welcome as it is, feedback is daunting. It’s scary. And when your editor shoots from the hip (and I’m looking at myself… and all my clients here!), that feedback can be a bit tougher than you’d like it to be. I know that sometimes, because of IWI, my clients read my comments a lot more sternly than I could ever say them.

So there’s good stuff in IWI. Embrace it. Learn to use it as just another tool at your disposal.

And remember: If you let your insecurity paralyze you, you’ll definitely never get any book written, let alone the best possible book. So don’t be paralyzed. Reach out to others for help. I offer a While You Write service that lets me hold your hand as you work through your IWI (or through difficult plot twists and turns). See if your editor does, too, if you’re not my client.

If not, reach out to a trusted friend. A loved one. Whatever or whoever it takes, find your path through the insecurity and create the best book possible.


#SaystheEditor: Inherent Writerly Insecurity


Last week, one of my friends and clients — we’ll call her Stevie — got a rejection from a literary agent. She asked me for my interpretation (“Hey, she strongly encourages you to query others so yes, I’d say she’s encouraging.” I am very helpful at times, aren’t I?) and then said she wasn’t happy with part of her latest WIP.

So no surprise that Stevie crops up on Facebook saying she feels like a fraud. And no real surprise when a bunch of other writer friends — published in various ways, as always — chimed in that they feel the same way.

I threw sparkles and unicorns at ’em ’cause I recognized what was happening: our buddy IWI, or Inherent Writerly Insecurity.

It’s part and parcel of the curse of being a writer. The self-doubt. The feeling like you can’t replicate past success, even if the success is something only in your perception. Hell, I feel it. I worry I’ll never be able to create a character as wonderful and alive as Trevor Fucking Wolff. And with a name like that, are you surprised?

The question really becomes how we deal with it. If we can learn to embrace the Inherent Writerly Insecurity enough to make it work for us. No one as amazing as Trevor? Throw that gauntlet DOWN, folks. I’m THERE. (I’d like to think I did it with T, the bass player for Ice Cubes in Hell and yes, it took me THIS long to realize I have two amazing characters who are bass players and whose names begin with the same letter. We’ll get to author signatures another time, though. And if you haven’t met T, pick up Broken. For sale at all your favorite retailers for a whopping 99 cents.)

This is a hard lesson to learn, to make IWI work for us. To view it as a challenge, and the fact that not everyone can do what I do is part of what makes the world such a wonderful place. Takes all kinds, right?


Since you ain’t me, here’s what I tell my clients, all those Steves and Stevies, who drop into my inbox to lean on my really strong shoulders:

It’s okay to feel this way. Hell, you wouldn’t be normal if you didn’t.

But yes, it’s you who created everything you see on those pages at B&N, Amazon, and GoodReads. You really did accomplish that, and it is proof you are not a fraud. Frauds always get found out. Always. Trust me. I’ve pulled back more than one curtain on people who try to call themselves Oz. I know whereof I speak, and I know damn well, having seen the work you send my way, that you’re NOT a fraud.

What you’re listening to right now is the nagging voice of doubt. We all have it, even the people who aren’t authors. For us, though, who take every phone ring that’s not an agent offering representation as a rejection, who take every glance at our sales reports as a rejection even though we just checked thirty seconds ago, well… we let those demons in. We let our breath catch every time the phone rings. We keep checking the sales reports.

We have to be more diligent than the rest of the world about our fears and doubts. We can’t let them cripple us.

That doesn’t mean that every now and then, we don’t need to spend a day (or, better yet, an hour … okay, ten seconds) beating ourselves up because what’s in our head doesn’t transfer to the page with the same eloquence it danced across our brains. I think that taking a step back and listening to the doubt can be a good thing. It helps push us forward — see above about Trevor and T and the way I intend to make other characters as alive and vivid as those two.

Use it. Inherent Writerly Insecurity should be nothing more than another tool in our arsenal, another way in which we can connect to characters of all shapes, sizes, temperaments, and talents. Let it power your character’s flaws, their own sagging self-confidence.

Don’t let it get you down. Don’t let it cripple you.

You are made of stronger stuff than this. I promise.

And I got your back. More than anything, I got your back.