Insecure Writer’s Support Group

IWSG badgeThis is my first month participating in this blog hope, although I’ve been part of the Facebook group for a while. I think the title is pretty self-explanatory. Writers are an insecure, neurotic bunch- I tell myself that’s what makes us “artistic.” On the first Wednesday of every month, a bunch of bloggers write posts about being insecure and then we all go around commiserating with each other. I decided that’s exactly what I need.  You can read all about it on this website.

My problem now is where to start. So many insecurities, so little time! And while it’s nice to get support, I also don’t want to spend an undue amount of time dwelling on the bad stuff. So maybe I’ll start by listing my most typical insecurities and how I deal with them. The first one is also the worst.

1. I am not and never will be GOOD ENOUGH.

In my case, I don’t really know where this comes from, except for perhaps an innate perfectionism. I was the kid who cried if I got a “B” in school, putting my parents in the enviable position of assuring me that it was okay to not be perfect all the time. In fact, I really can’t blame any of this on my parents. They were always completely loving and supportive and assured me that I was talented and amazing and so on. Except maybe I didn’t believe them. I continued to get positive reinforcement just about everywhere, but it still wasn’t enough. I guess I wasn’t looking for good enough; I was looking for GENIUS. Which I’m clearly not, and am very sad about.

How do I deal with this?

I tell myself that being my own worst critic is great. It’s much better than having someone else fill that role- especially a loved one.

I tell myself that this is what spurs me to improve all the time, rather than settling for mediocrity. Though I still worry that I’m mediocre. SHUTUPSHUTUPSHUTUP inner critic!

I tell myself that writing is just as much craft as it is art, which means it can be learned, and I learn more every day.

I tell myself that while I might not be a genius, I do have some talent. I don’t really recognize it in myself, but other people seem to, and it’s not nice to call them liars. Yeah, I’m a hard case.

2. Soooo many people are better writers than I am. This makes it hard to read good books because I keep comparing myself unfavorably to the author.

How do I deal with this?

I remind myself that I’m looking at a finished product. It’s immensely comforting to read -often in acknowledgments or an afterword- the hell that the writer went through to complete this work and how many people were involved. Sometimes legions of beta readers, proofreaders, critique partners and editors of all kinds. Right now, it’s just me, and I’m doing all right. I am, really!

I also remind myself that tastes differ. I might ooh and ah over someone’s lengthy, gorgeous descriptive passages, and then find that others are unimpressed, or flat-out bored. Even War and Peace gets bad reviews. I don’t need everyone to love what I do. I won’t lie- I WANT everyone to love what I do, even while I understand that’s unrealistic.

3. I am not creative or artistic. I got this into my head long ago and again, I don’t know where it came from. Probably from comparing myself to others. Some people generate plots and stories constantly without any effort at all. Some people convey images and emotion in lyrical and imaginative ways. Not me.

How I deal with this?

I write more. The more I write, the more ideas I have. A lot of practice makes me better at conveying them. I’m beginning to understand that creativity is a muscle that needs exercise to grow. I also understand that artistry is pretty subjective too, and again, a mixture of craft and talent. I can work on the craft, and I can do my best to believe others when they tell me I have talent.

I read books on writing. For the last year, there has not been a time that I haven’t been reading a book about writing. At first I got overwhelmed, feeling I needed to follow all of the rules, but then I realized that there are as many ways of writing as there are writers. I’m getting better and better at picking out the things that are helpful to me and ignoring the rest.  The helpful things have been many, and have also shown me that  lot of what I thought was a matter of genius is simply a matter of understanding and execution of technique. And much of that can be achieved with practice.

Whew. That’s enough insecurity for one day! Do any of these strike a chord with you?

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35 thoughts on “Insecure Writer’s Support Group

  1. Hi, this is also my first month at joining this blog hop and you’re the first person I’ve been brave enough to comment on (probably because we’re both newbies & in this together).
    Insecurity & not feeling good enough? I guess that’s why we’re all here – but at least you’re still trying and not whimpering in a corner. It’s also a good balance against the opposite – blindly believing you’re brilliant all the time, how unbearable would that be?
    I can also relate to your comment about not measuring up to other authors, I often have to take a step back and remind myself that I’m not here to be the same as everyone else but to be me and try to do what I do best, as you say, just pick up the bits that work for you, ignore the rest and keep plugging away.
    I’ll stop there or this’ll be longer than my blog post! nice to ‘meet’ you 🙂

    1. Hey! Nice to meet you too! I’m loving this group because writing is such a solitary pursuit, it’s easy to feel like you’re all alone with these feelings.

      It does help me feel better when amazing writers confess to insecurities as well- then I know it’s more universal and not just me because I’m crap. 😀

      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Hello, Christina, nice to meet you! So glad you joined the IWSG, it’s a great group. And guess what, you have the same doubts and feelings as most writer’s that I know. It’s hard to put yourself out there for all to see and to be judged. Be confident, put your best foot (or writing) forward and go for it.

    1. Nice to meet you too! It’s nice to know I’m not alone. It’s hard to make yourself vulnerable to strangers and criticism, but sharing can be so rewarding. Thanks for the encouragement!

  3. Welcome to the IWSG – we’re so happy to have you. I’ve found so much encouragement in our community, it rocks. I love how you remind yourself about the positives rather than focus on your insecurities. Most days I can do the same thing, but, every once in awhile I think, “Ugh, no one is going to like this book. I’m crazy!” hehe Best of luck to you!

    Elsie
    co-host IWSG

    1. Thank you! This is a great group, and so nice to have around for just those moments when you think it’s all horrible.

  4. Welcome, Christina. Great post. I think we all go through the stages you’ve mentioned. We just have to get over ourselves. 🙂 Best wishes.

    1. Yes, I thought about writing for a long time, but didn’t actually start improving until I started doing it on a regular basis. Who would have thought? 🙂

  5. The other commenters have already said this, but yes–you’re on the right track! (Although really, how do I know? I’m not *there* yet either. :)) Really, I think most of us go through this. And the ones who don’t generally aren’t as good as they like to think they are. Best of luck to you!

    1. Yes, insecurity seems to be a common writerly trait. And you’re right- the arrogant are seldom as great as they think. 🙂

  6. Christina: Welcome and yes, we’ve been (and are) there all the time. So, first, breathe. Literally. Give yourself a chance to relax, find something to take your mind from writing, even if for just a day or two. Then put all of those books, articles, advice filled blogs and everything else you’ve been reading away. As in locked away. Now…you’ll probably have to breathe again, that’s okay and you should. Then, write wildly crazy without correction, without pause, without cognizant thought. Let the words and stories dictate what shows up on the page. Get out of your own way and allow yourself to write. Then Breathe some more. Be grateful for what you’ve accomplished (and proud as well.) Then write some more. At some point you’ll know when to stop. Let this stuff sit for a little while and bask in the glow of all that work. Then (breathe) go back and read without your critical self. Read out loud and see where your words take you. Find your path and joy in writing. Breathe and move forward.

    1. Thank you, Dean. It does seem like just letting everything else go and writing is the best way to deal with all of this.

  7. I’m a perfectionist, so I can relate to the first one.
    And the last one. I’m a musician as well as an author, but I don’t feel nearly as creative writing as I do playing. Bummer.
    And yes, you are on the list! That’s how I found you. Welcome to the IWSG blog group. You’re in the right place.

    1. Thank you! You know, I’m also a musician and it’s never occurred to me to have as much angst around my playing as I do around my writing. Very strange! i must approach the two very differently.
      This is a great group- so glad I found it!

  8. The Insecure Writers’ Group has a lot of emerita/us members among the Glorious Dead (read any writer’s published correspondence). I’ve got the same mantra about comparing my first draft to someone else’s published, hence nth draft. Very useful. Another useful though (recite as many times as necessary): “The feelings about the work are independent of the quality of the work.” Exchanging beta reading with writing colleagues has taught me how to edit my own work and see its larger shape. If you look back down the road and your earlier work looks not so good, it’s a sign you have gotten better.

    1. “The feelings about the work are independent of the quality of the work.”

      I love that! It shall become my mantra. 🙂 I’m getting close to the point where I need to start sending my work to beta readers, and though I’ve experienced the process before, and really benefited from it, I’m still terrified at the prospect!

      1. The other notion I’ve found helpful is the notion of the Guardian Demons: the stronger the sense of unease, the closer you’re getting to Treasure, Pay Dirt, Ground Zero in artistic terms. You only learn your central obsessions by writing about them, and sometimes it takes the response of readers to map the shape of them. Above all, never forget that writing is also a performing art, so stage fright is part of the package.

      2. Wow, this is all stuff I’ve felt and haven’t been able to articulate. I actually had a plot breakthrough a few days ago, but it only came about because I became increasingly uncomfortable with the feel of my story. Something felt “off,” and I couldn’t rest until I’d discovered what it was and fixed it.

        Honestly, I think I’ve learned more about myself in the past year of working on this book than I have in the past decade or more!

        Thank you so much for these helpful comments. Good stuff! 🙂

  9. As soon as I read the first one, I thought, “this is me!” I put a lot of pressure on myself in school.. it’s like good grades would make up for all my other imperfections (bland looks, lack of athleticism, etc.) Oh, the tragedy when I brought home my first “F” paper in 4th grade – received for not trading papers fast enough (and for the teacher having the ‘pleasure’ of teaching my brother 4 years prior!)

    As for comparing myself unfavorably to others – check. Bashing my creativity – check. At least I don’t have a heavy ego to lug around 🙂

    1. Yeah, I was a terrible athlete at a school where sports was everything. Good grades were one way to stand out. I always thought it was galling when good athletes also got good grades. So unfair! 🙂

      What’s scary is that in high school, my ego was huge, though I’m sure it was just masking a lot of insecurity. Which brings me back to square one.. 🙂

  10. I LOVED what you said about creativity being a muscle that needs to be exercised. I’ve been feeling that as well. I think that’s what finally drove me to start Impromptu Promptlings. I needed to hold myself accountable to write something other than my journal everyday.

    My biggest fear in the middle of all this was being critiqued, until I was able to honestly admit that I AM a novice at this and have so much to learn. That’s made me extremely open to what others have to say about what I write. Well at least the people I respect. If other folks who’ve never written a word in their life except to sign their name on their checks give me tons of advice, I CAN get snarky! Or hurt…

    Your blog was so thoughtful, I’m wondering if you’d mind if I reblog it to Impromptu Promptlings so maybe a few others could see it? I also have a private blog where I talk to myself a lot about what writing I did that day that I’d like to put it on. I felt it was an extremely honest, supportive blog. Let me know. I assume all you have to do is hit the reblog button?

    Have a great weekend.

    1. So glad it resonated with you! I’m super fearful of criticism, but I always try to remember to consider the source. I think it’s only people who don’t write who think it’s easy- if anything, I’ve found fellow writers to be the most supportive of all. Many of them are also good at giving kind, yet useful critiques. Probably because they know what it feels like to be on the receiving end. 😿

      Feel free to reblog; I think you just hit the button and then you have the option of adding a comment.

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