Jon has graciously asked me to write a guest post for his wonderful blog, so I’d like to start by thanking him for the opportunity. I am often privy to his posts before they go live, but I still stop by here a couple days a week with my morning cup of coffee to catch up on his insightful interactions within the comments. And to now be invited to leave my mark here is a real honour. So, thank you, Jon. Xoxo

He was also lovely (or crazy!) enough to give me carte blanche on my topic for today. Discussing the ins and outs of the Twitter Writing Community was suggested and while I’d be happy to address that another time, the subject that really stood out to me is the confidence we, as writers, battle.

I know Jon already did a great piece on Impostor Syndrome that you can find here – Linky! But I’d like to express my thoughts on the subject as it specifically relates to writers. You can be the most confident person in the world, but, for many of us, when pen meets paper, the atmosphere shifts. And then the advice from others arrives, oftentimes uninvited, on our doorsteps while we search for the magical words from a confidante when we feel we’re failing.

When I was growing up, I had an aunt with whom I was very close. She was one of those souls who always remained young at heart and found a way to turn everything into a game. And when I would stay at her house, which was often, her mantra was, “The rules are…there are no rules!”

Recently, I was talking to my editor about a writing subject and his reply was, “Don’t worry about the rules. If there even ARE any rules.” Naturally, that sparked memories of eating chocolate donuts at Aunt Marlene’s kitchen table with my cousins at 2:00 in the morning when I was about six years old. Talk about freedom!

Almost 40 years later, I sat at my computer wishing I had the same madcap luxury with my writing. But I need to conform to what agents, publishers, and, more importantly, readers want. Don’t I? There are rules, regs, and protocols for this. Right?

The long and the short of it is…it depends on who you ask. And it also depends on how opinionated said adviser is.

I see it all the time among writers I know. Everything from the more complicated questions like “What’s your process?” to the more easily answered ponderings like “Do you listen to music while writing?”

We could chalk a lot of it up to curiosity and getting to know our fellow creatives, but I think it’s usually more than that. I think it’s validation that we’re looking for. Do I have the correct process? How are you doing it? I think I might be doing it wrong.

Do I need an outline? Should I edit as I go along or when I’m done? Should I have a word count goal and, if so, what should it be? How do I know when I’m really done with my manuscript? What if I disagree with my beta readers?

And then, of course, the ever-vital query – can I listen to music and write at the same time?

Instead of worrying about these semantics, I think it’s more important to examine why we ask these questions. At the end of the day, what someone else says doesn’t really matter. The bigger issue is that we have to accept that we’re on the cusp of putting ourselves out there. Yes, out there…in that jungle of zillions of books. The cosmic space that cultivated the likes of Tolkien, Fitzgerald, Bronte, Maugham, and Austen. Where we question whether a self-published author is still considered an author. Where we are presenting words that just came from deep within us to readers who will…*gasp*…review it. And what if, before we take that public leap, we’re doing it wrong??

And the fact of the matter is that it doesn’t alleviate any of the inner self-worth stress to search Google for the umpteenth time to verify that Rowling was turned down by 673 (gross exaggeration) agents before she became a billionaire. It doesn’t even help to remind ourselves that billionairedom is not our goal. (Yes, I’m full of it and, yes, I will stomp my feet if someone doesn’t turn my erotic romance series into a theme park. Fuck’s sake – can’t they see the endless potential???)

So, here I sit writing this post and listening to music. Disturbed is blasting the “Sound of Silence” in my ears. And that’s exactly what scares us the most and drives us to question if we’re doing it right. What if we lovingly nurture this child – conceived when one synapse fired in the dark, carried as we said our vows to Word, and birthed on paper in a fiery explosion of ink and printer cartridges – and it’s met with silence?

I have a following of over 11,000 people on Twitter and almost all of them are authors or aspiring authors. And I can promise you that just about every one of them questions their validity and their sanity as they navigate this road. I know I sure as hell do. Several times a day.

When I first embarked on this journey, I got in touch with the wonderful man who is now my editor. He’s a personal friend and a professional screenwriter and, when I had only 10 or 12 rough chapters written, I wanted to know what he thought. This was seven months ago.

His first question was, “What do you plan on doing with it?” Hell if I knew. I was just focused on the story that came to me and knew I had to get it out of my head.

“You should finish it and publish,” he said.

Wait…what?? The “P” word flipped a switch within me and I suddenly became afraid of my own work.

Since then, it’s been an emotionally wild ride. Like one of those roller coasters you see on YouTube and the steep climb doesn’t just drop you off a cliff…it tucks back under the mountain you just climbed and all you can see is a free-fall from 15 stories up to the cold, hard earth beneath you. Forget being attached to track. It doesn’t exist.


Editor
: You need to finish this and put it out there.
Me: Yeah, okay. Definitely.


Editor
: How’s it coming?
Me: Terrible! I can’t do this!


Editor
: How’s it coming?
Me
: Great! I’m super excited about the scene I just wrote!


Editor
: How’s it coming?
Me: I’m an epic failure!


Editor
: How’s it coming?
Me
: I’m totally ready for your thoughts on self-publishing versus querying.


Editor
: How’s it coming?
Me: I’m ashamed of myself and can’t do this.

That last one hurts. Because it’s really true. And no amount of questioning the right or wrong of my process is going to fix it. But what I know is that every writer has a voice. We all have a story to tell and we all have our place. I believe that more than I believe anything else in this world of words, and it’s for that reason that I will fight through my insecurities and publish.

My first book is almost ready to be sent out into the universe and I’m scared to death. I’ve been implementing every stalling tactic I know over the past couple of months to prevent the inevitable. Well, it’s either going to happen or I need to delete my Twitter account, wish my friends well, and call my lawyer to initiate divorce proceedings with Word.

Let’s go back to this for a moment: Do I need an outline? Should I edit as I go along or when I’m done? Should I have a word count goal and, if so, what should it be? How do I know when I’m really done with my manuscript? What if I disagree with my beta readers? Etc., etc., etc.

While there’s nothing wrong with seeking out the thoughts of others, you also need to know that at the end of the day, this is your story and you are ultimately in the driver’s seat. You’re going to doubt yourself, your story, and your abilities, but whatever you do, don’t let that stop you. Don’t let anyone stand in your way.

And that unsolicited input that lands on everyone’s doorstep sooner or later? Brace yourself because here it comes. The beat of your drummer may be vastly different from mine, but if you’re looking to find your footing, my advice is that when the insecurity bug strikes, you should take a short break from writing, sit at your kitchen table at 2:00AM, blast some music, and eat chocolate donuts. And when you’re done with that, get back to it any which way that suits your fancy..because the rules are there are no rules.

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13 Comments

  1. Reply

    What a good read & couldn’t be better timed. Acts as a superb sanity check. I think every writer could relate to Nikki’s thoughts & feelings, the constant worrying & comparisons with a endless array of writing techniques or rules. But freedom & creativity should never be stifled as a result.

    Thanks for sharing Nikki & what a fine site Jon!

    Best

    David

    • Jon Ford

      Reply

      Thanks David, I’ve worked my little fingers off to try and make a website that has loads on it to keep people occupied! LOL Not sure if it worked, but that’s what I wanted.

      And Nikki’s Blog is awesome! I’m trying to talk her in to being a regular contributor!
      Fancy doing a guest blog yourself David? 🙂

      • Nikki Anderson

        Reply

        Thank you, David! So happy to hear that this came along at the right time for you. We do seem to have a constant barrage of thoughts handed to us and while it’s often very helpful to hear what others are doing, it isn’t always what is going to be the best practice for us. Hard to keep that in mind, though, during the onslaught. Ha!

        And many thanks to you, Jon. I would love to contribute to the site on the reg! You’ve definitely achieved here what you set out to do. It’s a wonderful playground in the mind of Jon and who wouldn’t want to hang out there for a bit?? Xoxo

  2. BG Clark

    Reply

    This is an excellent post and so incredibly raw and truthful.
    I think Nik and I have had many, many, many conversations about not feeling worthy, feeling like a poser, not feeling like we could ever measure up, or that we “shouldn’t even be here”. I am coming to realize that this questioning and doubt is such an integral part of the process. I truly believe these thoughts and feelings mean that we ARE writers and we actually care about our craft.
    We’ve all see authors who no longer care. They start cranking out product instead of stories. I believe the questioning and/or self-doubt not only means we are still “in it”, but that we still care about what we put out there for the world to read. Even the best parent in the world will lie awake at night worrying that they are doing a good job.
    You captured this perfectly, Nik…thank you for your words!

    • Jon Ford

      Reply

      You’re not the only one to broach this subject with Nikki. As you say, I think it’s a common theme for writers to sometimes get crushed under the weight of self doubt.

      • Nikki Anderson

        Reply

        This is making me giggle that the two people I have talked with about this the most are in one place.

        Great point, B, that it may very well prove our dedication and commitment to putting out the best possible book(s) we are capable of writing. If we didn’t care so much, would we stress like this? Doubtful. Now, if I could just crack the ultimate code – how to care and not worry…ha!

        Thanks for reading!

  3. PatricS

    Reply

    Great post! I love that you have an aunt like mine. The only rule is that there are no rules! That’s a true statement! Good luck on your first book! I hope it’s a success. How long have you been writing? I need to get back to mine. I stalled for a bit, and I’m looking for people to inspire me.

    • DesireeS

      Reply

      Ha… I have an aunt like that too, she was my favorite! We made up the rules along the way. She always told my parents that there are no rules at her house.
      I think it’s a perfect time right now to write. Most of us had some down time during the pandemic.
      I hope you get back to writing.

      • Nikki Anderson

        Reply

        Thanks to both of you! What is it with aunts and throwing the rules out the window? Haha!

        Patrics, I’ve been writing professionally for 11 years, but this is my first foray into the fiction arena. I think it’s perfectly natural to “stall” – we all do – but then going back to it becomes a challenge because we feel like we’ve lost our mojo. It’s still there, though. Just remember that you had it in the first place, so all you need is the right atmosphere and frame of mind and you’ll be back in the swing of things before you know it. 🙂

  4. Evie

    Reply

    So has it been published? I’d love to hear how it’s going for you. If you still haven’t published your story, then just consider what’s the worst thing that could happen. Maybe people won’t buy it; maybe the readers will hate it. Maybe you’ll rack up some negative reviews. So what? You’ll learn from the experience and you’ll grow as a writer. Just remember that they’re subjective opinions from a bunch of strangers and the negativity will lose some of its power. I can’t think of a better time to publish a story. Since the pandemic struck, people are staying at home, and they’re reading more now than ever. Get your work out there before the distractions of a social life takeover again. I’m rooting for you!

    • RaeY

      Reply

      I agree! Get it out there! Now is the perfect time because so many of us are stuck at home. I also agree that reviews, whether negative or positive is a good thing. It does help us grow!

      • Nikki Anderson

        Reply

        Thanks so much for the support, Evie and Raey! As nervous as I am, I’m not holding it back for that reason. After talking to some other authors and paying attention to the preferences of readers, I’ve decided to wait until the whole trilogy is closer to finished. If I release the first book now, it will be another six months (at least) before book two will be ready and I’d rather be prepared to put them out there closer together.

        But keep an eye on Jon’s site because I’m sure he’ll let y’all know when it’s time! 😀

        • Evie

          Reply

          A trilogy? Let me just say that I support your decision to wait until you have more of your trilogy finished! Because, as a reader, it’s maddening having to wait on the next instalment. It always feels like ages! It sounds like you’ve scouted things out and paid attention to the feedback. More writers should be as brilliant.

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