A Brief Moment of Terror
Updated: Jun 7
We writers, I believe, are a scared lot.
Not just ones with cause, like Salman Rushdie of I-pissed-off-an-Ayatollah fame.
Regular writers, like me or the ones I know on a personal level. Unpublished, naturally, or perhaps even the ones Penguin and Harper-Collins are stalking on a nightly basis.
I’m pretty sure at this point that those of us who can’t think of anything besides putting pen to paper or finger to keyboard, spend an unhealthy amount of time being scared shitless.
Some don’t put down a single word, afraid that it’ll be absolute rubbish.
Others put down several dozen words, pages full of them and halfway down the road, it all goes to pot. We flounder and flail helplessly, crippled by a sudden tidal wave of self-doubt.
You’re sitting there, one moment, writing or typing away merrily, full, well-constructed sentences marching down the corridors of your mind like so many well-behaved soldiers. And the next minute, there’s nothing. Total blankness. With an overwhelming feeling that what you’re writing isn’t just not good, it’s average, below average, a waste of your and your reader’s time.
And the overpowering dread that should you dare approach a publisher with it, quite soon you won’t be the only one with that opinion.
Terrible thing, self-doubt.
Just as damaging as overconfidence, with none of the latter’s joie de vivre.
Overconfidence assures you in cocky tones that you’re the best, baby, they’ve been waiting for you their whole lives, those Man-Booker guys.
Self-doubt merely looks at what you’ve written and sighs.
Overconfidence brushes the lint off your jacket, calls you a rockstar and gives you a dazzling 32-watt smug smile.
Self-doubt just shakes its head sadly.
And they both look so real, so goddamn real, you don’t know which one’s the faker, which one you should believe, which one you should offer a small airy apartment in your mind on a daily rent basis.
Me, I live for the day I’ll be able to look both of them squarely in the eye. And ask them both, with no politeness whatsoever, to leave me the hell alone so I can get back to work.