Usually when I write, I’m excited. I’m focused, of course, but underneath it all, I feel excited about this book. I think I’ve chosen an innately interesting topic, and the story is coming along well.
But occasionally, as I work on a scene, I worry: what if everyone thinks this book sucks?
The first time I had that thought, it startled me. I’m a confident person! And I never thought like that as a newspaper reporter. I never wrote a story and worried that when it came out in the paper the next day, readers would think I was a shitty reporter. Sometimes I stressed that I had made an error — so I’d go back and correct it, if I could. But I never felt like my entire worth as a reporter was based on my next story.
Maybe that was because I didn’t have time to worry; I was always on deadline. Maybe it was because enough readers had praised or complained about my stories — when you work for a large daily, you get a lot of feedback — that I let it roll off my back. Maybe it was because I knew that if I botched a story, I’d have another the next day to prove my worth. Or maybe I’d been doing it long enough to know I wouldn’t botch it.
I think that’s the difference here — writing a book is new to me. I’m still gaining confidence, still learning that I won’t mess this up.
Whenever I start to doubt my book, I give myself a little pep talk. You’re not a literary genius, I say. Face it: Your writing isn’t fabulous. What you are good at is telling a story. So write the type of book you’d like to read. Tell a good story. Nothing fancy. Just a good story.
Then I keep writing.
I’m not going to ask whether writers out there hear this voice of doubt in their head — I think I’m normal in that regard. Here’s a better question: How do you get past it? I tell myself to write a good story. What do you do?