Tag Archives: Self-doubt

Self-doubt, self-publishing, and other selfish writer-isms

I wouldn’t trust a writer who did not experience self-doubt. The world’s best haiku master might be terrible at epic poems, and the finest mystery writer of them all could suck at composing science fiction. If you walk around thinking every word that falls off your fingertips is brilliant, no matter the subject or genre, you are deluded.

popeye2Self-doubt seems to be a burden we writers must bear as long as we continue to put words on a page. Despite the fact that I chuck out writing advice left and right here, I’ve only recently become comfortable calling myself a writer. After all, I don’t have a swarm of publishers and agents outside my door fighting to give me a contract, so I must not be any good.

Sound familiar?

I, like a lot of you, am probably setting the bar unfairly high. Nothing less than a publishing contract will validate me as a writer. I’m working on a novel (allegedly), and once I have done five million drafts and come to hate every single word of it, I intend to query professional agents. I know my chances of getting this thing in a bookstore are about the same as my chances of getting eaten by an alligator in New Jersey. No doubt, when lightning fails to strike, I will rant and rave about all the wasted time and declare that I shall never write another word.

Meanwhile, countless fellow bloggers – many of whom are at least as talented as me and more so – are having a blast self-publishing and taking total control of their careers. I know all the arguments for and against self-publishing, and so do you, so there’s no need to regurgitate it here. It suffices to say that I won’t get the validation I’m looking for if I self-publish. You can tell me not to think that way, but, like Popeye, I am what I am.

Then, why, you ask, is Baker thinking about self-publishing a book of his short stories? Well, it all started when I was five.

noir2Actually, it all started last fall when I finished a 10,000-word story I had been laboring over for months, all the while knowing no one was going to publish it. Not because it’s bad (it’s exactly the story I wanted to write), but because no one is going to publish a supernatural crime-noir musical micro-novel. My hard drive is now jammed with four not-so-short stories that no publisher will ever print. None of the stories fits in a genre, and they typically have oddball, deranged protagonists. But, you see, I worked really hard on these stories.

I’ve been hammering away at rewriting and refining those four stories (and mulling writing a fifth, with a mentally stable, well-adjusted hero, for balance), so I can package them for Kindle. Sure, it’s screwing up my novel-writing schedule. Yeah, I just got a new idea for a short story that may actually be publishable and need to get on that. On top of that, I rediscovered a fifth story on my hard drive that I gave up on two years ago and am now revising so I can submit it somewhere. Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!

The harder I work on a writing project, the deeper I sink into self-doubt. It’s a constant, nagging dialog in my head: No one will want to read this. It’s stupid. No one will want to read this. It’s stupid. No one will want to read this. It’s stupid. The rest of me, on the other hand, thinks the stories are great. Though I’m not yet sure if I’m a writer, I think I’m a pretty good writer. But I am also aware that no one thinks their own baby is ugly.

I’m going to self-publish this short-story collection (maybe). I’ve wrestled with every word in every one of these tales a hundred times. If I had worked a part-time job instead of slaving over these things, I would have enough money for a new car by now. I want this collection out there, because I wrote it and, who knows, it might fill a hole in at least one reader’s heart. What is the worst thing that can happen? Nobody likes it? That ain’t fatal, last I heard.

So what do you think? Should I do it? Is self-publishing the way to go? When you finish a writing project, are you proud or full of loathing? Are you a walking contradiction like me? Do tell.

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No relevant video today, just one of my fav songs ever, “Love You Madly” by Cake.


The Plunge

Sorry if you came here for advice on unclogging your drain. Go down the hall, turn left, and through the automatic doors. Plumbing is the second blog on the right.

plungerOk, whoever is left… Sorry if you came here for advice on anything. I have none today. In fact, I’m using my blog for a neurotic confessional (which is much less interesting than an erotic confessional. That’s also a different blog). Still reading? Wow, you must be some kind of a weirdo.

I’m about to take the plunge. That is, I’ve been talking about writing a novel for ages now, tossing the concept around in my head and fleshing it out with characters and major events, including the ending. I’ve done a bunch of research. I’ve got a mental image of the story (I don’t do outlines). I’m finally ready to start writing.

Writing something else I mean.

Yup, I’ve been putting this thing off for a year and was determined to get cracking any day now. Then three words randomly popped into my head. I took out my laptop, typed those three words (I risk bad juju by saying what they are) and banged out a short story, total pantser style. I planned to polish it and send it out to a magazine or fiction site, but a voice in my head kept saying “Kill! Kill! Kill!”

Luckily, I usually ignore that voice – except in the case of centipedes in the basement. But the other voice, the one I can’t ignore, said, “There’s more to this story.”

I showed the short piece to a professional writer friend. She read it and said, “There’s more to this story.”

Spontaneously, stupidly, perhaps potential-career destroyingly, I’m putting the first project on a shelf and turning this short story into a novel… without the slightest idea what is going to happen past page 14, where the short ended. The rest is a blank. I’m going full pantser this time!

Oh, I say career destroyingly because I’ve already written two manuscripts that didn’t fit a specific genre and found out how little interest agents and publishers have in such things. I told myself a few years ago that I am only  going to write one more manuscript and, if I can’t generate interest, I’m done. That’s why I came up with the dark science-fiction concept I’ve been researching and planning for the past year and a half. Play it smart, put myself in a box, and hope for the best.

But that’s not the story I’m going to write. The story I’m going to write is… I don’t know, because all I have is three characters and a concept. I’m just going with my gut.

I am so not looking forward to the agonizing pangs of self-doubt that will take over my life soon. They’re already starting. I’m already telling myself it’s a stupid idea no one will want to read about. I’m already sure it will be a plotless disaster. I’m already lining up a sledgehammer so I can smash my laptop in a supreme act of catharsis.

Dang, isn’t it fun being a writer?

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Not my most creative idea, but it fits: