Monday, November 20, 2006

Writers and Insecurities

I think insecurities come with the job. You pour your blood into something and then it gets rejected. Sometimes it gets rejected in a manner that hurts and sometimes it gets rejected in a manner that makes you feel good, in spite of the rejection. But it's still a rejection.

Writing is a business. Most of us get that. It's only personal to the writer who worked on something, thinking it was good and then gets the word that its not so much. Professional jealousy, watching a friend's career rise, while yours just sits there, is tough as well. Even if you are thrilled for that person, it can make you feel insecure.

I know writers who've sold their first book, then spend years waiting for the next bite. I know multicontracted writers who have had an editor tell them, please don't submit to us again. Another multi contracted writer had her agent tell her that her proposal would never sell, even though this writer already had about ten books out... only to have the book sell and start her career down a whole new path.

How could you not be insecure? But being insecure at times is almost looked down upon in this business. "It's a business! Get over it!" is often heard over the lists. Yet other businesses have insecure workers. People who second guess themselves in their own particular arena, afraid to present a proposal to the boss for fear it will be shot down. Insecurities are normal. They overtake most of us from time to time.

I think about Hemingway and Steinbeck. I know that Steinbeck particularly, was beset with insecurities with every book he wrote. One of the reasons he drank was to keep the insecurity monsters away. At times, he couldn't face the typewriter, sure that whatever he wrote wouldn't be good enough. I know less about Hemingway, but know he drank heavily, and wasn't particulary successful in his private life. Could this writer warrier have been plagued by the demons of insecurity?

East of Eden is perhaps one of the best books I have ever read. If Steinbeck, one of the greatest writers to ever type a word, can feel insecure, than why can't I, unpublished author of little young adult books, feel the same way? And yet, you really can't admit to it much without being made to feel that you are doing it to get attention/pats on the back/affirmation. Made to feel guilty or somehow less professional. When did asking your peers for affirmation, pats on the back and encouragement become a bad thing?

When did insecurity become a dirty word?

We all admire the confident go getters in this country, those so sure their success will come that they take the plunge and keep on going. But what about those who have moments of self doubt, those who take a deep, shuddering breath and then do it anyway? Don't they deserve our respect and admiration, too?

Just a thought.


Anonymous said...

I think it's natural to have moments of insecurity. Thought provoking post, Teri :)

Kristen Painter said...

This is a good post. And you know I'm one of the ones who will be the first to say "It's a business!" Rejections don't affect me much anymore. I guess my skin has thickened to elephant hide.

Anonymous said...

I'm one of those insecure writers. I'm terrified to send my new book to my agent. Scared to death. Like, sick-to-my-stomach scared, because it may very well suck, which means that not just is my skill in question, my judgment is too.

At the moment, I can't even remember how I got up the nerve to query agents in the first place.

I'm glad to hear that greats like Steinbeck had the same issues. Thanks. ;-)

stephhale said...

I'm with Rachel. If I would have had to query an agent face to face, I never would have become a writer.


Anonymous said...

Well said! I think if our skins got too thick, it would hinder our ability to write truthfully. It's our humanity that makes us readable, makes us resonate. And I hope you know, you can always count on me for pats on the back, kudos, and a sympathetic ear. You've done it for me often enough...! :?)

Jaci Burton said...

I think any writer who claims to feel secure is full of crap. *g*

We all have insecurities. Nature of the business. Whether unpubbed or pubbed, submitting and awaiting the rejection or acceptance, the published book and whether or not it will sell, the agent's word, the editor's approval....

Gah. Now my stomach hurts *g*