The Writer's Enemy No. 1
It's been a rough ride with this book. The first publisher went bust and it's taken me almost two years to find another. There were a lot of rejections - not because of the quality of the work, they all stressed, but because they didn't have the resources. Many little poetry presses are committed a couple of years ahead. Some get no financial support from arts agencies. For other publishers it was down to the editor's personal preferences. It was very depressing. Some nice words from Bloodaxe's Neil Astley helped a lot, and two or three poet friends kept me going. Before I struck lucky with Indigo Dreams, I so very nearly gave up.
So what is a writer’s No.1 Enemy? Not Procrastination (though it may be a symptom). No. What kills your ability to write successfully is Self-Doubt. It's corrosive and eats away at your confidence from the inside out.
I’ve recently been contacted by a friend, the author of a number of books for both children and adults who also writes for TV, who is currently having a bit of a creative wobble. Her last book was ruthlessly carved up by her publishers and marketed as something that didn’t resemble what she’d written and she’s still unhappy with the result. Now she’s struggling with her latest project. She has taken extra care to hit what she thought was the button her publishers wanted her to press, but the book came back from her agent with ruthless requests for cuts, which she gritted her teeth and made. Then there was the email asking for ‘just a few tweaks’. Then the ‘we’re nearly there, but .....’ and ‘there are a few issues we’d still like you to address’. And so it goes on. My friend has begun to doubt whether the book is any good at all (it is) and she wonders whether she can still write, or has she lost the magic gift? I don’t think so.
|Pic by Teela 'Battling self-doubt as a designer'.|
No matter how many books you’ve written successfully, the demon is always there, because - really - weren’t they all just massive strokes of luck? And it’s this one, the one you’re writing now, that is going to expose you for what you really are.
There’s only one way to deal with demons. Look them squarely in the eye and tell them to ‘Vaffanculo!’ - as Salvo Montalbano would say.
Love yourself a little. See what you’ve achieved? You’ve written a whole book. Share your work with kind friends as well as editorial critics. Believe in yourself.
We’re so easy to take down. A few comments from an agent or editor, a bad review, a couple of rejections and our creative souls are burning in the fires of publishing hell, with self-doubt turning up the heat.
Don’t immediately impale yourself on your pen. Your agent/editor/critics aren’t necessarily right. Drink wine, eat cake. Buy a new notebook. Some flowers. Believe the memes. Don’t let the B******s get you down!