Tuesday, October 2, 2012 | By: Lynn

It's Not Truth, It's Self Doubt

A few weeks ago, I unexpectedly found myself watching a news segment on a Sunday morning television show profiling a day in the life of a famous romance author turned mainstream writer. The show described how she rose in popularity in her career and now enjoys the pleasure of not only writing for a living, but of having a publicist promote her work and seeing her books on best-seller lists. Quite unbeckoned, panic and self-doubt rose in me, shouting, "You don't have a publicist, you don't even do much with social media. You have only one published book to your credit, much less a number of best sellers. You are never going to make it. You don’t work hard enough at your craft. You are not a real writer."

If life is a journey, my road has been lined with billboards prompting self-doubt. I suspect not every writer struggles with this kind of self-abuse and self-doubt, but I think many do. Proof of this malady can be seen in the Letters to the Editor section of Romance Writer's Report and in the tone of issues circulating among the members of RWA.

Pick any month and you'll read someone defending her/his right to recognition in our organization as a legitimate writer. Squabbles erupt over the same themes, like whether a writer should be held to certain criteria to be eligible for full rights in RWA, what kinds of work are recognized as romance novels and genuine sales; do published writers have a responsibility to support unpublished writers, and on and on. Even the endless battle of trying to elevate the stature of the romance genre in general could be viewed as the work of a genre of writers struggling with fears of not only being perceived as a fraud in the expansive world of writing, but of actually feeling like second-class writers.

Now don’t get me wrong. I support efforts to raise awareness of the quality of our writing and to promote professionalism. Sometimes the battles are essential to protect the rights of authors, and I appreciate the value of recognition. At the risk of oversimplifying, I'd just like to suggest we not take some if it too personally. To do so, is to lose sight of the truth, and when that happens, chaos reigns, both inside and outside of our organization, our industry, our world.

Take me for example. When I let a very non-threatening thing, like another author's success, attack my sense of self, I started down the slippery slope of chaos. The self-doubt inflicts confusion and motivates desperate actions driven by fear, not truth. From feeling like a failure as a writer, it's not a far drop further down the slope to feeling like a failure as a woman, as a person. Suddenly time and space presses in and I can feel like I've wasted my entire life. I might as well give up. From the bottom of the pit, my options are limited, so I might slip into depression, from where I may never write another good story. I may resent my husband for not supporting me enough, or strike out at my fellow writers for not giving me the respect and opportunities I need.

But we have other choices, because, as I see it, the truth is there to guide us if we choose it over fear. And the truth is quite simple.

Luckily for me, the truth out-shouted my inner critic that Sunday morning and led me back to solid ground. I don't have to have a publicist, a best-seller, or even another published book to be OK. I just have to follow my soul's purpose. When you can do that, you have nothing to prove and no one can accuse you of being a fraud. Even if they did, it wouldn't matter. Every day is another opportunity to express my soul's purpose and an adventure in experiencing how it unfolds. From that space, all the bickering, all the angst, and even the hoops we're asked to jump through to be considered valued and recognized members of RWA, as well as the writing world, are insignificant.

Follow where your soul beckons, is my humble advice. For writers, that will lead to a story only you can tell. And quite naturally, it will guide you to your best work. That in and of itself is valuable.

This post is excerpted from an article published in the October/November/December 2010 Romancing the Prairie, the newsletter of the Prairie Hearts chapter of RWA.


Anonymous said...

I watched that same interview and had identical thoughts. You're not a failure, none of us are. You haven't failed until you quit trying. Rena K

Lynn said...

Thanks, Rena. I agree! Thanks for your insight and your support.

RT Wolfe said...

I say to you warmly, encouragingly, and as a friend...finish the damned book. :)
You're awesome!!!
-R.T. Wolfe

RT Wolfe said...

Oops. Until I saw this was written by Lynn. LOL. Great post, Lynn. Yes, as I've only been published for a week now, I feel like I am standing in front of my high school class, reciting my first poem (with my pants down). Ugh. It's scary.
(and HiDee still has to finish her book-lol)

HiDee said...

Thanks R.T. It is scary, but you're doing great! And yes, I do need to finish the edits. I'm working on that... Thank you for the encouragement.

Lynn said...

Thanks, R.T. You're inspiring. You've really jumped in and risen to the challenge.

Suzan Tisdale said...

The truth shall set you free! I struggled with self doubt for decades. But I woke up one morning on the other side of 40 and decided I didn't want to wake up on the other side of 50 and wonder 'what if'? I could talk on this topic all day! ;o) I don't have a publicist, I'm one of those weird 'indie authors'...but I don't believe that matters. What matters is the writing, the story, as author of this piece said, that only you can tell. ;o) It is about the writing.

Until the fear of remaining the same outweighs the fear of change, nothing in your life will change. ;o)

Thanks for sharing this piece!