The Writer As Stowaway
I said this on Twitter but I want to say it here, too:
So, you’re sitting there as a writer and you’re getting sucker-punched by feelings of fear and doubt. You’ll find yourself face to face with uncertainty over whether or not you deserve success, and the certainty that one day you’ll be found out as an imposter and dragged out into the streets. Where hobos will pee on you.
WHERE HOBOS WILL PEE ON YOU.
I’ve got two books out soon — GODS & MONSTERS UNCLEAN SPIRITS and THE BLUE BLAZES — and this week folks are starting to get ARCs and e-ARCS of the latter of those books and all the while I’ve got that flurry of fear-bubbles in my tummy: egads they won’t like it they’ll despise it I’m going to receive hate mail people might punch me Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly will probably give me whatever the opposite of a starred review is like maybe they’ll rub a cat’s butthole on my face in public OH GODS THAT’S HOW BAD THIS BOOK IS.
I like to hope it’s a silly fear. The book is getting published. Early readers liked it. My agent let it out the door. The publisher let it in the door. How bad can it be?
But that doesn’t matter. That’s rational. Fear and doubt aren’t rational.
So, to all writers of all stripes —
We all feel this.
We all feel like stowaways on the ISS Penmonkey, sometimes.
We all feel like we don’t belong. That one day our clever ruse will be up.
It seems to lessen over time. It’s better now for me than it was ten years ago. But it’s still there. That haunting specter. That nagging goblin. That ghostly whiff of hobo urine.
Whenever you feel that sense of urgent doubt nibbling at your bowels like a gut-load of rats, know you’re not alone. Somewhere out there some other writer is feeling it. A writer yet unpublished. A mid-lister, a self-published, a Stephen King, the ghost of Marcel Proust.
We are all bound to one another by the ropes of our uncertainty.
Sharing that frequency of heebie-jeebies and jittery jangly nerves.
The best we can do is help one another dispel those fears.
Or, at times, just merely to commiserate.