Lauren Roy: Five (And A Half!) Ways To Cast Out Writerly Doubt

Figuring out this writing thing is hard. It’s often a lonely job, and one that comes with unpredictable periods of hurry-up-and-wait as part of the package. Keeping up with changes and new innovations in the industry can be a part-time job all on its own. It’s also a career that – sometimes, unfortunately – the non-writerly people in your life might not take seriously.

There are a million reasons people might dismiss you and your work: You haven’t sold a book yet (implied: “It’s your hobby.”); you’ve sold stories or books but “I’ve never heard of you”; writing isn’t your main source of income (implied: “You’re not successful enough”); you write genre fiction (implied: “So you don’t write real books.”). My blood is boiling just writing those down, and recalling the slight disdain with which they’ve been said, in various forms, to me.

Even if you haven’t heard the above, even when you have a kick-ass support group, or have checked something cool off on your own writerly bucket list, a huge amount of us still have Writer Brain to contend with. That little voice that invites in its buddy Imposter Syndrome and starts a medley of you’re not good enough.

Do not listen to them, in any form.

Easier said than done, I know, and it’s something that – three books and a palmful of short stories in – I still constantly struggle with myself. So, I put together a list of things that have helped me shove doubt back out the door when it comes creeping in. If you have more to add, please put ‘em in the comments! Ready? Here we go:

Tell people you’re a writer. Say it out loud. Type it into the twitterboxes. Stick it in your social media profiles. It took me a long damned time to be able to say “I’m a writer” without ducking my head or appending a sheepish little laugh-and-shrug combo – not because I’m ashamed of what I do, but because I felt like I wasn’t far enough along in my career to claim the title. I might never cross whatever arbitrary success line my brain is drawing. So, my brain (and Imposter Syndrome) can suck it: I’m a writer. If you put pen to paper because you like telling stories, so are you. Say it with me: I’m a writer.

Celebrate your victories. I’m not just talking about sales here – that’s an end goal, but so much happens before you get to that point that’s also part of your job as a writer. And, after you’ve published your work, there are other cool things that happen that don’t always get counted as “big” wins. This is so subjective, I can’t possibly hit on everything, so some examples! (Psst, kick some more out in the comments if you’re so inclined!)

Do numbers motivate you? Do you like to see evidence of your progress? I have friends who put stars on a planner for every 500 words they write, or put a sticker on a calendar for every day they worked on a project. You can do it with spreadsheets or find a website that lets you fill up a progress bar.

Did you send a story out into the wild? Go you! That’s damned scary. Did it get rejected and you sent it right back out to another place? High five!

Did someone leave you a good review? Comment on your fanfic? Ping you on Twitter to go “MORE PLEASE”? None of these are little things. Let yourself feel good about them!

Find other fans. We’re out there, and we have keyboards. When Great-Aunt Sally is disappointed that you’re not writing The Great Gatsby for this generation (or that you are, but with spaceships), it’s nice to know that there are people out there who think genre fiction is the best thing ever. Follow other writers and fans on Twitter or Tumblr or wherever people are hanging out online these days. Participate in the conversations at your favorite blog. If you have the ability to attend a convention, find one near you and go! It’s so damned easy to feel alone, that it’s validating as both a writer and a fan to know that we’ve got this big huge global community, and it’s got our backs.

Accept or issue challenges. Participate in writing challenges if you find yourself in need of a kick in the ass, or start them if a friend asks for the same – I see people offering up 1k/1 hour sprints, or starting early morning (or late night!) writing hashtags. Check out the flash fiction prompts Chuck issues on Fridays, or his open critique threads. During NaNoWriMo, see if your regional coordinators are hosting any write-ins at local cafes or bookstores. If you can’t make it to an event in meatspace, Google Hangouts and Skype offer a way to have virtual ones.

Raise each other up. Like I said, we’re in this together. Cheer each other on when good things happen. Wave your +3 Pompoms of Encouragement and offer support when someone is feeling down. It can take whatever form you’ve got the time and spoons for: a “you can do it!” tweet, sending virtual hugs, whiskey, or kittens of support, an offer to chat or email if you’re at that comfort level with them. We spend a lot of our days staring at the pages. It’s good to know there are people out there beyond them.

Remember: You are not alone in this.

You are a writer, and your words are important.

Go forth and tell great stories.

I’m rooting for you.

* * *

Lauren M. Roy spends her days selling books to bookstores, and her nights scratching out stories of her own. She is also a freelance writer for tabletop roleplaying games. Lauren lives in southeastern Massachusetts with her husband, their cats, and the ghosts of houseplants she forgets to water. Her first novel, Night Owls, was published by Ace in February 2014.

Her new novel is Fire Children:

Fifteen years have passed since Mother Sun last sent her children to walk the world. When the eclipse comes, the people retreat to the caverns beneath the Kaladim, passing the days in total darkness while the Fire Children explore their world. It’s death to even look upon them, the stories say. 

Despite the warnings, Yulla gives in to her curiosity and ventures to the surface. There she witnesses the Witch Women – who rumors say worship dead Father Sea, rather than Mother Sun – capturing one of the Children and hauling her away. Yulla isn’t the only one who saw the kidnapping; Ember, the last of the Fire Children, reveals himself to Yulla and implores her to help. 

Trapped above and hunted by witches and the desert wind, Yulla and Ember must find a way to free his siblings and put a stop to the Witch Women’s plans, before they can use the Fire Children to bind Mother Sun herself.

Lauren Roy: Website | Twitter

Fire Children: Indiebound | Amazon | B&N

14 comments

  • I am a writer (thank you!) and published, but with tiny sales so far. While I was lamenting this one night, my wise husband said, “Look at it this way. If everyone who’s paid to read your book came for dinner, would we have enough chairs for them? Would we have enough room in the house, or enough spaghetti? No? Then that’s a lot of people.”

    Well, when he puts it that way …

    • Yes! This. my novel still has modest numbers, but when I look at the Amazon and Goodread reviews, my first though is, “There are people on this list that I don’t know and they like my book.” Hey, that’s cool.

  • Once upon a time I was scared of telling people I’m a writer. I have faced mockery, disappointment, and other stuff which has hurt a lot, but it never stopped me from wanting to write- even though I want to take writing up as an avocation, my vocation being research. But once I started writing seriously, three years ago, I didn’t care about who laughed at me, who ridiculed me or who opposed my writing. They can all go to hell, as far as I’m concerned. They’ll never understand me as a writer, or why I chose to become on, or who I am as a writer, or what my writing stands for. Like you said, being a part of close-knit writer groups and finding fans is a good way to beat self-doubt- as well as is, like Chuck wrote yesterday, LOTS of writing. If we’re busy writing, and talking about it, and writing about our writing as well as other people’s books, we won’t have time to bother about how non-writers see us or measure success :).

  • I can still remember the first time I said “I’m a writer” to someone who wasn’t known to me purely via an avatar on the interweb (i.e. a Person In Real Life, who was standing in front of me at the time.) I’m pretty sure I did the rabbit-caught-in-headlights face as soon as the words fell out of my mouth, so that probably didn’t help… but at least I finally SAID it. Had to eat a LOT of chocolate afterwards though – well, shock and all that…

    I have two hours a day to write, and on my ‘bad’ days of writing my first draft of my current w-i-p (when I could only squeeze out about 360 words in my 2 hours) I just reminded myself of the Chain of Chips: even 360 words a day is roughly 2,500 words a week, which is an average of 10,000 words a month. The average novel is 100,000 words long, so if I just keep going at it I could finish an entire novel in less than a year! And it worked. First finished draft of a novel ever – something I once thought I’d NEVER be able to do.

    Of course now I’m at the rewriting and editing stage that’s kind of gone out the window in reality, but I’m still using it to motivate me when I get bogged down, because the essence of it still holds true: even a tiny effort done regularly, the teeniest chip at the solid monolith, can still produce big results over time if you persist at it.

    • Me too Wendy! (fistbump) I built my first draft word-by-word over a year, & now I’m editing, & it suuuuucks. I find it so much harder to motivate myself without the slow accumulation of words to track. But I try to remember that every little scritching change I make is forward momentum to a finished product. Eesh, this writing gig.

  • Not terribly long ago, I spoke the words “my day job” when referring to my paying job, and was so taken aback, I stopped talking, chuckled, and moved on. Must have been confusing for the person I was talking to.

    Maybe, mentally, I’m finally beginning to transition. 🙂

  • I’m a writer. There, I said it. It’s scary because the expectation I feel from others is huge. Not only the expectation of a well written novel, but the expectation that I will suck. That makes me uncertain. I’ve finished my MG and I’m in the polishing stage. I’ve finished my YA and I need to edit. It’s third person-ish, but everyone says it has to be first person. Does it? I like to write in third person – and now I’m second guessing myself…But hell, yeah, I’m a writer!

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