Monday, May 8, 2017

How to Bravely Push Through Your Writing Insecurities




Stephanie Morrill is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com and the author of several young adult novels, including the 1920's mystery, The Lost Girl of Astor Street (Blink/HarperCollins). Despite loving cloche hats and drop-waist dresses, Stephanie would have been a terrible flapper because she can’t do the Charleston and looks awful with bobbed hair. She and her near-constant ponytail live in Kansas City with her husband and three kids. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterPinterest, Instagram, and sign up for monthly updates on her author website.



What if I never get published?

What if I do all this work on this novelinvest all this time, energy, and moneyand nobody but me ever reads it?

What if my (insert-family-member's-name-here) reads it and disapproves?

What if people laugh at me when they read my book? (Or, if the story is supposed to be funny, What if they don't laugh?)

I'm not alone in asking these questions, right? They ran through my thoughts regularly as I worked toward getting published. I imagined signing my first contract or getting an agent would help to silence my insecurities about my writing forever. Sadly, the insecurities don't go anywhere when you're published; the questions just take a different shape.

What if I get terrible reviews? What if people say really mean things about my book on Goodreads? What if no one comes to my book signings? What if my editor doesn't like the next book I send her as much as she liked this one?

Sometimes when those questions pop up, I'm able to easily dismiss them. I'll remind myself that everybody gets mean reviews on Goodreads, and that I can survive it. And sometimes that's all I need to go on my merry way and keep fearlessly creating.

Other times my insecurities hold me hostage. Creating feels like a struggle, I'm mopey and distracted, and I start over-explaining everything because I feel like if I don't, no one will understand what I've created.

I almost did that last week, actually. I was sending two newly finished chapter to my agent. I never send her anything that quickly after writing it, but the chapters needed to be turned in NOW.

I spent about 15 minutes drafting an email that explained my chapters. ("I almost did this, but didn't and here's why. I'm sending two chapters instead of one for this reason. I'm not sure about this character, because of these reasons. I considered starting at this point in history, but here's why I didn't...") Fortunately, before I hit send, I realized that my insecurities had flared, and that I needed to shoo them away.



Insecurity is a part of the human experience, but that doesn't mean we have to let it keep us trapped. I imagine I will spend the rest of my life working on my insecurities, but here are some tactics I use to push through them when it comes to writing:


My book isn't me.

I was able to scrap that original email to my agent and send her the chapters without over-explaining them because I remembered that my book isn't me. I knew that even if she didn't think they were as good as they needed to be, that was a reflection on the chapters, not me as a person.

Our stories feel personal to us. That's how we're able to create good ones, by digging into ourselves and making them meaningful. So when people don't like what we've written, or think the story would be better if done differently, it can feel like they're saying negative things about us.

My book isn't for everyone.

Think of your favorite book. Your absolute favorite.

It has 1-star ratings.

There are people in this world who somehow read The Scorpio Races and Pride and Prejudice and The Help and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows and didn't think they were absolutely wonderful.

As of yet, no one has created a piece of art that everyone loved. Statistics show that I'm probably not going to be the first one to do so. You probably won't be either.

My books are meaningful to some, "meh" to some, and offensive to some. That's just part of creating.


Let's say that does happen. Then what?

You know how when you're watching a movie or TV show that has a monster in it, the monster feels way scarier before you see it? The same is true for all those "what if's?" that run through your head. They build into something vague and scary, but if you assign specifics to them, they can lose a lot of their power.

Let's try getting specific with one of the most common insecurity-born questions among writers:

What if I put all this time and energy into this book, and it never gets published?

For me the specific answer is, "Well, that would make me sad. I really want this book to be published. I believe in the story, and it means a lot to me. But if it never gets published, I'm still proud of it, and I learned a lot that I can apply to my next story."

Your answer might vary from mine, but I bet it still doesn't seem quite as forbidding when you lay out the specifics. For me, the answers tend to be things that would be painful for a season, or that would hurt my feelings, but not things that would make me give up.


Negative talk doesn't produce positive results.

When I focus on all the bad things that could happen, all the stuff I don't like, and all the mistakes I might make, that never puts me in a happy creating places. Ever.

Obviously there's value in being able to recognize what needs improving in your manuscript. That's a very important part of the creating process.

A healthy focus on changes I can make to improve my story leads to questions like, "This character is reading flat. I wonder what I can do to fix that?"

When my critical focus has turned unproductively negative, I'm bound to think things like, "This character is reading flat, and I have no idea how to fix it. This book will probably never be published!"

While bad days are bound to happen, I try to not let myself wallow in that place for too long. (Writer friends are great for grabbing hold of your hand and pulling you out of that toxic pit!)


No one else is paying attention.

Nobody thinks about me as much as I do. I used to worry a lot about what people would think if I never got published, or if they thought it was taking me too long to write my book.

And then I figured out that people really weren't thinking about me and my book much at all. Sometimes they might ask how I was doing with my book, but they weren't keeping a calendar of my progress or tracking how many agents had rejected representing me.

If I fumble through an answer for an interview, or if I send out an email that has a typo, or I find a blog post I wrote a few years ago and now disagree with, my tendency is to stew. To obsess. But I'm getting better at remembering that likely nobody else is sitting around thinking about it, and that me continuing to do so is a waste of time. I'll ask, "What can I learn from this mistake?" and then move on.

Get back to creating.

What really quiets down my insecurities is when I'm creating a story or article that I love and care about. That's when I'm able to tell Insecurity, "Shh. I'm creating right now. You'll have to wait." And often Insecurity gets bored, and wanders away.

If you're currently struggling with insecurity, what's something you could have fun creating right now? It doesn't have to be something written, just something that will help you have enough fun that you aren't so worried about if it will matter or who will notice.

What's a strength of yours when it comes to writing? Story ideas? Dialogue? Developing interesting characters?


46 comments:

  1. I think my strength is just coming up with ideas. I get inspiration from literally anything and I'm always creating in my head. I'm not that great at description, but I know when I look over it again, I'll get better. Thank you for this post. I always have problems with insecurities concerning my writing and this was very helpful.

    Also, on a totally unrelated note, Mrs. Morrill, I remember reading something where you said you used to have problems with your hair when you were younger because it would frizz up. I wanted to tell you that my mom uses this website on Facebook called Curly Girl and it has drastically changed her curly hair. She has very curly hair and the curls look so much more defined. The website pretty much just has a list of different products from different brands that are good for curly hair. I follow the idea, too, but my hair isn't actually curly. I can say it has definitely defined the waves in my hair, though. I just thought I would share.

    Thanks again for all you do. Your blog post is so inspirational to me. :)

    Also, sorry that this was long. :)
    ~PT

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, I'm totally the same, I come up with ideas with a snap of a finger.

      Delete
    2. It gets annoying when you're out and about and you can't write anything because you're away from the computer, lol. It happens to me a lot. I'm always writing, just sometimes it's just in my mind. Glad someone else relates. :)
      ~PT

      Delete
    3. Thank you for the recommendation! Yes, once I figured out that my hair was curly, and I started treating it like it was curly, life got a lot better :) I'll have to check out that Facebook page.

      You never need to apologize for a long, thoughtful comment :)

      Delete
  2. Great post! I identify most with the last point. If we focus on the joy of the journey, rather than the end result, it's easier to send insecurity packing. Thanks so much for this post. It's relieving to know we all struggle with this sometime or other.

    Oh, and I guess interesting characters is my writing strength. It ought to be, since they seem to take over half my brain with their jabbering. 8)

    -Ann

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jabbering characters is a good problem for a writer to have :) I'm glad to know this post provided some relief for you. I think focusing on the "joy of the journey" as you phrased it is a really valuable thing.

      Delete
  3. Thank you so much for this post! It address something that I feel I have a hard time with and I really needed to hear something like that right now. So many times in the past, I would get an idea or would be working on a story, and these songs would come and tell me that it wasn't good enough, or that I should quit on it. I've been having a bit of a writing slump recently, partly because school always comes first for me, also partly because I felt like I had hit a wall, and couldn't push through. Then I got an idea that I was so excited to work on - and then the doubts came pouring in. This post really gave me new perspective and some new insights on something I've been struggling on for a long time. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think also we can get so caught up in our idea of "perfection," we're too hard on ourselves. I hope you move past those doubts and don't give up! :)

      -Ann

      Delete
    2. You've got this! Just push past the doubts and write. I doubt all the time. That's why I've written my WIP more than ten times. I've finally found a pattern that works for me (for now anyway). You can do this. We all get into those writing slumps, but we just need to push through them and let inspiration strike. Have a great day. :)
      ~PT

      Delete
    3. I've experienced some of the struggles in writing that you described. Keep pushing! I know you'll make it through.

      Delete
    4. Thank you guys for the encouragement. I honestly was not expecting to see that when I checked back to see other people's posts, and it really made my day. I know that pushing thorough these hard spots is what I have to do to get back on track, and though it may be hard, I'll make it through this battle.

      Delete
    5. Vera, I'm so happy to hear you have renewed energy for a new idea. I know it's tough to push through those doubts, and that none of us can do it for you, but we're here to cheer you on!

      Delete
  4. I can definitely relate to this post, since I've had to deal with a lot of insecurities. I had to come to a place where I decided where my value lay and gave myself permission to fail and make mistakes and not care what anyone else thought about me. I am currently facing a "monster" in another aspect of my life, and now it's just a bunny with a big shadow. Thank you for sharing, Mrs. Morrill! It's encouraging to know published authors have dealt with the same insecurities the rest of us face.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I loved how you said that you gave yourself permission to fail. That really captured my attention, and I've been musing over it for the last few minutes. Failure is usually thought of as something negative, but by telling yourself that it's okay to fail, it kind of puts a different perspective on failure. It's great that you're able to get to a spot where you can do that! And as for your other monster, I know that you can defeat it.

      Delete
    2. You can face your "monster", Olivia. You really put a new perspective on failure and its something I think I need to think about as well.

      Vera, I worry about failing, too. I don't like failing and I try to be perfect at everything the first time. The thing is, there is no perfection and that's okay.

      Thank you both for giving me something to think about. Happy writing. :)
      ~PT

      Delete
    3. Olivia, thanks for sharing that. Perfectionism is something I've struggled with since I was a kid, and it's only been the last few years that I've started to recognize the difference between healthy striving (nothing wrong with wanting to do your best!) and perfectionism, where I feel like I'm only valuable when I'm "perfect." When we learn from mistakes and failures, they become great catalysts for growth!

      Delete
  5. This post was really helpful. Both in writing and in life!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so glad, Megan! And, yes, I've found that when I tackle insecurities that I face as a human being, I see the work pay off in my writing as well :)

      Delete
  6. Thanks so much for this! As writers, we tend to have the habit of overanalyzing our works a bit too much.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Amen! (But to be honest, I overanalyze everything.)
      ~PT

      Delete
    2. Agreed. Which is helpful/necessary for edits, but can certainly be taken too far.

      Delete
    3. I'm with you, PT! I make myself dizzy with overanalyzing. Sometimes a little spontaneity is what I need most.

      Delete
  7. This post came at a great time for me!! I'm trying to edit my book (which I would someday like to publish) and for a while the editing was going all right, but now... I somehow stumbled upon a lot of insecurities. Maybe it's just because editing forces you to really look at the wonderful first draft you created and acknowledge all of its flaws that need fixed. But it really does get depressing sometimes.
    Now, to answer your question (and I love the question you asked, because it makes you focus on your strengths rather than wallow in your weaknesses.) I think theme is my strength. My stories always have a very deep meaning, sometimes without me even intending it to end up that way. Story ideas are also a strength, but I have so many and very few of them have actually turned into stories! xD
    Thanks again for the post. It was really encouraging. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm in the midst of editing, too. I get very insecure. I've scrapped my story and started over so many times. This time, though, I'm sticking through it. I'm seeing the flaws, but I'm also seeing the things that make the story and that's what's important. Glad to know someone else out there is editing and hoping to someday be published. The road ahead is going to be long, but we should enjoy the experience. :) Happy editing.
      ~PT

      Delete
    2. Talia, I love editing but I always struggle more with my insecurities during that stage of the process. You're right, it can feel very depressing at times. And overwhelming. Now I'm at the point where I've gone through that dip enough to recognize what's happening ("Oh, that's right. I always feel this way at this point in edits.") but it's no fun.

      And thank you! I originally had a question about insecurities, and then thought it would be much more rewarding to talk about strengths! I loved the one you brought up. Would you say theme is an important element of story to you, or no?

      Delete
    3. Yes, theme has always been important to me. I usually want the theme of my story, regardless of what the story is, to point back to God and the Gospel. In fact, that's part of the reason why I write at all! I want to write stories that help people see the Gospel.
      But usually the themes of my stories come out by accident. I'm usually just casually writing, when suddenly I have this "Eureka!" moment when I realize that what I've written actually points back to the Gospel. It's pretty awesome. And then I have to actually consciously think about the theme I've written in order to effectively weave it into the story. It's fun. :)

      Delete
  8. This is SO good! Thank you! I'm definitely dealing with some insecurities right now as I prepare to pitch my novel at the CCWC in nine days (Yikes!). I've gotten a lot of good feedback about my writing from a lot of different sources, so my main concern is my content. Because my book revolves around gangs and I've never been in one or worked with one, or even done a ton of research, so I'm thinking the editor is going to read the first twelve pages and say, this sounds like it was written by a middle-class girl who knows nothing about gangs. Actually, I'm almost afraid of people being interested in the book, requesting partials, etc.--afraid that the content won't live up to their expectations.
    I need to get past this. Like you said, criticism like that can be taken as an opportunity for improvement. I like the idea about turning negatives on their head, thinking, what's a positive thing that can come out of this fear? And that no one else is paying attention. That is awesome, because it's really true. People don't mind. And your friends, if they're really your friends, will love you just as much whether you ever finish your book or not.
    My strengths...definitely believable characters and enjoyable dialogue (almost everyone tells me that at least). :)
    Thank you, thank you!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Congratulations on getting to pitch your novel. That must be so exciting and nerve-wracking all at the same time. Just remember to stand strong. There's always going to be haters and trolls out there who just don't understand the process of writing a book. You'll do great. :)
      Your story's message is one that was important to you, so remember that and know that this message, whatever it may be, is important because God placed it on your heart with a purpose. With His guidance, it cannot fail. If it doesn't work out here, it will work out where it's meant to.
      Congratulations again.
      :)
      ~PT

      Delete
    2. That's exciting, Hannah! I'm still nervous when I pitch novels, so I totally understand being nervous. You'll have to tell us how it goes :)

      Delete
    3. Okay, sorry guys. My laptop had been trashing my previous long comments on your comment, Hannah, so I wanted to see if it would finally publish one. Lol
      Let's try this again....You're pitching your novel?!?!?!?! Yes! I'm rooting for you, Hannah! I know they will be thoroughly impressed by your writing. PLEASE don't think that your emails and help fro me went unheeded. It most definitely did not. Your emails helped my writing a lot. I know your novel will be absolutely amazing. Not just because of the summary, but your advice shows just how much you know and reflects your skill. You are doing an amazing job! :)
      Oh, and I asked for Story Trumps Structure for my upcoming birthday. I I don't get it, then I'm most definitely buying the book myself. I can not wait to read it. Thanks for recommending it, Hannah.
      Just know that we wish you the best and really hope all goes well in your writing. I know I do. I'm praying for you. <3

      Delete
    4. Thank you all so much! It means a lot to me to have you guys standing with me and encouraging me. For years I've been writing alone so now that I'm on this blog when I read your comments I get so crazy excited! :D I know whatever happens it will be a learning experience for me and God will use it for good. And if I get to move forward with this book I know you guys will be rooting for me and that's SO exciting! Thanks again!

      Delete
  9. I wanted to say something for y'all to hear. Every one of us has an idea. We have a passion to write that burns within us. If our passion strongly lies with writing, with a message placed on our hearts by God, it cannot fail.
    This message was placed on our hearts. A message that needs to be told by someone. You have your story to tell. It's important because this message will help someone who needs to hear it.
    We may fall the first time or the first few times. There may be failure many times before we find the right timing, but it will happen.
    For some of us, that theme will be woven in subtly. Others of us have a theme that's loud and clear for all to know and see. We all have different ways of writing and weaving a story together takes real determination, but in the end, it's all worth it. Have a great week, y'all. :)
    ~PT

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, PT! Our community is made great by this kind of encouragement :)

      Delete
    2. Thanks, PT! I loved having our extremely long conversations about how amazing Jesus is, and how our writing can grow! I hope we will have many long conversations yet to come,and that I can encourage you half as much as you have encouraged me. You bless me, and I know you bless God. I know he's smiling at you and saying how proud he is of you. For your love, obedience, and encouragement to others who need it.
      God Bless you, PT. <3

      Delete
    3. Thank you, Mrs. Morrill and thank you LHE! I just felt the need to encourage everyone here, especially seeing as we were talking about insecurities. I felt that the article was getting us to think about how to deal and ignore the insecurities. God placed it on my heart and I just wanted to hopefully make someone smile.

      LHE, Jesus is amazing. I'm glad I've encouraged you. You've helped me as well already, so thank you. And thank you for your kind words. They've made me smile. I know God is happy with you as well. It's all in His timing.
      God Bless Y'all. :) <3
      ~PT

      Delete
    4. You made me smile, PT. I'm so glad you listen to God and what he tells you! You really bless a lot of people. I know you do. :)
      Your welcome, PT! I'm so happy that I have. :D I'm so glad you commented on my comment because if you wouldn't have, I know I probably wouldn't have met you on here. I really needed you when your comment showed up. I am deeply grateful for you. It's been kind of rough, but I feel like I'm really overcoming the depression. Though it still haunts me every now and then, I know who I can lean on and who to listen to. Everything is in God's timing. I know you will do so many great things, and I prayed for you to be bold, and that our insecurities don't get in the way of what we're called to do.
      Bless you. <3

      Delete
    5. It was all part of God's plan for me to comment at that time and I'm so happy for you. I know He is healing you with every day that passes.

      Thank you for the prayers. God is working in my life and I know everything will work out the way it should.
      Blessings. :)
      ~PT

      Delete
    6. I know he is as well. Though, I'm being fought for my peace, I know if God is for me, then no one can be against me.
      Your welcome. :) I'm so glad! Everything'll work out according to his plan. Though, we dig ourselves into a deeper hole when we do't listen to him. He always knows what will help us. Pain a lot of times makes us stronger. And that's not saying that pain is God's will because it's not, but he'll always be with us through all the time. even through the rough spots. :)

      Delete
  10. I'd like to say that my writing strengths are creating emotional scenes. I mean, I'm not so sure of what I'm really good at when it comes to writing. Anyone have any ideas of what I'm best at from my previous writing exercises on here? It'd really be helpful to know. :)

    I think I may be really good at story ideas. I have so many of them! *pets surrounding plot bunnies on their fuzzy heads*

    Ya'll are all so helpful! <3
    Thanks for this post, Mrs. Morrill! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your strengths from what I've seen so far is definitely emotion and description. You're really good at describing the detail of a scene and the emotion that follows.

      Also, love that little bit about the plot bunnies, lol.
      Have a blessed day. :)
      ~PT

      Delete
    2. Oh, really? I always thought that description was my weakness. Well, I'm so happy now! Thanks! i try not to put my real work on here, but i try to make the exercises that can be deep, emotional. I'm not sure I really succeed at that, but I'm pretty proud of my last attempt a bit ago. You do really well. :)

      Lol, I have to say, stole that from Savannah from Scattered Scribblings. *chuckle*. They've been really prodding me lately.
      Bless you, PT. :)

      Delete
    3. So, I wrote a long reply and my lovely internet wouldn't let me publish it, so now I'm going google, lol.

      To paraphrase, I said you wrote a great emotional piece and that you touched a lot of people. Your post had the most comments because people connected with what you wrote. Also, we talked a lot about Jesus, which made up a lot of the comments, lol.

      I also said Savannah's blog is really cool. Ideas come to me like crazy as well. My mind always writes.

      I think I may have been really random in my comment before it didn't let me publish it, but I said my mind was all over the place. Still is, really. Anyway, have a great and blessed day!
      ~PT :)

      Delete
    4. Last night, whenever i pressed the publish button for my comments, my comments wouldn't show up. I had to do my comments at least three times. It drives me crazy. Lol

      Lol! Yes our conversation was long. I'm so glad God used me to write a touching piece. It spoke to me as well, which might be weird, but it did. Hopefully the emotion really draws people in and makes them feel like they're in my character's situation. That's really what I want. I want them to get the message. To dig deeper. I'm so glad that I'm coming closer to my goal. :)

      Yeah, she has a lot of great tips. Plus, she seems very down to earth.
      I hate it when I'm in bed and get an amazing idea for my WIP, but I'm so tired that I just wanna sit there. For me, the ideas come at the wrong time. I love them, but....yeah. My mind work overtime.

      My mind is everywhere. It thinks of this, that, and it won't let me rest. I'm not complaining though. Lol
      Hope all goes well for you! :) Oh, and thank you for that.

      Delete
  11. My strengths are probably inspiration and characters. And it's strange- with some books, I'll know instantly the perfect title, but with others I drive myself crazy before I actually think of something.
    ~Mila

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Right now, I'm going nuts because I have no idea what to name my WIP. I want my WIPs name to focus on a special event in my story.
      Yeah, it IS weird. Like, for one of my WIPs, I knew instantly what to name it, but for my newest one, I'm so stuck.
      I wish you luck on figuring out a name. :)

      Delete

Home