Writer / Reader / Fandom Extraordinaire
Chiara / April 27, 2015 , Mon / writing

I’ve seen a thing floating around the internet saying something like “being an author is x% narcissism and x% crippling self doubt” ( I say x because I can’t remember). And it’s so true.

To be an author you have to think you’re good enough. You have to write your book, sit back, and think: woah. This is good. People will read this. This book can make it.

And then at other times you write your book (or pages or paragraphs or sentences), sit back, and think: woah. This is shit. People will not read this. This book cannot make it.

I’d like to say that the narcissistic side of being a writer (and I say writer because I have this thing where I will only call myself a true author when I have a published book IDK it’s weird) trumps the crippling self doubt, and that 99% of my days involve being in love with my craft and being in love with what I produce from it. I’d like to say that. But I can’t. Because the crippling self doubt that comes with being a writer, at least for me, trumps the narcissism every time.

And it’s not because of rejection (of which I will write another post on), or anything in particular. It’s just ingrained in my way of thinking.

This self doubt makes itself nice and well known when I share my writing, and it comes back well received. Is this enthusiasm true? Are they shielding their thoughts because we are friends? Why haven’t they commented on the most recent thing I sent them? Why aren’t they asking for more? Why this, what that – an endless cycle of why why why. And there’s the self doubt. And one of the reasons why I don’t like sharing my work. Because I never know if I can come away from their response with 100% belief in what they’ve said.

Now, when I share my work anonymously (for example, my fanfics) and get positive comments, this strokes the narcissistic side of writer self and affirms that yes, I am good, and I can do this.

The self doubt really shows when it’s just me, myself, and I pouring over my words, or when friends comment on my work. And what a hideous reaction that is. To doubt yourself at the same time as believing, and wishing, and wanting with all your heart for your words to be available to everyone. To doubt yourself at the same time as sharing the most important part of yourself with important people, and not being able to completely take in the praise they’re giving.

But it’s all part of being a writer. Or it’s all just part of being me.

(win a book because you’re fab)

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10 Responses to the great and terrible doubt

  1. Oh goodness, this is so true, and I feel like a huge part of being a writer is figuring out how to balance the self doubt with the narcissism. Like you, my scale is pretty much constantly tipped towards the latter, which, on one hand: yay for editing! But on the other: not so great for the actual, y’know, writing.

    Sharing my work in public has, somewhat paradoxically, helped with that a lot – when I post stuff on my blog or get it published in magazines, I think it’s a bit like exposure therapy, saying “I AM good enough and my work isn’t as bad as that little voice in my head is whispering!”. But then it’s just a matter of quieting the narcissism, which is a whole ‘nother story… ;)

    • Chiara says:

      The balancing act is SO HARD, I feel like I will never accomplish it. *sigh*

      I think sharing work with people you don’t know, rather than people you do helps! I find myself taking the words of strangers to heart more than those of my friends. I’ve been thinking of sharing my original (non-fanfic) pieces a bit more widely, so hopefully that will boost the narcissistic side of my writing self XD

  2. I totally agree with everything you said! This is probably the main reason why I never get past 1k words in anything I write–at the end of the day, I think my writing is crap.

    Fanfiction has totally helped the narcissistic side of me, though. I have written a couple of fanfictions for this particular fandom I really love, and the positive comments and “favorites” has stroked my ego somehow, haha.

    • Chiara says:

      Yay! And nooooo. That saddens me so much, Aimee. But I completely understand, unfortunately. I have abandoned a LOT of projects because I felt that they were not good enough. :(

      Fanfic is great for that, right? Whenever I get a positive comment on any of my fics, I get a little ego boost for ALL of my writings!

  3. You know what, although I’m not a writer, or an aspiring writer, this post applies to life. Self doubt, self confidence, there is towing the line in between and always tending to navigate towards one end. Believe in yourself, believe you really are that good, and the rest will come. <3

  4. Romi says:

    Oh my goodness. You just wrote… what this is, Chiara, is true and beautiful and a little bit heartbreaking, because of it’s honesty and clarity and the fact I know it applies to me, too. The whole of it. I read this and have to say that I completely understand, in the best way I can, because I’ve felt it too and struggled with it and I don’t know- I don’t know, really- if there’s a way to stop it. Because it’s so much nicer to believe in the things you create, to love them and know they have a place, but it isn’t necessarily easier to do that, when your mind is telling you otherwise. So thank you for this, Chiara. Whenever bloggers write about self doubt in relation to their own writing, it really touches me. Because it makes me feel a heck of a lot less alone in this. Xx

    • Chiara says:

      Thank you so much, Romi. Your words mean the world <3

      And I'm glad you could relate! But also kind of sad, because this doubt is such a HUGE part of being a writer, and I sometimes wish it wasn't. The fear is so overwhelming sometimes.

      You are definitely not alone in this! *hug*

  5. Hey Chiara, how come I never knew that you had a personal blog before? *facepalms* But since I know now, you can expect me to stalk you here too:)

    Love this post because I can totally understand what you’re saying! I’ve always wanted to be a writer and I’ve always had self doubts. I hope that one day I can get past my doubts and set off to achieve my dream.

    • Chiara says:

      I don’t know! XD But I’m glad you found it, Mishma!

      I think doubt will always be there, but I think it’s the realisation that they’re something that will be there and you think you’re worth it DESPITE it that means you’ve made it. If that makes any sense!

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