Note: this article is based on a chapter from the book, Smash Fear and Write like a Pro.
Lets face it: most writers are sensitive folks.
We have an intense sense of empathy for our fellow man, and an inquisitive scepticism that leaves us questioning the world around us and rarely taking anything at face value.
These traits are extremely valuable when it comes to creating art, but they also have an unfortunate tendency of turning on us. In the same way that we question the world around us, we begin to question the validity of our talents and creations. This self-examination and awareness, combined with an artistic emotional vulnerability, can often lead to paralysis, if not all-out despair.
The fear that you and what you write simply aren’t good enough is, perhaps, the most common and easily recognized fear faced by writers. Self-doubt, second-guessing, and self-loathing are rampant in the writing community, even amongst veteran authors.
You are certainly not alone if you find yourself questioning the quality of your writing. But I must ask you: when you label yourself as “not good enough”, who exactly is it that you are “not good enough” in comparison to?
Are you “not good enough” compared to Stephen King, one of the most popular authors from the latter half of the 20th century? Are you not as good as Hugh Howey, author of the Wool series, and one of the most successful self-published authors in recent years? Maybe you pale in comparison to the likes of Virginia Woolf, who was able to craft some of the most beautiful sentences English prose has ever seen?
You know what? If that is your standard, then you are probably right: it’s likely that you aren’t good enough.
In fact, forget comparing yourself to those masters. Right now, there’s a chance you aren’t even as good as that self-published author on Amazon who has sold five copies of his 99¢ ebook.
What makes him better than you?
He’s done the work.
He didn’t let his project grind to a halt in favour of sitting around comparing himself to anyone. He did the best he could, and he got his book out there and into five readers’ hands.
Writing a novel isn’t child’s play. You can save lives. You can alter the world around you. You can make life better for other beings, even if it’s just a single one. That is the opportunity you are missing when you give in to fear.
If you want a more immediate example, look at me. Am I as good as any of the famous authors mentioned above? No! And I never will be. But that doesn’t stop me from sharing my art with the world, and it doesn’t stop me from sharing my knowledge and experiences with you and my other students and readers.
And, every time I sit down to work at my writing, I’m getting a little bit better at it.
Just as you will when you stop comparing yourself to other and instead focus on is consistently and relentlessly getting better at writing. That’s it. The only person you should be comparing yourself to is you. Are you a better writer today than you were yesterday, or last year? If you are, great! Keep at it. If you’re not . . . get off your butt!
How you get better at writing books… is by writing books.
The only way you are ever going to be “good enough” – regardless of what your definition of “good enough” may be – is by doing the work.
Stop worrying about what anyone else is doing, or how you measure up in comparison to that person. Do your own thing. Create. Make mistakes. Make discoveries. Put your butt down in that chair and write your heart out. “Good enough” is no longer part of the equation.