Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Facing the Doubt Demon Head-on

Before I got published, I lived in a world of dreams and aspirations. I wrote manuscripts with the hope that one day I'd see them in book form. I hoped, but I wasn't sure. I doubted, but I also believed.

Fast forward a few years, and I'm a published author with fourteen books to my name and three more contracted. One would think that at this point, I'd be filled with confidence.

The fact is, I struggle more with doubt now than I did before STILL WATERS hit the book stores. That is not to say I don't believe in my abilities. It is simply that I worry more about whether or not my writing is up to snuff. Before, I only had to angst about editors (only? Ha!) and critique partners and what their opinions of my work would be. Now, I must consider readers' opinions. I worry about disappointing a publishing house that has put time and energy and money and marketing into my work. I worry about disappointing myself and my family. Each time I write a manuscript, I wonder if it is good enough.

If I let myself, I could be frozen with doubt, unable to write another word let alone another manuscript.

I have tried to ignore the dreaded Doubt Demon, but it rears its ugly head every time I complete a project. It mocks me, laughing at my attempts to create something compelling and unique.

And I squash it like a bug.

Well, not quite.

What I do is face it. I try to decide what part of my worries and doubt stem from the reality of the manuscript (in other words, is there something that needs to be fixed?) and what parts stem from a natural and very real lack of confidence in my work. If I decide that the project needs improvement, I go back and rework. If I am simply nervous....I package the manuscript and ship it off, knowing that it is now up to others to decide whether or not my story makes the grade.

Publishing is a tough business. When we write, we are allowing our audience a glimpse into our souls. It is not easy to be that vulnerable, that transparent. But to be successful, we must.

So...if you're holding on to that manuscript because you're afraid, know that fear is a part of this journey and face it head-on. Package that manuscript up, kiss it goodbye and let it fly.


Sabrina L. Fox said...

I would imagine as a seasoned author you'd have more pressure to improve with each book. My friend Cara feels that way.

I heard that Margaret Mitchell said she never thought she'd write anything else because there was no way she could top "Gone with the Wind"

From my perspective I would have thought she'd have had all kinds of confidence she could write another award winner, but
it would seem she had an almost paralyzing fear. I wonder if she thought it was a fluke?

Either way, you've proven yourself time and time again. The doubt is normal, but the perseverance and determination you show really reflects your experience and
ability to deliver. :)

As a side note, a friend of mine was rejected from LI last week and one of the notes the editor sent her agent was "Have her study/read our longtime authors like Shirlee Mccoy and ...Hmmm, sounds like they like you, Shirlee. :)

Shirlee McCoy said...


Thanks. I needed that little boost. It's good to know the editors like me...even when I'm not sure why!

Did you send out your manuscript?