Thursday, March 24, 2011

Self-Doubt: The Root of All Evil

Authors love feedback. And once a work is published, reviews are the main source of feedback. This would be fine, except for two facts. Fact 1, authors should never read reviews. Fact 2, it's not a a two-way street, and no matter what the reviewer says or doesn't say, responding is never, ever a good idea. It's called The Author's Big Mistake and it carries that name for a reason.

I never break the second rule, unless it's to thank somebody for taking the time to read and write a review. But I never remember the first rule. I knew an author who claimed he never read reviews because if you believe the good things, you have to believe the bad. I don't disagree with the logic. The problem is, as a writer, I'm often plagued with doubt.

Sometimes I'm plagued with so much doubt that by the time a book is published, I can barely stand to think about it. Usually once a book goes on sale, I never revisit it, never re-read it, never remember the good times I had writing it. I know deep down inside it sucks, nobody's going to buy it, and if they do, they'll hate it. I should have worked harder on the prose, I should have tightened the plot, maybe it needed another round of edits.

I've never received a review as harsh as the ones I give myself for every single book, and I find it very difficult to talk about my work, much less claim it under my own name. Because then everybody will know I've successfully published one hundred titles under two pseudonyms, and every single one is "terrible".

I'm thinking about this today because I've received a new review for a book I wrote called Pisces: From Behind That Locked Door. Reading the final galley for it was torture, and I was cruel to myself, cruel to the book. Unreasonable and unkind. My own worst critic. And yet, people who've read the book had this to say:

Jay isn’t the typical romantic lead in any genre – he just doesn’t fit the usual mold – he’s totally unconventional in his physical attributes, outlook on life and confidence level. Yet, he’s an awesome guy whose pain and unhappiness can make you cry, or at least sniffle a little, and it’s here that Ms. Espinoza excelled. Her expression of Jay, his attitude, background and the people making him miserable are vividly described, creating a scenario that could have stepped out of the real world.
On Tuesday I wrote about graciously giving and receiving constructive criticism, but for me as a writer, that's never been a challenge. I always strive to be kind but honest when responding to my students or fellow writers, and I know other authors are the same. I know this because those authors have been so kind to me over the years. But self-doubt might be the root of all writing problems, especially writer's block in my case, and it's important to remember to be gracious and kind to yourself. Be honest when you're evaluating your work, but don't denigrate it. Your writing deserves better than that. So do you.

1 comment:

  1. Remember how Stephen King said that fear is the root of most bad writing? We gotta conquer those fears and have a bit of confidence if we want to succeed. Lovely post!