Creative people of all types tend to be insecure folks, I think. Creative folks are bold, daring, maybe a little crazy. They push the boundaries, lean into the unknown, risk failure. But because of that, they occasionally run afoul of moments of doubt and insecurity.
Unfortunately, those are the moments that, from a psychological standpoint, really sting. Those nagging thoughts are what our brains remember, obsess over, amplify in orders of magnitude until we can’t see beyond them.
That’s how it is for me at least. Most of the time, I’m good. Like, 80% of the time. 20% of the time I feel like a fraud. I’m wasting my time. What I’m trying to do is ridiculous and unattainable because I have no talent whatsoever and how could I have ever thought that I could succeed as a creative writer. Chuck Wendig wrote a great post about this over on his Terrible Minds blog. (Be warned, his language is fabulously profane).
The life of a writer can easily become a life of solitude, one in which the only people you can talk to are the voices in your head, most of which are nasty jerks who thrive on negativity and despair. I’ve sort of given up reaching out to friends and family members for reassurances. I’m lucky in that my friends and family members are supportive, but they also don’t really get it, so I never quite trust their words of encouragement, and my insecurities remain.
Building a Community of Supportive People Who Get It:
To help me cope, I’ve sought out other writers who are down in the creative trenches, pushing their own boundaries and taking risks. They’ll understand. They’ll know. Their support and encouragement carry more weight and really do help to dispel those horrible moments of insecurity that sneak up on me here and there.
For the past year and a half, I’ve been a member of the North Shore Writer’s Group in Massachusetts. I can’t begin to tell you how great it has been for me as a writer and as a creative person in general to be able to gather in a room with a bunch of other writers twice a month to chat about life, our creative struggles, and then discuss our work.
Online writing groups are great, too. I recently discovered The Insecure Writer’s Support Group. What a cool organization/site! Their mission is to recognize the dark moments of the writing process and the writer’s life and connect people to each other. They help writers find and build a support network. One of the many things they do over there is to host a monthly blog hop. Budding and established authors are all welcome to participate (I current fall into the former category). The group posts a monthly prompt, and we can use it to spark a blog post.
IWSG Question of the Month: Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing?
Yes, definitely. Frequently, in fact. On the spectrum of plotter/pantser (pantser is a term I don’t care for, by the way. I prefer to call myself a “discovery writer.” Not my term. Picked it up from fantasy author Brandon Sanderson in one of his co-hosted Writing Excuses podcasts. Fabulous podcast. You’ve got to check it out), I’m pretty far over toward the discovery writer end of things. I’ll sketch out a loose outline of where I want the story to go, but mostly I just start with a “what if” premise, conjure up some imaginary person to throw it at, and see what happens.
A couple of weeks ago, I started writing a scene that came to me as I was drifting off to sleep one night. It had nothing to do with anything that had happened in the story or that I had visualized happening, but it was an intriguing “what if” situation.
I had no expectations when I started writing that scene. For all I cared, I could finish it up and trash it if I decided it wasn’t something I liked. No harm, no foul. Everything I write is an opportunity to practice my skills, and Gods know I have a lot that I can practice. Pacing, description, POV and perspective, character development, world-building, dialogue, even basic sentence structure.
So, I started writing. What the hay, kids. Let’s hop in the car and go for a drive. Why not? See where the open road takes us. We might stumble across something interesting.
What I stumbled across was an unexpected plot twist that I’m super, and I mean SUPER excited about pursuing.
When my explorations, my unsupervised road trip inevitably leads me and my characters down a dead-end street of ugliness, I will despair. My insecurities will breed like gremlins and grown in size until all I can see is how awful I am. But that’s okay because I’ve taken steps to find and connect with other creative writers. I have not one but several support groups who will help me defeat my doubts. The Insecure Writer’s Support Group being among them.
So, how about you? Do you have a support group of like-minded folks who help you keep pushing your boundaries, keep taking risks? And when you do stick your creative neck out, do you ever surprise yourself? I’d love to hear about it.