Writers and Worry…A Complicated Relationship

on March 1, 2017 4 Replies

I worry.

A lot.

I’ve been a worrier since I was a kid. My brother was the cool type. Able to let go, be impulsive, take things as they come. I know he has his own challenges but damn, I was always envious about NOT worrying how things would work out, and how I looked to people, and if everyone liked me or thought I was smart and a good writer. When I finally got published years later, I still worried if my sales would tank, or if I was a one or two hit wonder, or if readers would like my books or if other authors would like me and think I was a good writer.

Basically, it was the same exact stuff I worried about when I was younger, except I lose more sleep now and I’m not as skinny.  Plus, I now have kids and that takes up at least 90 percent of my worries, leaving only ten percent for the other stuff.

Same shit, different day.

The good news about getting older is I learned coping skills, and with enough time and experience under my belt, I figured out life wasn’t about to blow up on me if I made a mistake or if, God forbid, a person didn’t like me. Or my book.

I’ve learned to live more amicably with my worry, my doubts, and my demons. Especially with the inner voice that slyly whispers every time I start a new book, or release a new book, that this time will be the point in my life everyone finds out I’m a big imposter.

This is called Imposter Syndrome. I know a lot about it and talk in depth about this in my book, Write Naked.

Speaking about Write Naked, I’m excited to say my first foray into nonfiction releases in a few weeks on March 31st. I thought it would be fun to share some excerpts and topics from the book to interest you in pre-ordering or even just coming back to my blog to learn more. I intend to post every Wednesday since it fits with Writing Wednesday so please keep checking in or sign up for my blog posts on the link to your right.

Sales pitch over.

So, I’m currently in an interesting part of my career and at a crossroads. I can embrace the unknown and possibilities of great creativity and change.

Or I can crawl up in a ball, go to bed, and watch endless hours of BRAVO and HGTV until my husband makes me do something.

I just finished my 32rd book which I thought was a bunch of crap and somehow, it transformed into a story I fell madly in love with. Not sure when that happened – maybe around 25K?—but I’m just grateful it actually happened. I plan to write two brand new series, a novella, and a standalone in the next year, but I’m not sure what to start on next. My brain is tired and buzzing at the same time.

So, because I’m the poster child of procrastination, I’m writing some blogs for the next few weeks to try and figure it out. I’m going to take a few days to outline, brainstorm, and PLAY. Of course, with all those lovely deadlines, I better figure it out quickly.

Here’s an excerpt from Write Naked talking a bit about imposter syndrome and worry.

If you like it, here are the preorder links! Enjoy!

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

 

As you know, I’m a big advocate of sitting in the chair and forcing out words, but I also know a good writing day can mean one decent page, and another day can mean two thousand words. When I hit the last quarter of a book, I clock in four- to five-thousand words every day. Yet, each time I hit a new stage in the process, I still worry. I wonder if this is the last book I’ll ever write. I worry my Muse permanently packs up for vacation in Vegas and decides to stay for good. I torture myself with comparisons to previous books, other author’s books, and the horrific middle where I fall apart each and every time like clockwork. If I’ve written over twenty-five books, why do I still worry? Why don’t I ever confidently strut my stuff and act like a rock star? Every time I open up a Word document, I start at square one. I sit and stare at the screen, gripped in terror that I have to do this all over again. Will it all fall apart this time? Will I finally reveal my big secret? That I’m just a big, fat fraud? That’s depressing. And sometimes, exhausting. Oh, and it’s also imposter syndrome, which most successful women suffer from. I diagnosed myself with it at an early age. I was taking a psychology class in college and my professor wrote the term on the board. He explained that imposter syndrome occurs when no matter how successful a person is, whether she’s winning trophies, getting As on tests, or writing and publishing books, she feels like a fraud. A person suffering from imposter syndrome convinces herself the teacher was easy on her, or that she finished too close to her opponent in the race to really deserve the trophy, or that her book succeeded because it had the right cover or blurb or that it really wasn’t her talent, it was just … luck. I remember blinking at the board, and the fog around me suddenly shriveled up, revealing the clear road ahead. Yes! I shouted to myself. That’s me! I finally found out what I have!

The problem was how to fix it. There’s no real cure. Just a lot of practice trying to believe in yourself, and repeating helpful tasks. Mine were journaling, meditating at an ashram, and seeking spiritual peace to transition my fears away from my work. Today, it’s spending time with my boys, my dogs, and my family. Family time reminds me I have other important aspects of my life and helps me balance my vision of my work. But there’s always going to be fear and that’s part of the package. We need to learn to live with it, and to coexist peacefully with it, and to accept with grace that it will always be our companion. F ear can be a very valuable tool that helps push your career forward. I have learned one lesson that I share with all of my workshop students and writer friends: If something scares you, you should do it. You’re scared for a reason. Fear is the slithering snake whispering vile things in your ear, making you think this new venture will be a total disaster. Usually, it won’t be. If it is, it’s still worth the risk, because you’ll learn something. Mistakes are good. You cannot do everything perfectly in this life, and I promise you, even after reading this book, listening to workshops, and taking advice from your mentors, you are going to make mistakes. You’ll probably make a lot of them. Good for you. At least you’re living, and if you’re living, you have something great to write about. Our lives become textures mingled into our writing, and the richer, the better. The page is a safe place to dive deep, to release the demons, and to unleash them on the world. It will be uncomfortable and sometimes painful. You will want to quit. But if you follow through, you may be surprised you’ve reached levels in your writing you’ve never achieved before. Stake your claim in this world and show us what no one has before. There will be many people who won’t understand or agree with your viewpoint. There will be many people who do, and who read your book and feel something. Every good book I read changes me in some small way. It could be a simple scene, character, or the chemistry between hero and heroine. It could be the richness of setting, the title, or the cover. It could be that the book drew me in, and I forgot about real life for a little while. Those moments are precious. We are the people who deliver those moments. Doesn’t that make us a little bit immortal? Don’t writers exhibit naked vulnerability and massive courage to put their work out there into the public hands? Don’t writers risk everything, with the possibility of having their work literally and figuratively ripped apart, analyzed, and mocked, all in the quest for just one reader to fall in love?

 

4 thoughts on “Writers and Worry…A Complicated Relationship”

  1. Liz says:

    Already preordered. Even though we are friends you are still signing it! 🙂

    1. Jennifer says:

      Aww thank you Liz!

  2. Alyssa says:

    As a beginner writer and veteran worrier I can’t wait to dive into this book. It couldn’t have happened at a better time too – Funny how that always happens. My copy is definitely pre-ordered.

    1. Jennifer says:

      Thank you so much Alyssa!!

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