Anxieties aren’t something we take on voluntarily. In fact, they like to jump on us like leeches and drain away our self-confidence without so much as taking us to dinner first. Authors who have been living with them for a long time know how to use many of them to their advantage. But there are a few thoughts that crop up to discourage us that need throwing out with the trash.
If you’re an author and you either have anxiety or understand anxious thought hindering the creative process, you’ll know that it isn’t easy to banish counter-productive thoughts. Like anything else, it’s possible. Better yet, with persistence, it’s easier to make them slide off us like water off a duck’s back.
The thing is, being anxious and all, it isn’t always easy for us to figure out which thoughts are worth tossing out and which ones we can use as quality control.
Sometimes, I’m not entirely sure which critical thoughts are worth keeping but I’ve compiled a list of the ones that are definitely worth kicking to the curb.
This story has been done before, why should I bother?
Yes, this story has been done before. Many times, maybe decades before you were even born. But you haven’t written this story before.
Every author’s style is different and every author has something new to bring to a story. Besides, as readers, we like reading the same stories over again with different characters in different places. We like things feeling familiar and new at the same time.
We need to stop focusing on what has been done before and more on what we can bring to the table. We have a lot to give the world of fiction (or non-fiction!) and we can’t do it if we’re dedicating more time to doubting ourselves than to writing. Throw this thought away and keep it in the past where it belongs.
My writing isn’t as good as…
I get this thought almost every time I read a good book, before I tuck it away to agonise over later so I can carry on enjoying the read. The books we enjoy are often well-written, enticing and emotional: all the things we want our own books to be.
We are never going to write like the authors we admire and that’s a good thing. Originality and unique style is something else readers love and we aren’t going to be original or unique if we write like someone else.
If that alone isn’t enough to convince you to chuck this self-depreciating thought out of a window 20 storeys up, here’s another Anxious Author blog post that will help you to cope with comparison-itis.
Nobody will read my book, there’s too much competition.
Here’s one thing we should be under no illusion about: there is a lot of competition out there. Anyone can publish a book now and they do. There is a veritable sea of books online that our books are in danger of drowning in.
Books don’t make it onto the bestseller lists and top of the charts by luck alone. They get there with ads, strategy and…OK, yeah a little bit of luck. But this doesn’t mean the end of our careers before they’ve even begun. These skills can and have been learned. The likes of Rebecca Hamilton and Mark Dawson have all kinds of courses to help us learn about ads and self-publishing.
It’s often a long journey, full of mistakes, to reach success and our line of work is no different. This particular anxiety might be the most difficult to banish because its solution is the most difficult to achieve, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t dispose of it anyway. It doesn’t hurt to have a little blind faith in ourselves from time to time, especially when facing our toughest challenges.
Thanks for reading!