Are your insecurities keeping you from becoming the writer you have always wanted to be?
I ask as someone who has spent a larger than necessary portion of life dealing with insecurities. I grew up a shy, anxious person. When you’re shy, for some reason people think you’re stuck up or that you don’t want to be friendly. So I spent a lot of time by myself, writing, because that was the only way I felt comfortable organizing and expressing my thoughts.
Eventually, those same insecurities that made it hard for me to get along with people and speak my mind made it hard to write, too. The writing itself, I could do. But it took me a long time to gather up the courage to show my writing to other people, and even longer to believe that what I have to say, through speaking and writing, matters.
Other people might be able to hide their feelings of inferiority from the general public, but I never miss them. I see writers asking the same questions five times before ever getting started on something. I see them trying to start something, giving up and immediately trying to move on to something new, only to repeat the same cycle time and again. They beg for feedback, but haven’t learned how to accept constructive criticism. They join all the writing groups on social media and try to interact with other writers, but get upset when people disagree with them or point out flaws in their arguments.
I am not a judgmental person. When I see these things happening, I understand where these writers are coming from. but it’s not my business to assume there is a specific problem or a solution I can offer. I generally prefer the role of a mentor: I can present facts, I can give suggestions and feedback, but I can’t, and never try to do someone’s work for them. That becomes a problem, when a person’s insecurities prevent them from being able to take things into their own hands. A writer struggling with feelings of inferiority doesn’t want help. They want to be told exactly what to do, and then they want to be told they’re doing it right.
That’s just not how the writing process works. Writers can’t take anything personally in this virtual world of words and criticisms and rejections and praises. Separating the art from the artist is something everyone struggles with, which doesn’t help. I think pretty negatively about Justin Bieber as a person, but I won’t lie and say I don’t absolutely adore some of his music. Your writing has nothing to do with your value as a human being. I know that might be hard to believe, but it’s the truth.
The reason we ask so many questions, the reason we avoid getting started for as long as we can – the reason we stop, intending to start again but never do – is because of our insecurities. We assume – believe, even – that we will never be good enough, that our skills have no value to anyone else, that we are wasting precious time doing what we love because no one else seems to care about it the way we do.
There just isn’t room on this journey for insecurities. Period. When you sit down to write, you have one goal: to write what you want to write, for the reasons you want to write it. There are always going to be people who criticize you when they should really be criticizing your writing. There are always going to be days you feel like no one cares about you because no one read that blog post you spent two hours writing. It doesn’t matter what people think. It just. Doesn’t. Matter.
Maybe people who don’t write regularly don’t have the ability to separate you as a person from the things you write, but you do. And you need to learn to use that ability, or you are going to make yourself absolutely miserable. You can’t go on trying to be a writer if you take everything personally. Honestly, it’s about your writing much more than it’s about you. That doesn’t mean you don’t matter. You have to stop thinking these two things are connected. They’re not.
I can’t make you have more faith in yourself. I can’t tell you whether you should quit or keep trying. I can’t tell you whether you’re doing something right or wrong. What I can tell you is this: no matter how insecure you might feel about yourself, don’t apply those same feelings to what you write. Use writing as an escape from those feelings. Strive to be the great writer you have always wanted to be. With success comes confidence, and with confidence comes the belief that maybe, just maybe, you’re not so bad of a person after all. However, with failure needs to come the realization that you’re still learning how this all works. You’re still figuring out this whole writing thing, regardless of how long you’ve been trying. Give yourself a break.
Keep writing. You wouldn’t be reading this if, deep down, that isn’t what you want to do.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.