You Are Probably Better Than You Think You Are


So many writers I know have a tendency to self-reject, to tear down their own work and make themselves feel like crap. Some days they bluff it and say, “I’ve been doing this for ten years, my stories are good, my language is good, this industry sucks,” when underneath the bluff they are thinking, “the industry doesn’t suck, I do, obviously my stories are just not good enough, and if after ten years I still can’t write a decent story, who am I fooling?”

The thing is, the industry both sucks and doesn’t – it publishes god-awful repetitive hits-by-numbers, and works of staggering beautiful genius. (we don’t always agree which is which, but hey, variety is the spice of etc). And those writers I know who are struggling *are* damn good. Their work is polished, their stories carefully crafted, the language rich or deceptively simple, but always theirs.

I can’t write a feel good post about how this one writer I know struggled for years then suddenly got a million dollar deal because I don’t know those people (and those deals are few and far between) but what I do know is a host of writers who have not given up, and some have achieved a measure of success they are happy with in mainstream publishing, others have hybrid careers, others keep their work in small presses like Immanion where they know their work will go directly to the kind of people who love their style. Some have self-published novels while concentrating on short-story sales, some have patreons, some kickstart final stories in a series, some write for hire under pseudonyms, some write fanfic, some are still working hard on that perfect first novel.

The thing they all have in common is under the despair, and under the bluff-masking-despair, they all keep writing.

A small success here, another there – a short story sale, a poem in a respected journal, an essay that went viral, a growing fan base that buys their every work…these things take time, and most of all they take constant plodding effort in the face of grim indifference. They find the next handhold and they raise themselves another inch, mark off the rejection and resub, rewrite and revise for the nth time, brainstorm a new idea, outline their next novel, make words.

So. you are probably better than you think you are. Don’t self-reject, keep subbing, keep pushing, and mark off the days with stars. My husband likes to tell me – there are plenty of people out there happy to tear you down, don’t do their job for them. And he’s right about that.

As Margaret Atwood wrote in The Handmaid’s Tale: Nolite te bastardes carborundorum

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