IWSG: Insecure? Because We’re Writers….

InsecureWritersSupportGroup2This is a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group bloghop. It is scheduled for the first Wednesday of the month. TODAY is the first Wednesday of the month. So it’s not too late to join up— unless you are reading this tomorrow.

Why are writers insecure? Because we’re writers! Writing is a lonely business, from the day when you bat out your first, poorly-thought-out short story attempt until you reach the Stephen King level of success. And in our culture, we’re taught that doing things by ourselves is bad.

Schools have taught us that everything, even going to the bathroom, must be done as a group project. When teachers assigned us something in the creative-writing realm— if they ever did— they try to turn it into something more compatible with group activity. They don’t ask us to write a poem, they instruct us to count out 5-7-5 syllables and call the result a ‘haiku’. Because that way the bulk of our class time is spent in a group— having the syllable-counting explained to us, showing us examples of syllable-counted ‘haiku’, and after comparing the student-written ‘haiku’ and condemning those examples which strayed overly far from the models given.

Real writing is nothing like that. No one gives you the assignment. Something that starts out as a historical romance trilogy might end up as a Western novella— but since you are working on your own, no one will care, since it’s only the finished product that counts. And so by identifying yourself as a writer, you are identifying yourself as something scary— a loner, one of those quiet types, no one ever suspected….

The amateur writing world has plenty of chances to ease your insecurity by making your writing efforts more ‘groupish’. You are urged to sign up for NaNoWriMo where, in addition to writing to someone else’s word count goals, you are encouraged to use part of your writing time discussing all your plot points on the forum— and abandoning those that fail the group-think test. And then when you are finished with your NaNo novel, you are told that you are now required to hire an editor-for-hire, and then create a rewrite incorporating the editor-for-hire’s suggestions. And then you self-publish it and it’s OK that it doesn’t sell because the writing isn’t really yours any more, after all.

I find that any attempt to make my writing ‘groupish’ causes writing failure. Lawrence Block once refused to give many details about a current writing project of his, saying he didn’t want to ‘leave his fight in the gym’.

I don’t know much about the boxing metaphor but I do know that the more I talk over my story idea, the less likely it is that I will gather the strength and creativity to get that story idea down on paper. I can TALK about a story, or WRITE it, but not both.

And so I am a lonely and therefore insecure writer, putting in months of toil on writing ideas I haven’t laid out before a suitable group to gain their criticism, praise and permission-to-proceed. Only after I have committed a great deal of effort to making my fiction the best, it can be will any people be allowed to see it, and by then any criticism or praise will hurt all the more since at that point there will be limits to what I am able to change.

But that’s the writer’s life— my life, your life, Stephen King’s life before he was killed by his evil pen name and replaced…. So if you are feeling lonely and insecure today, congratulations. You may be a REAL writer!

18 thoughts on “IWSG: Insecure? Because We’re Writers….

  1. I don’t feel especially lonely, but I’ve always been a loner of sorts and one who enjoys solitary work. I write to please myself first and then I figure if the writing is polished enough then others will like it too. Nothing wrong with the solitary life as long as we don’t get overly weird about it and unable to function in social situations. After all, when the writing is completed then comes the marketing and that requires some social skills.

    Tossing It Out

  2. I find that I can’t talk in any detail about any WIP I’m working on, until I’m ready to hand it over to see what beta readers think – but by this stage, I’m very close to the final product. i like that quote by Lawrence Block – not wanting to leave his fight in the gym.

  3. Love this post! This is so true. I hadn’t thought about the fact that the reason people are suspect when I tell them that I write is because it’s a solitary activity. And I so agree about the way writing is taught in schools–if you want to be a writer, you have to unlearn everything you’ve been taught by well-meaning teachers.
    Thanks for the encouragement. I don’t belong to a critique group, but have critique partners that I trade with on an individual basis for this reason. I do better when I write the first draft in solitude, without any input from anyone, and being in a crit group didn’t allow for that.

  4. It is a lonely business but I do like being alone. The online support I receive from the this group and blogging helps with the isolation as we all share worries and problems. I’m glad my children never attended a school where writing projects were group projects.

  5. I’ve always been the quiet and shy type, preferring to skulk and observe. That said, I’ve done NaNoWriMo three times now and I enjoyed the social aspects of it, although last time, I didn’t do the forums as much. And without AbsoluteWrite, I wouldn’t have found a lot of my current writer friends.

    But I agree that you can’t write as a group project or as a result of group consensus.

  6. A lot of the time writers like being alone. I know some writers who love consulting one another, they have fab critter groups and are very cohesive. Those are rare writers who are locked in a clique! I suppose that’s why Alex created this group and why there are many of us on Facebook or Twitter (and other social platforms)!

    I love discussing the gritty details with close, close people over my WiP: my kids make great sounding-boards!


  7. I’m willing to talk to other people about my writing, but only certain other people. People who get what I’m trying to do. Otherwise, if people ask about my writing, I tell them I write science fiction and leave it at that. As for NaNoWriMo, I’m sure it works for other people, but it’s not the right choice for everyone.

  8. Hee hee, great post. Yes, I agree, I think probably most of us writers are insecure on some level. It was even hard for me to admit I’d joined the group! 🙂

  9. I never talk about my work in progress other than general statements. The plot and the title I keep until I hear from my publisher that they are accepting it. (And before the first one, I wasn’t even online, so no one knew but my wife.)
    I never even knew about the NaNo forums until after the fact. I wouldn’t have ventured there anyway – I was too busy writing!
    I’m glad you joined the IWSG though.

  10. I think working alone and being lonely are two separate things. I do work alone on my writing, but I’m never lonely with this blog community. They are a great source of support and positive feedback.
    Reach out if you need us.
    Keep moving forward.

  11. When I talk about my project (unless I’m brainstorming the plot with my critique partner), I find that the story loses the need to write it because I’ve already told it. Best wishes.

  12. Great post! I think it’s funny that even amongst writers, there are different preferences. I love to talk about my WIP with others. It inspires me to write and I find that new ideas come to me when I’m trying to explain something to someone else. It points out holes in my plot or characterization. Although, sometimes I talk about it too much and don’t get enough writing in.

    Also, my name is Genissa but I go by Nissa a lot, too. It’s not a very common name 🙂

  13. Hmm, i appreciate your position, but I’m always a bit hesitant to respond to anything that discusses what a “real writer” is versus isn’t. A real writer is anyone who writes. Not everyone works well with others. Some people are solitary. I have a writing group because I value their input and insight and it’s nice to be able to talk about writing with people who understand (just like you’re doing with your blog post here) and I take part in writing conventions and workshops and I love it. I love knowing other writers. I love hearing how their processes differ from my own. But that’s just me. I’m no less a writer than anyone else toiling away at their computer or notepad. You’re no less a writer for eschewing those things.

    I think you have to do what works best for you and say damn-the-man about the things that don’t. Good luck in your solitary journey 🙂

  14. Design by committee is usually bound for failure, but I usually use groups of people to proff read stuff and make suggestions to the material. But in the end, us loners have the final say. It’s our baby and a piece of ourselves. That’s what makes it special!

  15. It’s true that too much input can be confusing. I’m still trying to find the balance in that.

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