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A Never-Ending Maze of Doubt and Confusion

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Philip Overby, Nov 9, 2013.

  1. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

    A letter I wrote to myself. Maybe it can be of some help to someone else.

    Dear Phil,

    You're not doing so good are you? You ever just think: "Writing is not only hard, there are just so many things that will never make sense to me or I'm not capable of doing." It's like trying to be a chef. There are so many intricacies to cooking that if anything is even slightly off it can ruin the whole dish. If you use too many of one word, one reader may throw your book down in disgust, while if you do something "too similar" another reader may call you "unoriginal" or "cliche'." Another may call your writing "messy" or "amateurish" or "an incomprehensible mess." Some may question why you're even attempting what Homer, Shakespeare, Hemingway, and Atwood have before. "You're not in their league and you never will be."

    Dozens of discarded manuscripts lie in your wake. Nothing is good enough. Nothing will ever measure up. You can't finish anything. You're your own worst critic. You can't even bother to finish one, single novel in almost a decade of writing.

    Not only is writing hard, but publishing is hard. You'll either be butting your head up against a wall trying to find an agent or bobbing in a slush pile somewhere hoping someone will pick up your book. That, or you'll be self-publishing, which can be a nightmare in its own way. If your cover art sucks, you suck. If your blurb sucks, no thanks. If your opening chapter sucks, it's getting dumped. Each and every decision you make can make or break you as an author. The tiniest of missteps or misrepresenting yourself can doom you to obscurity. That's one thing you definitely don't want.

    Not only are writing and publishing hard, but marketing? Forget about it! You're going to be either screaming into the void to get people to buy your book or wrack your brain trying anything to get your book in people's hands. You're an introverted, creative type and you have to be social in this day and age. You can't just sit and hope your book sells because it's good. You have to find people who love it, share it, review it. But even those reviews can be bad. They can be downright awful on occasion. One bad review can sink an otherwise well-reviewed book for some readers. Are you really prepared for that?

    Then once you go through the nightmare of finishing, releasing, and marketing your book, you have to start all over again with a new one. What? A new one? It took forever just to complete one book. Why do you want to start the cycle all over again?

    Writing is hard. Publishing is hard. Marketing is hard. This industry can be cutthroat or can feel like battling a hydra: once you deal with one issue, two more pop up in its place.

    Why would anyone in their right mind what to focus their life on such an endeavor? Something so full of doubt and uncertainty? Why don't you do something more productive? Something that will earn you a steady paycheck and make your family proud?

    Well, because you love writing, obviously. If we scrape away all the doubt, confusion, and self-loathing, that's what is underneath. The fact that everything is hard doesn't discourage you. It makes you work harder. The fact that writing is difficult is a challenge you embrace. Publishing is just another hurdle to get over. Learning how to market something is intricate and sometimes confusing, but also another thing you look forward to putting your mind to.

    Not everyone can be a writer. But if they're up for the challenge, they can be. You can be. No matter how confusing and never-ending this process seems to be, if you love it, you'll endure. And as the old cliche' goes "nothing worth doing is easy."

    So don't look for easy answers. There are none. You'll be so much happier as a writer if you struggle and learn from your mistakes. Read and learn from others' successes and mistakes. Find your own way through the maze. And just remember, there is only one Philip Overby that can tell your stories. That's you.

    Good luck and go write something, you lazy bum.


    Last edited: Nov 9, 2013
    A. E. Lowan likes this.
  2. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

    I loved that, Phil. I'm sitting here, at 2am my time trying to walk my characters through the same sword fight in a burning factory they've been stuck in for the past month, and I get treated to this lovely validation of why I'm overly caffeinated in the middle of the night fighting for each and every word.

    If it were easy, everyone would do it. Plus, chicks dig scars. ;)
  3. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Auror

    You're so right, Phil in that there is that writing isn't easy and there are a lot of hurdles, both big and small.

    But if you want to get your stories out there for others to read and enjoy, you have to surmount those hurdles, and perseverance is necessary. If it was easy, everybody would do it.

    While in some ways, I agree with you that publishing is a cutthroat business, I think that most SF/Fantasy authors are sharing, in that they'll give sincere insight and advice and do what they can to give fellow authors a leg up. I think highly competitive would be how I would put it.

    Hang in there and do what it takes. I've read some of your stuff. I think you have what it takes to be successful.

    And, A.E. Lowan, hope you get them through that swordfight amidst the flames, and are able to press onward!


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