11 Apr

Advice for When You Want to Quit Writing

Banner - Fountain PenThere are times when you look at a book by your favorite writer and despair. That your writing stinks, and that you’ll never be that good. That there’s no point in continuing. You’ve been doing this for months, or years, or decades, and you’re still not good enough.

I feel you pain – but there’s an easy explanation.

What you’re feeling is the distance between your evaluating skill and your crafting skill.

Ira Glass has said it the best in his “nobody tells this to beginners.” It’s a single paragraph quote. Read it.

What’s happening, is that you know what you like.

You also know what you are capable of writing – and you can see the difference.

But there’s a tiny part there that nobody notices: it’s the missing words “right now” after “capable of writing”.

I’ve been writing since the mid 1990’s. My skill-gap has shrunk.

And I still get this feeling sometimes.

I didn’t win Writers of the Future. I’ll never get a Campbell Award for Best New Writer. I’ll never do a Sanderson and launch a $6 000 000 kickstarter for a reprint.

Did you spot the mistake there? I’ll never win WotF or the Best New Writer, because those categories are closed to me as a pro – but there’s nothing that says that I couldn’t make it big, except my own impostor syndrome.

That’s the second thing you’re feeling, when you’re comparing your writing to the final, polished, proofed drafts of experienced writers.

It’s hard not to do. They’re living the dream – writing, getting the love of fans, creating amazing worlds, making money.

Want to know a secret? They still feel impostor syndrome, and they still compare themselves unfavorably to other pros.

That floored me when I heard Mary Robinette Kowal (if you don’t know who she is, google her name and read “Angry Robot Monkey“) say that she felt like an impostor. This is a writer who is so good I’ll never be able to compare, and she feels like an impostor.

I wish I had an easy way to get around it, but I don’t.

It gets better with time. It gets better with rejection (yes, you do build thick skin by getting rejected.) It gets better with success, too.

Mostly it gets better with age. You don’t care as much as often because you realize that it doesn’t matter how great someone else’s work is. No matter your skill, no matter what you write, somehwere there is a person who’ll love, love, love it.

It might not be you (often it isn’t – writers are horrible judges of our own works) but that person exists.

Your job is to make sure that they get the chance to read what you’ve written. And to do that, you’ll need to tell that infernal editor in your mind to go take a flying leap and LET YOU WRITE!

Luck and Persitence!

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