Confession of a Self-Defeating Writer

In other words, I’m my own worst enemy, as the cliché goes, and struggle daily to change.

Yesterday, at my son’s doctor appointment, the doctor mentioned that his niece’s young adult book had just been picked up by a major publisher, and that Sherman Alexei (someone I greatly admire) was one of the people who had written a cover blurb for her. Trying to be brave, I mentioned that I, too, had a book out. I asked him to give my compliments to his niece, and we had a nice conversation.

But inside? The whole time I was thinking, wow, his niece is a real writer. Followed by instant fear that he would ask me who published my book, to which I’d have to admit, ‘me’. Or, I figured I could say, ‘it’s an Indie publishing’ hoping he didn’t know that meant ‘me’. I felt embarrassed and even a tiny bit ashamed. My inner writer immediately cowered in her dark, dank, closet, cringing, while the voice that sounds like my mom shouted outside the door, ‘YOU’RE NOT A REAL WRITER! YOU’RE NOT EVEN VERY GOOD!’

Come on, really? At this time of my life, I still cower before that inner critic? How absolutely stupid. And yet, being very honest here, I do.

So what is a real writer? I know the answer to that question. Anyone who writes. What is an author? To me, anyone who is published. I have friends who have published their own books and are very successful at it. Susan Schreyer comes immediately to mind. Multiple books out, always busy marketing in a very professional manner. She’s a real author.

Okay, I just had a lightbulb moment. I don’t feel like an author because I only have one book out, I’m not wild about the cover (which was a mistake), I’m not doing a huge amount of marketing because I don’t think marketing kicks in until you have more than one book out, and I always feel my writing comes up short. So success to me, is multiple books, a marketing plan, and most importantly, the confidence to say, I’m in charge of my writing and publishing. I don’t need a big name publisher behind me to feel like an author.

In spite of feeling like a failure as an author, and feeling like a not very good writer, I honestly love my story. I’m having fun working on the sequel. I think it will be a good story, too. I know I do a good job with setting because that soars for me. I like my characters; some even make me laugh. So why isn’t that good enough?

I guess because I am from that generation that wrote during the time when publishing meant being accepted by someone else. My brain knows that is no longer important in this day and age, and that publishers and agents are struggling. But my writing soul still assumes the mantle of inadequacy.

I know, it’s stupid. But it’s honest, and I haven’t figured out how to change.  And I know exactly what is going to happen now. My friends are going to send me emails bawling me out and telling me I’m a good writer. And I’ll thank them, and inside I’ll think, ‘of course you have to say that, you’re a friend’. Continuing the self-defeating role.

For now anyway. I’ll get this figured out. I’m actually a stronger person than that writer cowering in the closet.


4 thoughts on “Confession of a Self-Defeating Writer

  1. Then I won’t tell you those things that go in one ear and come out the other completely cancelled out. I will say that I love the ‘you’, the personal style of your writing. That’s why I’m drawn to your blog, and why I’m wondering right now why I borrowed Wicked from my sister and persist in reading it even though it’s style is aggravating me no end. Because it was popular, and I’ve seen so much praise for the writer, it feels like a sort of a class for me. (Maybe I should loosen up and not care so much that people ‘understand’ what I write?) I should be reading your book. I’m sorry I haven’t yet. I will.

    I’ve been feeling like a fraud lately and am just as immune to the kind words of friends as you are, though I feel the love behind them, perhaps crave it however they want to show it. My own feelings of fraud were added to recently by strangers who I feel represent so much of society that I can’t quite shake them. (I only pretend I can.) I try to keep writing and searching for ideas to keep myself from sinking. I think that’s one of the things that keeps us stronger than “that writer cowering in the closet.”


    • Good comments to think on. Especially the part about writing as a way to keep from sinking. It’s ironic that the one thing we feel so horrible about is the one thing we need to cling to for balance in our lives. Or at least some peace. I also like the word ‘fraud’. I hadn’t thought of that, but you’re right, that’s exactly how it feels. Haven’t heard of ‘Wicked’ but now you have my curiosity up. I read one book last year, or tried to, that had fantastic reviews, that the author got this amazingly huge advance for, and I just couldn’t get into the book. I couldn’t figure it out and finally gave up. It was called The Historian. Made me glad that we all don’t have the same taste in what we read.


  2. Oh, maaan, Here, you express precisely and eloquently what I’m feeling. Everyone is saying “self-publish” and I’m waiting for someone (some New Yorker with a nice office and a suit and a soothing, confident tone) to put me under their arm, wave their magic hands over me, and make me a real writer. You’re right– we’re old fashioned (although you are far more modern and smart for publishing your own). Why can’t we just listen to our friends and move forward toward what we want? I guess this vulnerability is inherent in the act of writing. Writing is so personal and lonely and independent but then you expose yourself to readers, and everything changes.


    • Actually, I think you just said it better than I did. Vulnerability is inherent in writing. I just wish some writer would invent a magic pill that we could swallow down that would make all those inner demons go away. I get so frustrated when a friend of mine doesn’t believe me that she’s a good writer, and then I turn around and do the same thing to her. And when she points that out, I think, but that’s because it’s true; I’m not that good. Such an idiot sometimes. Glad I’m not alone in this inadequacy battle.


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