Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Insecure Writer's Support Group: June 2012

Insecurity is a natural part of my life as a would-be writer.  I tend to second-guess everything.  This is especially true when I finally polish a story for submission.  There is a long build-up of self doubt and frantic thinking "would it be best if I switched these scenes are made the MC do this instead of that?"  I imagine all the other permutations of the story and hope I'm making the right call as I lock in all that I had previously done by hitting that all powerful SAVE button.

The torment doesn't end there.  After going through all the other motions necessary in the submission process, I send my work out into the world.  Like other writers, I speculate about how great it would be if they sent me back a letter saying "YES!  This was amazing!  In the future, we promise to publish everything you ever send us and to pay you buckets full of money for each wonderful piece you send our way."  I'm fairly certain that no publication has ever, or will ever, send out a letter like this, but wouldn't it be nice?

Even with these wildly improbable fantasies, I'm more realistic than that most of the time.  I know the odds are not in my favor.  There are always a great number of fantastic stories assailing these publications, and they can't publish all of them.  At least, that's the true story I tell myself.  If only my writerly brain would accept this is the reason why I ultimately receive that rejection letter.  My main problem starts long before the publisher in question has a clue I exist.  The moment I hit send or drop that crucial package into the mail box, I start to second guess everything.

  • Did my cover letter have the right information on it?
  • Did I put enough work into the cover letter?  Does it sound professional?
  • I misspelled something.  I just know it.  I have spelling errors all over the place that my multiple read-throughs failed to detect.  The person reading my submission is going to laugh at my ineptitude.
  • I wrote something they're going to find offensive.  The first person who reads it is going to be so taken aback by something I wrote that they're going to send out a department memo saying "If you ever receive a submission from this person again, burn it IMMEDIATELY upon receipt.

It's obvious that my brain doesn't have my sanity as its top priority.  These thoughts are silly and unproductive.  I keep wanting to look over everything I sent and pick it apart.  I've learned though, that I can't let myself do that.  Instead of agonizing over it, I need to put that aside and work on my next project.  I now take all of my submission materials and put them in a separate folder.  Once the submission has been sent, I put that folder in a safe place where I don't have to see it every time I bring out my writing materials.  I do my best to pretend it doesn't exist.

I resolve not to look at that story again until the rejection letter comes.  If and when it does, then it is once again safe to dive back in and see what I can improve.  Before that time, worrying about it is only detrimental to my creative process.


  1. I know; I can spend days hovering over the "send" button. And I save things so many different ways I don't know which is the truest copy :)

    I submitted a short story to an anthology in February - which was well before the 3/15 deadline - and I've had a hard time not touching it while waiting for a yes/no. Moving on is so hard to do . .


  2. Isn't there always a tiny little part of you that dreams big and thinks of that YES just after you hit send in your submissions? Then the doubts always set in. It's worse if you actually do find a spelling mistake after you've sent a submission on and then you just know it's because of that one mistake that you'll be rejected. Everyone feels these kinds of doubts and I think it's just a natural part of putting your heart and soul into a product that someone else is going to judge. You've worked out a great system of putting it out of your mind until the time is right.

  3. It's the same thing for every writer! We always think we've done one little thing terribly wrong and that will be the reason we get rejected. In reality, the publishers probably have a very different reason and may even tell us what it is. Or not, but it could be, like you said, they have so many other great works to choose from and yours just barely didn't make it.

    Still, it does force you to raise the bar, doesn't it? You go back and get better so that next time, they won't be able to say no to you. It's so motivating, actually. ;)

  4. I can relate with you there, I suppose we all have insecurities one way or another,


  5. Ha, yes, you are definitely a writer! I am SUPER paranoid about spelling and grammar issues. I have read my WIP a million times, and I am still convinced there is one in there somewhere I've missed!

  6. I can relate! Even with blog posts, there are times when I rewrite them about 4 times before posting. It's ridiculous!

  7. Hi L.G., this is exactly why I give my editor a few dollars to go over my cover letters, queries, and even synopses. Amazing what that second set of eyes can do for you.

  8. Never doubt you are a writer. At least you hit the SEND button!! You're way ahead of me in this game, girl!! Keep it up....

  9. At least you're submitting your work! That right there takes courage and commitment, something most writers struggle with, including myself. If I could finish anything outside of a blog, I'd be pretty pleased with myself. So, if it helps at all, the very fact that you're sending things out, stressing over the details and accepting rejection letters as constructive criticism is amazingly inspirational... and I'm glad you shared.

  10. You can always look at your writing, no matter how polished it is, and see something you'd like to change. It takes willpower to finally decide it is done and ready to send out! Thanks for sharing.

    Allison (Geek Banter)

  11. Better late than never (from IWSG). I think we all suffer from the perpetual editor. Nothing is ever perfect...LOL!