I could tell you I’m not insecure, but I guess I’d be lying.
Most writers, even successful, bestselling award-winning ones, have their insecurities….the difference is they’re not worried about their first publication, but whether their next novel would be better, more successful than the last.
Or at least I imagine they should, because after winning the Nobel prize for literature, this is what Toni Morrison had to say to writers, and to herself:
“Stop thinking about saving your face. Think of our lives and tell us your particularized world. Make up a story. Narrative is radical, creating us at the very moment it is being created. We will not blame you if your reach exceeds your grasp; if love so ignites your words they go down in flames and nothing is left but their scald. Or if, with the reticence of a surgeon’s hands, your words suture only the places where blood might flow. We know you can never do it properly – once and for all. Passion is never enough; neither is skill. But try.”
So, as a fledgling writer who has taken to the pen three years ago, I know my craft is not the best it can be, that I still have a million miles to cover before I can bring any mastery to my writing.
And as to life experience, the lifeblood of our writing—who can claim to understand life’s depth, its purpose, its reach? Life teaches us till our last breath. No writer can ever measure up to everything his life has taught him.
So yes, I wear my insecurities like a uniform, they give me purpose, and my place in this world. I wake up each morning terrified of not being able to write, I labor the day away and it disappears, and at night I go to bed dissatisfied with what I’ve written. Inside me I know that no matter how much I learn writing, there will still be that much more to learn—because one lifetime is not enough to learn all the craft, the discipline, the art, the artifice that goes into writing.
An editor told me last week she is including one of my stories for her anthology, which should be in print end of this year. It was a moment’s validation. But along with a pat on the back, it was also a kick on the butt: it reminded me I had to finish a collection of short stories and my novel, and how I still had a long way to go with both. Back to my insecurities, back to the grind.
So to echo Morrison, who in turn has echoed Browning( Ah, but man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?):
I’ll always be insecure, and I’ll always be reaching for perfection. If nothing else, it would make me a better writer than when I began.
This was a post for Alex J Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group. Click on the link to reach fellow insecure writers!