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Are You An Insecure Writer?

Passion is never enough; neither is skill. But try.

Passion is never enough; neither is skill. But try.

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.


Insecure Writer's Support Group

Insecure Writers!

This was a post for Alex J Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s SupportΒ  Group. Click on the link to reach fellow insecure writers!

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her literary crime thriller series, the Blue Mumbai, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency. Both The Blue Bar and The Blue Monsoon were published in 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • bronxboy55 says:

    I’d guess that most writers are insecure, Damyanti. And I don’t think it matters how much you’ve accomplished. The insecurity comes from that terrifying question, “Can I do it now?” In your case, you’ve proven over and over that you can, so the fear must be serving some purpose. A lot of people (and I’m one of them) believe you’re a wonderful writer. Maybe it isn’t necessary that you agree.

  • Amy says:

    Great post! Thank you for sharing! πŸ™‚

  • After the first book, yes – I worried about the second one. Did I really have another great story in me that could at least measure up to the first?

  • You are incredible, and I see amazing success in your future. I’m so glad that I get to see your progression as a writer and your awesomeness as a human being πŸ™‚

  • MPax says:

    I relate. I share those same insecurities. Great going on getting into an anthology. As long as we keep striving, I think we each will find our way. I believe so.

  • Ah, I so heart this post! Yours and Toni’s words are so beautiful. I can hear the aching need in them, imploring other writers and ourselves to do the hard work of creation. Because it is worthwhile, for its own sake.

    Thank you! I will be tweeting this out (probably multiple times, my triberr buddy). πŸ™‚

  • Jen Chandler says:

    This post is beautiful. Thank you for the Morrison quote! It really gave me the kick I needed this morning.

    I’m definitely an insecure writer (and will be posting on it later this morning) but I try to focus on my craft, on the story and not on me, the one wielding the pen.

  • Miranda Hardy says:

    I love Toni Morrison. Yes, we are all insecure to a point and I plan on never giving up. Lovely post.

  • Krystal Wade says:

    I love this. It’s so inspirational. I’m insecure. I think we all are, but I strive to be better on a daily basis. πŸ™‚

  • KH LeMoyne says:

    Damyanti, congrats on the story/anthology and your impressive list of other works. Very satisfying, I imagine. And your choice of quote is very inspiring.

    • Damyanti says:

      Eeep…I don’t have an impressive list of works…yet. Check back in about 20 years :).

      Yes, the quote is very inspiring. It is what got me out of my sickbed and writing today.

  • alberta ross says:

    Oh yes – but aren’t we all – if we’re very truthful:)

  • I couldn’t have said it better. I’m going to be more brave the next time my insecurities intimidate me.

  • I admit I’ve used to battle some insecurities but life has beaten them out of me, ha,ha. Now I’m happily plowing forward.

    • Damyanti says:

      I hate and need my insecurity at the same time. I don’t know if I’ll ever get over it. If I’m not scared, I’m not humble, if I’m not humble, I’m not learning. Learning, for me, is the most important thing.

  • I prefer to consider myself a rabid control-freak perfectionist rather than insecure. Semantics? Perhaps.

    • Damyanti says:

      I’m a “rabid control-freak perfectionist” too. But that is at the proofreading stage. When I’m writing, I’m insecure, plain and simple.

  • I finally posted your reviews, on Smashwords and Amazon. You are profoundly talented, D. But we all know being a writer is about much more than that. With my first novel coming out next month, I know it to be most about dogged determination, vision, hubris, dreams, and a thick skin all shaken up into a cocktail of manifestation.
    Keep going, you have what it takes. Knowing you’re afraid and writing anyway is that which separates the women from the girls.