Writing, being the solitary pursuit it is, does not allow for that constant affirmation that one gets from the more conventional careers. Success for a writer, especially an unpublished writer, as a result, can be this elusive notion which can play havoc with one’s confidence.
There are days when I feel like a writer. When the words come easily and don’t require work; when hours spent in front of my laptop yield pages of work that I want to read over and over again simply because they flow so well. Then there are those days when I pick up a new book and within the first few pages of reading, I feel myself crumble. That insecure voice becomes louder as I think: I will never write as well as this, or even close to as well this – I should not call myself a writer.
This weekend though, I read something which made me re-evaluate the strength of my confidence in my writing. Sure, some days are difficult. Some days make me want to give up and reconsider that forgotten life of life as a number cruncher. On those days, I do not feel like a writer. The word fraud comes to mind. Then this weekend I read this article on Max du Preez – no writing slouch himself, a prolific writer in fact who has published close to 14 books and is working on a 15th.
In the article, he reflects on how, on attending literary festivals, he always feels like a fraud become he has not published any fiction. Here is a writer who, by all standards can call himself a successful writer, and yet still sells himself short when amongst fiction writers. He states that at these literary festivals and award ceremonies he feels like a bit of a fake: “like you’re not a real writer unless you’ve written fiction”. I smiled whilst reading this. It was exactly what I needed.
Writer’s doubt can have real paralysing effects, which turn into an ugly cycle that begins with writer’s block, and before you know it, you are no longer even calling yourself as a writer. I am an unpublished writer. My passion is creative writing, and yes, most days my writing process can best be illustrated by the diagram on the right, but knowing that even successful writers have their moments of doubt is all I need to keep at it. As tempted as I am to quote some famous author about the process of writing, and writing often, and keeping at it, no matter what, I will not, for it is time for my next coffee break.