On Anxiety

My writer’s group met today. It’s such a new thing that we haven’t even come up with a fun name for ourselves yet. We just call it Writing Group. Eventually we’ll change the name to something clever, like The Fabulous Fictionistas or Backspace Addicts Anonymous. It’s a small group, and today was our first real meeting, but I love it already.

It’s good to be with people who are half as crazy as I am.

Anyway, one of the girls, who is just beginning this swirling, skyrocketing, nosediving ride of fiction writing, asked an interesting question: “How do you get over the anxiety of letting people read your work?”

The other member of the group (I told you it was small) and I exchanged a look. “You go ahead,” I told her. “I’m not sure I know the answer to this one.”

Her answer was that you never really get over the anxiety – especially when it’s the first time anyone but you has read it. But this is okay, and even good, because that insecurity means you care.

You care that people like it. You want to do a good job. You don’t assume that just because you like something, that means everyone will like it and you don’t have to bother making it better.

It means you understand that there is always room for improvement and that we, as writers, are never done honing our craft.

And she’s right.

I mentioned seeing established authors talking on Twitter about a bad review that cut them to the core. These are men and women who have spent huge amounts of time on the NYT Bestseller List, yet some random guy’s negative review on Amazon has them saying, “This is why I don’t read reviews. I probably won’t get any sleep tonight. Oh well.”

I’m *definitely* not an established author, but I already know that the insecurity will never go away. I might gain more confidence over time – especially if I am ever picked up by a major house – but I will always doubt myself and my writing.

I will always want 100% of my readers to be in awe of my stories. I will want my books to be flawless, with the critics saying, “Well, there’s just nothing bad to say about this novel! Everyone should buy it! And if you’re writing a book, don’t bother, because it will never be as good as this one!”

But that will never happen, because of the subjective nature of what we do. Everyone has a different opinion. And not all of those opinions will be favorable.

So our solution was, in essence, to dive right in. Know the risk, understand the possibility of rejection, and cannonball right into the Sea of Putting Yourself Out There.

It’s scary, but necessary.

How do you feel about letting others read your work?

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3 thoughts on “On Anxiety

  1. Alexandra Shostak says:

    I’m always a little anxiety-ridden to let other people read my work. There are certain people (my parents) who are not allowed to read anything I write until it’s on shelves in barnes and noble or available for download on Kindle and they can go buy it themselves.

    For the most part, I got accustomed to sharing my work by posting fanfiction on fanfiction.net when I was in middle school, and then college is a never-ending series of critiques on all kinds of writing. But it’s still scary when it’s a favorite project, or the manuscript I’m hoping will get me an agent.

    • Anne Riley says:

      Yes, totally. And I know what you mean about not wanting people to read until it’s DONE. I’m tempted to do that sometimes!

      • Alexandra Shostak says:

        Even when I’m letting cp’s read stuff, I don’t let them read anything until I have a draft complete and I’ve gone over once. I tried the sending things chapter by chapter as I wrote them, but I got overwhelmed with all the things I knew I needed to change before the ms was even finished.

        Also…I haz lots of anxiety. You might be getting an anxiety-filled email from me soon.

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