Thursday, September 9, 2010

So, how good ARE you?

A dear friend of mine told me yesterday that we writers are terrible judges of our own work.

In other words, many who think they are God's gift to literature in reality suck, while some who truly doubt their abilities are in fact quite talented.

Basically, I think she's right. To a certain degree, anyway.

I struggle each and every day with self doubt. It's always there in my mind, lurking, waiting to grip my heart with its icy hands until I voluntarily stop querying because I just know I suck.

I honestly don't know why. I was a professional journalist for more than two decades. I have won several (more than 20) national, regional and state writing awards. I know I can write. I do. That's not ego. It's a fact.

But writing fiction is not journalism. I've learned that the hard way. I would put my newspaper and magazine articles up against anyone's (and have, many times), but this fiction thing is new to me.

And so I struggle with doubt.

But I have a confession to make. Sometimes, I'm more confident than I let on. I know. Who would have guessed? It's not an act. Seriously. But sometimes I feel more honest and less of an egotistical bastard when I let my self doubts out on this blog and with other writer friends.

Why? Because it bothers me to listen to people brag about how good they are. Trust me, people. If we were all as good as we secretly think we are, we'd all be published and resting atop the NYT Bestsellers List.

Still, there's nothing wrong with self confidence. It's healthy and normal. It's what keeps us going every time another form rejection pops into our e-mail box.

But how do we, being both confident and neurotic, judge our work objectively? How do we know if we really and truly are any good? I mean, I can read two paragraphs of someone else's work and know whether they are good or not. But I read my stuff and sometimes, it seems pretty good. And other times, well, it sucks.

So, how good do you think you are? I mean seriously, truly, honestly. Are you good enough to be published? Be honest. We won't hold it against you.

Are you good enough to be published?

(I think I am. There. I said it.)


  1. Well it's about time you said it.

    I think I'm a 'good' writer. At times I think I can muster up a little brilliance once in awhile but for the most part I think my stories hold themselves together. Now, we'll see just how good I am when I send this latest bad-boy out to query. If I can land myself an agent, well, that sets the bar doesn't it?

  2. Haha no wonder I enjoy your posts so much. You're a professional! I should have guessed. Well, judging from the snippet you posted here the other day, you certainly are good enough to be published. And I know what you mean about those who seem pretty arrogant about their talents. Divas. Prima Donnas. We all have met them in our writing groups.

  3. I think I'm good enough to make it SOMEDAY, just maybe not yet. There, is that close enough?

  4. i have such funhouse mirror goggles when it comes to my own work. i think i'm getting better, but like christi said, i don't know if i'm good enough yet... sometimes i think my writing really blows chunks, and sometimes i don't think it's half bad... so, i don't know!

  5. I think I could be very good if I can just fix a few flaws. I am reading Eddings right now and can't believe he was a NYTimes best seller with all the glaring weaknesses in his writing, but he was. I think I can do better than most of his Belgariad work, though I am assuming that many people actually like his unrealistic overdone characters and constant stream of contrived situations. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy reading him, and I think he has some strengths that I still need to improve on. Anyhow, I just need to keep writing and improving and I'll get there.

  6. I'm w/ aspiring x, I have a really cute periwinkle set of those goggles. With silver rims.
    So, this is why a crit group is ESSENTIAL, not so much optional. I rely on my group to tell me that I'm stinking it up or if I'm nailing something, because I am truly snowblind when it comes to my own stuff. I keep slogging along with it, but it's intense trying to develop artistic self-awareness. It takes a degree of "I am willing to rip out my own guts" while self-editing that I know I have not yet fully acquired.
    But, in the immortal words of Hoobastank,"At least I'm moving forward."
    I LOVE that song.

  7. I think I'm a gifted writer with a whole lot of room for improvement. I have had freelance articles published so I know I'm publishable. And I truly do feel someday I will be published in the fiction world, too. But I also know I'm incredibly insecure and impatient.

    I hope to one day be ranked just a staircase beneath J.K. Rowling.

  8. "many who think they are God's gift to literature in reality suck, while some who truly doubt their abilities are in fact quite talented."

    My mother told me that when I was really struggling with my WIP. She used American Idol and an example. She pointed out that all of the CRAZIES who thought they were the greatest singers alive were absolutely terrible. And then she pointed out how all of the singers that were truly awesome had no idea how good they are.

    And that made me feel so much better. Because I am my own worst critic. I always think everything I write is drivel.

    Do I think I am good enough to be published? Well, based on what others have told me. Yes. I guess I need a dose of self-confidence!

  9. There is no 'Good or Bad' only perspective.

    How good do I think I am? I'll leave the answer to that question to the reader/agent/publisher.

    What I do know, however, is that I do my best. Can't do better than that my friend.

    Great to see a positive post. After all, you can write - we all know that :)

  10. when i am good, i am good enough to publish. most of the time i suck

  11. Start a writing critique group. This has solved many a woes, and worked wonders for me. It made me realize I'm not quite as good as I thought I was, and at the same time its given me a lot of confidence as I've take my work back showing great improvement.

    Writing in a black hole in not a good idea for most people. You have to share, get feedback, etc. Good post.