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Monday, March 22, 2010

Your Thoughts?

Are there writers that exude confidence? Do Anne Tyler and John Grisham, Stephen King and J.K. Rowling tap away at the keyboard thinking: “Yea, I have a fantastic gift; I’ll pen my thoughts and spring them on the world knowing the work is destined to be a best seller, because I am simply so gosh-darned good?" Really. Is there any author out there that thinks like this or do they all molder while lying prostrate on the concrete slab of clammy self-doubt?

Not that I presume to put myself in such venerated company, but I ask the question in hope that an answer or two will assist in bagging the current lack of assurance joy-riding through my circulatory system. Please indulge me while I try to explain, and golly-gee, any comments will be welcomed. Even if it’s not your thing. Commenting, I mean.

Over the weekend, I updated the Middle Passages’ side bar with a blog award, (more about that later.) In doing so, I perused blog entries from a year ago. It is worth mentioning that back then I was six weeks past a job elimination that left me spinning--as if I had just twirled a swing as high as I could before lifting my feet from the ground and pulling the chains out hard. Completing daily posts on Middle Passages helped to ease the vertigo.

As I looked back though, the stark reminder of the many months I dedicated to Middle Passages, in spite of a dearth of feedback, raised its sober little head. Each morning, I’d fire up my computer, anxious to see how my pithy, conversational style had lit up the world, to discover a fat goose-egg next to the word “comments” at the bottom of the most recent post.

I’m a pretty patient soul, and, least you wonder, not a total loser. My family emailed me behind the scenes, I got a few phone calls and a rare comment from a friend, but that said, I blogged in a vacuum for six months, five and sometimes six days a week—with no reaction even though I read other blogs and commented. It wasn’t until I joined two writers groups on LinkedIn that strangers began to communicate, and I wonder now whether I could have kept up the flow, if people hadn't begun to acknowledge what they read.

This though, points to the crisis of faith pertaining to my writing skills, and I seek YOUR advice. Yes, that means you. One of the awards I cut and pasted into my side bar yesterday is called the “Prolific Blogger” award which came from Helen at “Straight from Hel,” for which I am grateful and honored. Thank you, Helen! Helen is a daily blogger with amazing writing tips and insight about the publishing world. If you haven't visited her please do. Given how regular she is at posting, I hold her dedication in high esteem.

Although not as diligent as Helen, I too am a prolific blogger. At the moment though, that word "prolific" tap dances with my doubt.

For the most part, thirteen-plus months later, you’ll still find me blogging four-five days a week. But family and friends who used to read me religiously now tell me that they haven’t for a while--that they’ve fallen behind and I get it. Five days a week is a lot. Yet, if my writing compelled them, wouldn’t they find a way? Not every day mind you, but perhaps a few?

My goal, in posting so often, is to improve my writing, but I’d be a liar if I didn’t admit that I crave an audience. Do I write too much? Or not well enough? Or, if I’m getting better, and I think I am, why doesn't it lead to more readers? Oh, and before you ask, I’d like to put one of those stat-counters on my blog, but I’m afraid I’ll insert the code in the wrong place and blow up Middle Passages, so have delayed several months on that puppy.

Adding to my uneasiness, several of the thoughtful readers that I developed by the year end, writers whose comments I value and treasure, are taking breaks, and focusing their writing time elsewhere now. I get that too. There is a balance to maintain relating to honing the craft or finishing works in process, and producing blog posts for the masses. I’m trying to write outside of Middle Passages too. But no one, so far, reads my other stuff. And unlike others who are a tad more, um, state-of-the-art in their practices, I am my own enemy, consciously deciding that for now, Twitter is not for me, and I’m not shouting my blog topics to my 23 friends on Facebook.

It feels right to grow organically, in a controlled process enhanced by the fertilizer of practice; taking time to focus on the craft of writing. Yet in a proverbial Catch 22, the resulting lack of readership communicates to me that I’m not writing anything worth reading. So that’s where I sat today, my ego shriveling like the Wicked Witch of the West after she gets sprayed with water, twitching and twisting in my chair this morning wondering whether I should even bother to write a blog post.

So here I am, evidence once again that synchronicity exists, and that you can never underestimate the value of a blog award--because while moping about what a lousy writer I must be, kicking the table leg in procrastination earlier today, I clicked to “Where Sky Meets Ground and found this waiting for me:

I'll pass on the award at a later date. For now, I'll say this: JP could not have had better timing. I read his post, in which he included me in a group whom, in his words, write “world class material” and sighed; in honor, in pleasure and with a deep whoosh of relief. Thank you JP for finding a way to smooth out some of the porcupine spurs of self-doubt stabbing me.

Do you need readers to feel like a writer, and how do you keep your spirits up when your self-confidence plummets? Comments please...Everyone? :)


Kristi Faith said...

Oh my goodness, yes. I just commented to someone else that my self confidence had plummeted and my feelings hurt when I found I had lost two followers. :( I felt like part of my family just disappeared.

Here's the thing. I always try to remember that blogging is for me, it is for my friends, for my writerly community-but it's not for everyone. I have a lot of followers on Twitter-but I forget about that darn account all the time. So, in that sense, I may have hurt someone's feelings inadvertently or made them feel the way we do right now and many more times. I think your writing is beautiful. Don't stop. Just keep plugging away and remember you have many, many more eyes reading than you'll ever know.

jbchicoine said...

Personally, I love reading everything you write—can’t help it! And unless I’m unusually busy, I try to comment here, at least to let you know that you do have an audience.

When I started writing my blog, I didn’t really have any expectations of gaining any following. It still surprises me when my meager number increases. I have to say, though, that with more followers, I feel more pressure to produce. Problem is, I don’t always feel like producing, especially when I’m in a slump. When my self-confidence plummets, which it does frequently, I just ride it out. Either my confidence improves, or more likely, I get a better handle on how important my abilities (or lack thereof) are or aren’t in the larger scheme of life.

...and then there are the times when I’d like to fold up the whole blogsphere and climb into a box...

Suzyhayze said...

Do I need readers? No. I like readers and I like reading YOUR work! You really inspire me. You know this craft better than most.

But, I'd write if no one read a single word. It's a curse. It steals me away from everything.

I'm stolen.

Hilary Wagner ~ Writer said...

I think even the most popular writers of our time have bouts of insecurity about their work. We are all human and even contact via the internet can bring back that warm and fuzzy feeling, especially when we feel down and out about our writing. I would be awful lonely without writing blogs like yours to keep me pushing forward!

xoxo -- Hilary

glnroz said...

First of all, I think I know the problem. Obviously you had a Baa-Lonnn-eeeeee sandwich for lunch, because the idea that your writing is not interesting and fun to read is just what that sandwich was made of...Baaallonnneee.. Every blog that I read has a peronality because of what I read there. I have joined a local writer guild (see my side bar) because I would like to be able to be a better writer. I think that is just the way we are. Steven King is a sort of introvert himself. Ahh heck this aint gonna be enough space lolol for me to go on about the good value of your writing, you just gonna have to believe everyone and don't eat so many balogna (baloonneee) sandwiches.. glenn

glnroz said...

well, I found my first comment,, here'tis.. my second comment is on the previous post and it dont have anything to do with that post.. so here is the comment for your previous post. ( I am dizzy now )..

I prefered the computer for "tale telling", but if I am writing to a friend, I prefer the pen. I think the ink has sort of a meaning of its own. Any how, hope you dont get lost with these wandering comments.

Sharon said...

Reading the works of artists who create with words is sheer pleasure for me. I wish I could share with you how your writing makes me feel. You know that I am a big fan of your descriptive phrasings and word pictures. You have a wonderful gift.

Even though I have no aspirations to write for a living, I must admit that knowing people will read my blog changes the way I create what I post. Sometimes, it keeps me from posting, fearing my writing is inadequate. Always it makes me work a little harder to feel I deserve the attention.

Maybe a little doubt now and then is just a nudge from the muses?

Jody Hedlund said...

Hi Liza,
I've tried to tackle the blog-comment phenomena a time or two on my own blog. I may have a link in my side bar to one of the posts: Do Blog Comments Really Matter and How to Get More Blog Comments. Not sure if you read those yet or not, but it offers my perspective on the whole thing.

I think it really boils down to gaining a web presence. The more blogs you read and comment on, the more traffic you'll eventually get to your blog. We all crave that validation for what we write, so the comments are important. But we also need to find a way to attract those readers--it rarely just happens on it's own. Unless we have a specific niche that people are googling, the average writer mostly attracts other writers and that happens through the socializing process.

Thanks for sharing so honestly!

Helen Ginger said...

Writers, I believe, do not need readers to be writers. But that is looking at it from a clinical POV. If you're the writer, then you feel you need readers to validate your writing, to be able to say out loud, I am a writer. It's such a odd circle. My guess is that even the big names, best-selling authors have bouts of doubt. That's not a writer thing, but a human thing. My guess is that like an Olympic athlete, at some point, they have to put aside the doubts and just do it. And like the rest of us writers, they get edited.

As to how to keep up your spirits...that probably depends on the person. One person might arrange a day to block out everything and write. I have a friend who's gone on a retreat. Just her in a rustic cabin, a lake nearby, and a coffee pot (basically). I have two groups of writer friends that I get together with 3 or 4 times a year. We don't talk writing. We just laugh and talk and eat. That renews my spirit.

(Sorry to be so long-winded.)

Straight From Hel

Elana Johnson said...

Wow, so many deep thoughts here. I think every creative person doubts themselves. My painting isn't good enough. My writing isn't good enough. Whatever.

It is tough. We are our own worst critics, and it's impossible to please everyone. Which is where most of my self-doubt comes from. I want to please everyone. When I'm plummeting, I retreat to my safe places. My family. That helps.

beth said...

I definitely need readers to feel like a writer.

Before I started writing, I thought differently. I *did* think there were those writers who just *knew* how good they were. Now...I'm not so sure.