Of course it is. It’s like any other vocation or avocation where you put your heart out there for everyone to see and proceed to stomp. Because when you’re a writer, what you write is your heart and a bit of your soul, and people abuse the hell out of it.
Well, not always, but sometimes it surely feels that way.
Then, you add in the human tendency to fear what people will say about you, i.e., reviews, and it’s freakishly terrifying. When I get a good review, I go all Sally Fields and gush, “They like me! They really like me!”
Otherwise, it’s one giant house of horrors when you’re a writer.
Here’s a litany of writer fears. I’m sure I’m left some out; feel free to add to them.
What if nobody buys my book? Been there, done that.
What if they hate what I write? Yep.
What if they love what I write? In truth that’s happened more often than the scary stuff or otherwise I’d throw in the towel.
What if they don’t get what I’m trying to say. Oh, yes, this.
What if they figure out I don’t have a clue what I’m doing? Hello, imposter syndrome.
What if a reviewer bashes the hell out of my book? I’ve been close to that, but thankfully not a bash (more of a “meh, I don’t see what all those other five-star reviewers see in this.”)
What if nobody buys a single copy of my book? Especially painful.
What if I have typos, grammar errors, a spelling mistake, etc.? That’s why we call them editors.
What if no one wants to publish me? There is a remedy for that, but it comes with a whole other set of fears.
What if someone disagrees with anything about my book and decides to tell the world how utterly stupid I am? Not exaggerating; this happens. A lot.
The list is endless.
So, Why Do It?
Because creating a story from your own imagination and seeing it in a form other people can read is one of the most satisfying experiences a creative can have.
But how does that feel?
If you’re a Doctor Who fan, or not, watch the episode “Vincent and the Doctor.” The Doctor and companion Amy Pond go back in time to meet Vincent van Gogh, with Amy thinking she can convince van Gogh not to kill himself so he’ll know in his lifetime he’s a powerful and influential artist. Tony Curren is brilliant as van Gogh, and we see both the beautiful and tortured parts of his brain. The absolute kicker is, The Doctor and Amy bring van Gogh forward in time to an exhibition of his work in a museum, and van Gogh hears a docent explain that he believes van Gogh is the best artist of all time.
Vincent is overcome at seeing people admiring his paintings, even the ones he thought were garbage, but you can see the sheer joy and exhilaration, too, wonderfully wrought by Curren. It’s a cinematic moment that feels like real life, that moment when you realize they like you, they really like you. Not you. Your work, what you created from your warped and fertile imagination.
That’s how it feels when a reader tells me they like one of my books. All the fear and self-doubt recede (They never really go away.), and I’m in a good mood for days.
Until the fear rears its shaggy head again.
Writer as Masochist
If it’s so scary and the rewards so scarce, why do we do it?
For those Vincent and The Doctor moments.
For the sheer accomplishment of writing The End.
For the story that kicks and screams its way out of your head, the one that needs to be told.
For the message you’re trying to get across.
For the realization you’re not a hack.
For the feeling you get when you hold your printed book in your hands.
For that one person whose soul you end up touching.
For the motivation to write more and more and more and…
For that “spark of life” moment when you look at a sentence you’ve written, and you give yourself a chill that borders on orgasm.
For the joy to hear yourself called A Writer.
Writing is scary, but the good stuff in life is better enjoyed with that tantalizing frisson of fear.