At least once or twice, right? But yet you keep writing. Why? Why all this self-doubt?
I think it is all because we begin to compare ourselves to whatever is out there and selling well and think, “My story isn’t anywhere near as good as [insert best-selling author’s name].” Excuse me. Hello, but when did we get in a competition with best-selling authors who, up until their first book became a best-seller, was in the exact same spot as you? Remember, they all had to start somewhere. They weren’t born best-selling authors. This kind of thinking is toxic. Toxic to you and your writing.
So how do you overcome this thinking? I think we need to understand the difference between talent and skill.
Deep down inside all of us writers, we all believe we are or have the potential to be really incredible authors. Otherwise, why would we write or seek agents or publishers if we thought we were bad? And why would a bad critique send us scrambling for a box of chocolates and/or a tub of ice cream and days of depression if we didn’t believe we had what it takes to be a published author? Are we confusing talent and skill?
The way I see it, talent is something we’re born with. It’s the drive that makes us write (even if we think we suck). The talent is that voice or the characters or the plot that speaks to us in the middle of the night – the very ones that make us get up and write them down before we forget. Talent is what makes us put aside one manuscript and begin another. Talent is being a slave to the written word. If writing is your passion, if it drives you every day of your life, then you have talent for writing.
But just because you have talent, do you automatically have the skills to write? Um, no, but here’s the beauty of it: you can learn skill. See, writing is no different than any other art form. To perfect it and become the best at whatever it is you have talent for, you have to practice for hours, days, weeks, years, to perfect your craft, your talent. How do you go about doing this? Well, if you’re a writer, you write. You write a lot and you read. Read, read, read. Anything and everything. You study how your favorite authors put together words to make them come alive for you. You find out what it is that makes you hunger for their next story and then see how you can incorporate those same things into your own writing. If you find you have to force yourself to read and write, that you lack drive and motivation, then maybe writing isn’t your talent. However, if reading and writing infiltrate every second of your day, if it is your passion then you have talent. Now you just need to perfect the skills to be the best, and heaven knows there are plenty of books out there to give you advice on how to be the best writer ever. You can also obtain skills through school, writing classes, blog sites, crit groups and writers’ groups. All of these tools will help to develop your natural talent and turn it into something for the world to see. Will the journey be easy? No. Will there be blocks in the road and pain along the way? You can bet on it, but as with anything worthwhile, the climb to the top, the dings and scrapes you’ll get on the way, will be worth it in the end.
So, the next time you come across a part of your book you don’t like and you begin to question yourself as a writer, stop and ask yourself, are you questioning your talent or skill? Odds are it’s your skill and that can be fixed. And always remember, not everyone is going to like what you write. That doesn’t mean you don’t have talent or you’re a bad writer. It just means you’re not going to please everyone, so don’t try. Difference of opinion is a beautiful thing.
So, now you know you have talent, stop beating yourself up and write. The world is waiting for the next great author. Why shouldn’t it be you?