Oops, I’ve done it again.
I’ve double-booked myself.
I’ve been sitting here all day, racking my brain, wondering how on earth I was ever going to combine an “Insecure Writers Support Group” post with an “October Frights Blog Hop.” The self-doubt was enough to make me very insecure! (And frightened, I assure you.)
And then it occurred to me. The most frightening question I’ve ever been asked is also, as it so conveniently happens, the one that makes me the most insecure.
Here it is (and I hope some of you will be able to relate):
“What else have you written?”
When someone asks this, they’re really asking something else. What they’re actually asking is…
“What else have you gotten published?”
That question never fails to make me feel like an inadequate slug. I recently saw part of a blog post that described me as being “new to fiction, but with a lot of journalism experience.”
Ugh. I’ve written nine full-length (80,000-100,000) word novels, countless short stories, and hundreds of poems. I am not new to fiction. I wrote novels and stories way before I wrote a single piece of journalism (I’m not counting all the books I wrote before college in the tally above…not even the one I wrote in college.)
Why haven’t I been published before now? Because I got distracted by my journalism career. And my public relations career. Because an issue with an agent completely derailed me and shook my self-confidence for years. Because I wasn’t focused enough to market my work consistently (write, yes–market, no). Because training to fight in the ring took up another year of my life. Because perfectionism. There are tons of reasons, or, as I like to call them, excuses.
And whenever someone asks me what else I’ve written (i.e. published) during the launch of my first published novel, all the guilt and shame and self-hatred just about bowls me over. I’m saddened that I’ve been writing since I was five years old, and so far, this novella is all the public will ever see of my fiction.
It’s frightening. It’s terrifying. And it’s the most insecurity-inducing question you can ask me. What question makes you feel insecure? Or frightens you, for that matter?
ICYMI: I stalked a bunch of bestselling writers to find out what terrifies them. Please check out the post, if you haven’t already.
That is frightening (and frustrating). I’ve been in much the same spot. I’d like to think I’d be doing better if I didn’t have to keep the day job. That may or may not be true, though. Keeping heart is one of the hardest parts. Publishing is slooooooow. Even slower than writing. Best of luck in getting more of your words out here where we can read them!
Thanks, Samantha. The what-if game is terrible, isn’t it? Maybe we’d be further along without our day jobs, or maybe we’d be so stressed out about putting food on the table that we’d be working three jobs. Maybe our jobs give us skills that have brought us to this path–who knows?
What I do know is, we’re both here now, and we can’t look back. Let’s go out there and sell some books! 🙂
My husband always gets mad when I downplay what I’ve published – “Just a couple of ebooks” – and what I’ve had published – lots of stories. I still feel like that when people ask what I write/have written, what they’re REALLY asking is if I have a novel on the shelves in Barnes and Noble. To some degree, this is probably true but a lot of it also my own perception and issues, etc. Sometimes people really are just interested. Maybe that’s the scary part – because then I have to actually be interesting?! 😮
You actually ARE interesting, Madeline! But I agree with your husband. Think of all the people who say they’re going to write a book and never do. You’re awesome!
Don’t stop digging a few feet short of the goldmine, baby! I’m exceptionally proud of you and all of your accomplishments.
As creative types, I think we both need to focus and concentrate more on our passions – and say no to the distractions as much as possible…but at the same time, not feel bad about enjoying those beautiful moments in life that don’t involve writing (for you) and music (for me).
Most frightening question for me? ‘When are you playing live again?’
Ooh, that’s a good one. I hope I haven’t asked you that, but I probably have. Whoops!
Ah, distractions. The day job has so many. You’ve been better at fighting them off than I have. If I wasn’t so addicted to travel….
I’ve written a few books too that may never see the light of a publisher and I remember one thing–without them I wouldn’t be here right now. It takes a lot of hard work and many words to get this far.
I just wish I liked the bumpy ride more. :-p
Anna from Elements of Writing
Me too, Anna. Most of my books haven’t been submitted to anyone yet, but I’m working on that! I haven’t given them a chance.
I hear you!
But, all those distractions/excuses sound like pretty good stuff to do with your life, too.
Well, except the agent thing. I had a publisher thing. Understood.
But, it’s just the beginning for you. I know it.
Keep moving forward.
Thanks so much, Heather. Those are such nice things to say! Your comment made me smile all day.
Sorry to hear about your publisher thing. We should go for a mutual coffee someday.
Hey, there’s an easy answer to that: ask, “What else have YOU written?” 😉
Ooh, I like that. Kinda snarky, but gets the point across. 🙂
I love this! It’s so relatable. And it really makes you stop and think: Really? I just wrote a WHOLE BOOK, and all anyone can say is (basically) “So when are you going to do better?” How about instead of that, people say, “You wrote and published a freaking book! That’s amazing!” And leave it at that? Sometimes people are just >:-( So I’ll just say, “You wrote and published a freaking book! That’s amazing!” Whatever you do from here on out is gravy…
Thanks, Jaime. I’m glad…or sorry…you can relate. Not sure which is the most appropriate. 😉
I know people mean well, but that question–ugh. At least I can direct them to my free ebook. 😛
I understand what you’re saying but there is another perspective. When I come across a writer new to me that I like I often wonder, hope even, that there is more from them for me to read.
I do get that, Frank, and I understand that people mean well. I don’t think anyone has ever asked me that to make me feel bad. It’s out of genuine interest.
But it still makes me kick myself a lot of the time. And hey, it’s IWSG day…have to be insecure about something! 😉
Double booking, heh? Well, you worked it out. And there’s not one of us out that doesn’t understand how that happens!
Ha! You’re the blog hop/posting queen, Lee. I would be surprised if it hasn’t happened to you. 😉
That book is just the beginning! (And you are part of an anthology, so that’s two books. Yes, it counts.) You have experience in areas most of us can’t imagine, so be proud of it. So don’t let that question scare you. Ask that person – how many books have YOU published? (Bet the answer is none.)
Thanks, Alex. You’re always so encouraging. 🙂
Hey, we all have to start somewhere. The benefit of having so much experience is that going forward, you’re going to ace it.
Man, I hope so! Thanks, Crystal.
Once you publish one thing, everyone expects you to publish something else right away. Or wonder what took so long. As if it’s easy! And these questions are enough to make you want to hit someone and then hide. In that order. 😛
I agree! It’s those romance authors who publish six-ten or more books a year–they set unreasonable expectations. My friend is always telling me about them. The writing I can see, but the formatting, rewriting, cover design, editing, etc? Oy vey!
I have no idea how they do it. My downfall has been getting the query and synopsis ready and getting the books out there.
First-I had to read it twice-you trained to fight in a ring? Wow! Also I think it is Wow how much you have accomplished as a writer. It reminds me of when i was in grade school and I was given a poor “grade” for not reading more books. I was in Grade 8 and had read The prince and the Pauper. It had a lot of the old English style which took me longer. I fought for a better grade since I mentioned that I actually did read all the books and some were more than Dick and Jane. I told him many kids just put books on the list even though they never read it. Instead of quality he went by quantity. It can hurt one’s self worth but there are some great authors who only wrote one book. We live in a day and age where is seems quantity is worth more than quality. So I say step into that ring and challenge these people who talk cheaply because you can punch them with one swing:) My one fear-I have no kids so I wonder if once I die, all that will be left is dust and no memory of who I am or was
Wow, that is such a nice comment! Thank you.
Yes, I’m a muay thai kickboxer. (Of sorts–haven’t trained at all this month or last.) My former blog was called The Kickboxing Writer. 🙂
You’re right–there’s a huge focus on quantity over quality. I can write the books, but when are we supposed to find time for day jobs and querying and writing and rewriting all at once? Boggles the mind. Not to mention having a life.
I don’t have kids either, but I can tell you that you won’t be forgotten. You’re too amazing for that. Seriously. People will remember you.
I really love “How many books have you sold?” (really???) and, my favorite, “Do I know you?”
We have to work on stock answers to certain questions. One author recently discussed how he hates the “Where do you get your ideas?” question, because he doesn’t really know, but he doesn’t want to sound like an idiot. So he makes something up.
Truth is, most people are just curious. Let ’em know you’ve focused on journalism and PR, but you’re an accomplished novelist about to share your work with the world! 🙂
Thanks, Nadine. Those are great suggestions! People actually ask you how many books you’ve sold? I’d have no idea how to answer that question–I honestly don’t know. I know WHERE my books have sold, but not how many.
I skip IWSG once a year–when it’s A to Z time. I’m not big on combining two posts in one…but you managed it beautifully! I think, “So when is your next book coming out?” is a fairly terrifying question. Especially if you don’t have another one coming out!
STEPH! You’re back! I’ve missed you.
Thanks for the compliment. I’m so happy I was able to find a spooky lighthouse photo. 🙂
It is a terrifying question, but it’s the season of Halloween, so I figured people wouldn’t mind.
I think a lot of this boils down to what people think publishing is vs. what it really is. I bet that other writers and authors don’t ask you these questions, and if they do there a different tone and implication behind it. Lastly, what’s wrong with journalism. Last I checked it requires some skill. People who ask a journalist what else have you written obviously doesn’t read anything of truth, nothing a journalist would put time and effort into fact-checking and then presenting with just the right finesse to engage readers. Next time someone asks you what you’ve written, tell them. Be proud of your writing, whether creative (a relative term) or not.
Thanks so much, Toi! You’re awesome, and that’s a good point.
It actually was writers who asked me, sorry to say, and the reason I felt so embarrassed was because they had multiple books out. They were shocked to find out I’d written nine but only had one published so far. I think the overall sentiment was, “What on earth have you been doing?” Made me want to crawl under a rock, although they’re very nice people who I’m sure weren’t trying to make me feel bad.
And that blog that said I was “new” to fiction? It’s by a writer, but she didn’t even ask about my background. Just assumed that because I have one (or two, I guess) published books, that this was all the creative writing I had done.
You know, you’ve finished a bunch of novels, which is more than a lot of people can say. Keep going, keep getting working at publishing. You’ve got this.
Thanks so much, Shannon! Welcome to my blog. I hope to see you back here again. 🙂
I always get anxious and nervous when people ask me what I’m working on next. I freeze up and nervously ask “Which story? There’s a lot I’m working on.”
Or…”How is the writing going?” Ugh.
Now that you mentioned it, that is now my 2nd most dreaded question. My first is ‘how is your book doing?’
Ha! See my above response, Lidy! So true. I *hate* that question, unless, of course, it’s going fabulously well and I’ve worked on it every single day.
Thanks for commenting! Welcome to my blog. 🙂
I feel a little guilty when I see all the stories I have sitting in my computer, and know I’ve only had a few published in anthologies. But I remind myself that life happens, and perhaps earlier in your life wasn’t the best time for the writing/marketing arena. Regrets can be as scary as successes.
Very true, Dolorah. I think that’s the underlying problem–that question unearths a ton of regret for me.
And hey, an anthology is my publishing history too! You have to compete against a lot of other writers to get in an anthology. Go you, I say!
I managed to get my SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES homage out in Kindle format in time for Halloween and my birthday.
We all must deal with life’s demands the best we can and still try for our dreams. Best of luck with yours. Come check out the LOOK INSIDE of my new book: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0169K0XME
Thanks, Roland. Congrats with your release and happy birthday!
Great job with the double booking:) At least my Writing Wednesday and the #IWSG sort of the same theme.
I don’t like, “What have you written that I would know or like?” from strangers. How in the work would I know what you read. And it’s usually that person, that says after I tell them I write nonfiction, “I don’t read non fiction.”
And Alex is right, we can’t forget about the anthology!
Thanks, Doreen. So true. I think he meant my anthology, Childhood Fears. 😉
I’m not in the IWSG one, but I may throw my hat in the ring for this one.
I know what you mean. I don’t even have as many good excuses why I haven’t written more (though an agent problem is one of them). It’s depressing to see only my one book out when other horror writers have 5-10. I cheated and pubbed 3 short stories just so it would *look* like I had more pubbed. (Isn’t that awful?) I’ve been working on a new Wip for almost a year. It may take another 6 months to see it pubbed. I certainly agree with your insecurity this month. I guess we just have to keep the nose to the grindstone and be patient (not my best quality). Good luck!
Thanks, Lexa. I recently read something that basically said, “A book should take as much time as it takes to do it well.” In your case, that’s definitely true–it sounds like you want to do things right and not slap something up as soon as it’s done.
And no shame in publishing short stories! I see that all the time.
Last year, I published two novellas when I was supposed to have published eight. I’m not insecure. I had the time to write books along with my article writing. The problem was I rested on my success. My two zombie books brought me to four figures, and I thought I could coast for awhile. WRONG. ~~~ One of my goals for writing fiction is to replace my article writing income. I can’t do that unless I WRITE. So this year it’s a completely different story. I’ve got FIVE novellas coming out on the same day in December, and there will be lots more after that. ~~~ I sympathize with everyone here, but I have to write if I want to achieve my goals and dreams. My excuses and my regrets have to go in the trash.
That’s a great success story, Jolie! Congratulations on your accomplishments, and good luck with all your new publications.
Don’t beat yourself up too bad. Some people never get published. Others takes years and years and years. So long as you dedicate yourself and keep pushing forward, you’ll be golden!
Thanks, Rob. Wise words, and I really hope you’re right. I could use some more gold in my life!
Wow! I have to say I’m impressed by all that you’ve written. I’ve been writing since I was 11, but that means only one full-length novel, lots of poetry, short stories, a novella. Nothing published. Well, that’s not exactly true, but it was so long ago that it may as well have been another lifetime.
You should be proud. You’ll have more things published soon enough. F*** them.
Thanks, Ula. It’s always easier to beat ourselves up, isn’t it? I appreciate the kind words, and I’m proud of all you’ve accomplished too!