When You Feel Like the Worst Writer in the World

By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

This past year I've spent a LOT of time editing. It seems that every time I turn around, one of my books needs some kind of edit. Earlier in the year, I spent close to 6 weeks doing macro-edits on my Luther and Katharina book which releases in October. In June I had line edits on another book. And finally just a few weeks ago I worked on macro-edits for my second YA book, A Daring Sacrifice.

Editing is never my favorite thing to do. For me it requires a different kind of energy than I use for first drafts. I have to be more focused and concentrate harder with fewer interruptions (which is hard to come by in my busy household). Editing also requires some brutality. I cut, delete, and rip the book apart. All the nit-picking is part of the process of making a story better.

But that negativity toward my stories eventually begins to wear on me mentally and emotionally, especially when I have so much editing for such long durations and in close succession. In fact I start to get depressed about my writing ability.

A host of doubts jump all over me and taunt me in their devilish sing-song voices: "What if readers don't like this story? What if it's not as interesting as your other books? What if you get bad reviews? What if, what if, what if . . . "

I've come to expect this kind of reaction whenever I'm in editing mode. But other writers may experience those low times during other stages of the writing journey–maybe after querying or reading reviews or attending a conference.

Whenever we go through our "I'm the worst writer in the world" stage, we should remind ourselves of several truths:

1. We can't expect perfection from ourselves. The truth is, we won't be able hit a home run every time we write a book. Yes, we want to do our very best to craft stories readers will like. But, we're not perfect. And there might be times when readers won't sing our praises quite as loudly.

2. The modern author faces an overabundance of pressure. While the growth of online review spots (like Goodreads) can help increase the exposure and shelf life of our books, it also makes readers' impressions of our stories readily available—for both the good and the bad. Readers/blog reviewers are turning into the new "critics." And so now we have many more critics to try to please than ever before, and we can't possibly please everyone. Which leads to the next point . . .

3. What doesn't resonate with some readers, might with others. A reader recently emailed me saying, "Jody, you are my favorite author. I have read all your books and can't wait until the next one comes out. However, the book I just read is not like the rest. It is boring and redundant. I have skipped over some paragraphs just to get through the book. What happened? I will watch for your next new book." Ouch! Even though the email stung just a bit, I realized that many other readers have raved about the book. For whatever reason, this book just didn't resonate with this particular reader. And that's okay.

4. We can always do better the next time. If one of our books doesn't do as well, we can push ourselves to grow, learn from our mistakes, and craft a better story with each book we write. As writers, the possibilities before us are endless. We just have to pick ourselves up and keep carrying on.

So, how about you? Have you ever felt like the worst writer in the world? How do you push through it?

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