Why I’m a Bad Writer
Let me count the ways I am a bad writer.
“No, no, Cheryl, you’re not bad,” you say. “I love your writing. Don’t have such a poor opinion of yourself.”
Let me clarify. When I say “bad”, I don’t mean terrible, horrible, no good, very bad writer. I mean “bad” as in I don’t fit the profile, the stereotype, the opinion most writers have of themselves.
I’m on social media a lot, and I see your posts and tweets and chats. For the majority, AND YOU MAY BE DIFFERENT, you are miserable creatures. You suck, your writing sucks, there’s no time/money/motivation to continue, etc. Again, you may be different. I hope you are. I am. Let me take you on the journey where I pushed away stereotypical writerly behavior and crafted myself into what I am today.
Writers are introverts.
You have to be, caught up in a creative process, listening to imaginary people, sometimes to the detriment of the real people in your lives. I understand. I was incredibly shy, so much that I was told at job performance reviews to look people in the eye and don’t mumble. By the time I formulated an opinion on anything and entered a conversation, it had leaped to another subject.
My solution? Toastmasters. Yes, it was painful, but it helped me think on my feet. It allowed me to play, to have a safe place to express my thoughts. To talk. To communicate. From the techniques I learned, I accepted minor positions in writing clubs until I reached the office of the president. If you don’t think wrangling twenty+ women to order isn’t a cure, then try it for a couple of years.
Another trick that helped is donning the persona of Cheryl Sterling. She is a take-charge, confident woman and can say and do things the real me can’t.
Writers have low self-esteem.
Because rejection is such a big part of the writing industry, low self-esteem among its members is a given. How can we think well of ourselves when rejection letters paper our walls? When no one buys our books? When we are isolated and receive no feedback? Why even try?
It is difficult to break through these thoughts and create a softer, gentler world, or at least one in which we realize other people’s thoughts are subjective and don’t matter. It’s tough to grow a thick skin. Constant rejection will either make you or break you.
Once I gained confidence by battling my shyness, I had three things in my favor that helped build my self-esteem.
- A support group of fellow writers. I started with a group as scared, determined and unpublished as I. Together, we learned the industry and supported each other’s careers. Today, we’re all published. Without them, I wouldn’t have persevered as hard. I wouldn’t have sent a submission letter that resulted in a contract.
- The support of my family. I’m lucky enough to have a husband who’s my #1 fan and isn’t afraid to say, “Shouldn’t you be writing?” When we moved from our home state to a place without any established writing groups, he encouraged me to start one. “You need this,” he’s told me on subsequent moves. I was lucky with my son and daughter who never interrupted my writing time unless “someone’s bleeding or there’s bone showing.”
- My astrology sign. It may sound very whoo-whoo, but it has helped that I’m a Leo. King of the Jungle. Proud and mighty. Once I came into my full Leo-ness, it became easier to land on my feet after each rejection and think of it as their loss, not mine.
Writers are bad at self-promotion.
It goes against human nature to say, “Look at this stuff I made. Buy it. Please.” Sorry, Debbie, but self-promotion is part of the job. Yes, it takes away from our writing time. No, the promotion fairies won’t take care of it in the middle of the night. I calculate I spend half of my time on marketing.
The good news is automation solves part of your problem. With tools like Hootsuite and Board Booster, you can pre-schedule posts on Pinterest and other social media outlets without having to physically be on them all the time. You’ll still be responsible finding the material to post, but one article/meme/link can be spread across multiple areas. These tools will not substitute for building connections with your readers, but they will free up some of your time to write more.
And please, please, please, don’t be that guy who always posts, “Look at this stuff I made. Buy it.”
Writers are bad at technical stuff.
We can handle MSWord or Scrivener or whatever writing program we use, but don’t talk to us about creating a website, SEO, or how to use social media to gain more readers. I get it. It’s a foreign language, and we don’t have time to immerse ourselves in it. I’m probably older than most of my readers. I grew up with manual typewriters, for crying out loud (a phrase that will pinpoint my age if nothing else). More than once, I’ve pounded the walls in frustration when the colors on my website mysteriously decided to change or I couldn’t decipher how a plug-in works. But I persevere because, short of hiring someone with my non-existent cash, THERE IS NO CHOICE.
Writers have no time to write.
I do have one advantage over most writers—I don’t work. I did. For many, many years. Then our family decided to quit good paying jobs and move to Hawaii. That adventure lasted three years, until the economic reality reared its ugly head. My early retirement with hopes of finding a part-time job morphed into early retirement.
The problem with having all the time to write is it’s so easy to say “tomorrow.” I honestly think I did more writing when I worked because there was no tomorrow. To keep myself on track now, I’ve created an aggressive writing/publishing schedule. The world won’t fall apart if I don’t stick to it, but it’s a constant reminder for me to be a “brilliant and prolific writer”, an image from writingweek.com I printed and taped near my writing spot.
Writers are perfectionists.
Or not. For a short time, I belonged to a critique group that did less critiquing than polishing. Meeting after meeting, the same chapter, with various tweaks, was presented. I quit because the writers never moved forward.
Perfection doesn’t exist. Years later, you’ll want to start over and make your book better. Let it go. Do the best you can and go on to create anew.
After many attempts to understand my best way of working, I cut my process time from eight to twelve months to eight to twelve weeks. The key is to work while the idea is fresh and interesting, write the sloppiest first draft in the least amount of time, then clean it, clean it again, send it to beta readers, clean it, then publish it.
I trust in the experience of eighteen years of writing that my subconscious knows enough about plot construction, character development, etc. I won’t write myself into a hole (though it does happen). The flow is always better near the end than the beginning because I know the characters better. I will forget eye color and that whiz-bang idea I had in Chapter 2, but that’s what notes are for.
In the end, it all comes together. Trust the process.
The above is my list of how I’m a bad writer. I don’t conform to what I see on Twitter, Facebook Groups, etc. as normal.
However, I do match my fellow authors in the following ways:
I’m a life-long learner.
Writers like to research (sometimes more than we like to write). We have an insatiable curiosity. I never want to stop learning.
Writers love to read.
I’ve read thousands of books. Sadly, I’ll never read a fraction of what I’ve bought, stored on my Kindle, or earmarked on my Amazon wish lists. It doesn’t stop me from buying more.
Writers are creative.
We not only write— we paint, photograph, sew, sculpt, and create in myriad other ways to express our visions. If I’m stuck in my writing, I turn to a craft to unblock any obstacles.
The writing world is one of the most open, supportive places I’ve ever encountered. We share. No question is too stupid. We welcome newbies. We’re not afraid to ask for help. It’s an amazing world, and I’m so proud and grateful I belong to it.
I am a bad writer. But, I’m also brilliant, prolific, proud, and creative. I’ve found my strength, and I’m immersed in it. Writing has led me to wonderful friendships. I’ve learned so much, and I hope to continue sharing that knowledge.
Living in a world where I can’t write is impossible to imagine.
Thank you for accompanying me on even a small part of the journey. I am grateful for your time and interest.
Blessings to you!
(all images courtesy of unsplash.com)