Monday, 7 March 2011

2nd Tuesday: No good. Why Bother?

 You are no good.  Why bother?  Get a life.  Get a grip, on reality!

How do we know if 'it’s' any good to continue?  How can we judge our own writing, the good and the bad of it.  When I started seriously to think about writing to publish, I was still in the middle of one of many dark periods of my life.  Indeed I had written Ellen’s Tale during the darkest. Rewritten and had it edited during the next phase.  I mention this only to say how much could I trust friend’s opinions of the writing?  In modern parlance they were there for me, they would not want to upset me then, maybe.  Tell me truthfully is what I asked but did they?  Such nice folk. 

My friend of ‘forever’ was, I know, honest because she didn’t like it and told me so.  That was okay, she and I go back over half a century, we can say it as it is, also she gave me many positive criticisms, and has done for all subsequent writing,  my best Beta reader. 

So why didn’t I trust the others.  Maybe it’s to do with confidence, or lack of it.  Or if one has always been a great reader and has read many great books it is the impossibility of imagining joining 'them'.  Them and us.  Who knows?  It cripples, this feeling of inadequacy.  Are we fools, self-indulgent, vainglorious, blind are we . . . oh the list grows long.

I spent many hours on Ellen’s Tale reading and re-reading, to myself out loud. Some pages were read in the local writers’ group.  Two friends offered to read the manuscript, promising truth.  They said they liked it.  

I thought to myself that maybe it was as good as many out there and not as bad as some.  But Ellen was my baby and could I judge?  Did I have the nerve to try?  Everyone knew I had written this book, many repetitions of ‘when are you going to publish’ then finally decided me – I would, so there!

Some large padded envelopes and research later I sent some sample 50 page copies out to agents.  NO. NO. NO then a MAYBE, please send the rest.  I was elated and, even though it wasn’t taken in the end, that one request had seemed to validate the writing. Ellen could hold its own. It was then I became really determined to get Ellen into the market place.

Then I was ill and suddenly faced with my own mortality.  When home after the operation I decided I was too old for long waits to find an agent.  I wanted someone else to enjoy Ellen’s Tale as I did.  It was in the self-publishing that I found, maybe, the answer to the rejections.  I found there was still more to be done on the manuscript before it could be sent to the printers.  Note: Make sure it is ready before showing the agents!!!

My friend ‘from forever’ and I burned endless amounts of midnight oil struggling to get it licked into shape.  Thank goodness for e-mails!

I have had good comments, mainly from friends, and I am still not sure of those but the first good comments from strangers were what finally convinced me that maybe I could write a book worthy of being on a bookshelf. 

Of course the fact that Ellen was enjoyable didn’t prove I could write.  The same doubts descended as I started the sequel.  A second book?  People would ask when it was coming.  Nervous that I couldn’t pull it off a second time it was self-doubt all the way.  Nights of almost throwing it all away, resting on my laurels. But, the bug had bitten hard and the writing infection swirled around the brain; it seemed impossible now to stop. 

The third book was a collection of short stories which my friend of ‘forever’ had always preferred and, which would never have seen the light of day without her encouragement.  They seem to be garnering fairly good comment.  They are a little odd in places but on the whole the book seems to be well received.  I did worry more about them than my Sefuty Chronicles because I thoroughly indulged the weirder parts of my brain in the writing of them.

I think the self-doubts will always be there.  I have read so many established authors who have started well and then their work trails off and becomes formulaic or tame.  Will that happen?  Hopefully not.


  1. Hey Alberta- I think you've seen my recent posts on a similar topic. It's very hard to know when it's good enough, and we are the harshest critics of our own work. For me, I find it hard to trust the opinions of others unless they also write- not because readers don't have valid opinions, but because it takes a writer to understand all the other factors and all the hard work that goes behind what you read on the printed page. In the end, I don't think the self-doubt will ever go away- all you can do is keep writing, keep reading, keep sharing, and know that you will definitely keep improving if you do all that.

  2. Great post Alberta, and I don't think you can ever stop looking inward and being your own worst critic. It's what will make you a better writer. I think the problem is when writers are so critical of themselves that they become paralyzed to write—that's when it's unproductive.

    Self-doubt isn't bad if it motivates you to improve your writing. I know it does for me.

    Thanks for sharing, Eden

  3. I agree with what you say. However, in my case, self-doubt often becomes an excuse for procrastination. Here's my post:

  4. I have no idea about the quality of my work. It's odd, that. I wish I did.

    I'm glad you've had the courage to move forwards. That's fantastic, Alberta. Keep on doing what you're doing.