Roll up! Roll up! Insecure Writers gather round. Belly up to the space bar, sit down and do your thing, write. What? You can’t write? You’re feeling too insecure? Well, I have a secret and if you come really close, I will whisper it to you.
It turns out, shhh, nearly all writers are insecure. It’s true. Even Ian Rankin. He was on a programme on BBC1 last night and he didn’t look too sure of what he was about most of the time. Granted he had a broadcaster and a camera crew breathing down his neck whilst he was writing, which would give anybody the heebee-jeebies. Come and breathe down my neck when I’m in full flow and see what you get. So even six pages before the end of his first draft, the very experienced and revered Mr. Rankin was still pondering who might turn out to be the bad guy. This is true, I promise, Brownie’s Honour. If you’re in the UK you can check it out on iPlayer.
So if great and famous and published authors are insecure, what hope do we have? Well, what do those great and famous and published authors do about it? They write. They get on and they write. They don’t wallow in the awfulness of ‘poor me’ and ‘look how sad’ and ‘what if it’s no good?’ and especially not ‘what if I never get published?’ They write. Every day, they sit at their desks and they get on with the job in hand. Because make no mistake about it, this is a job like any other. Writer’s block? Do builders get builder’s block or plumbers get plumber’s block? (No, that’s not why he doesn’t turn up when you ask him, it’s because he’s promised you and fourteen other people he’ll be there at three o’clock). And the only sort of butcher’s block you’ll find is the one where he chops up the meat. You can’t afford writer’s block. If that piece isn’t working then skip it and come back to it later.
Writing is a long road. A marathon, if you like, not a sprint. The first draft is a sprint. Sprint away and while you do that, stop worrying: it’s supposed to look awful. See, up there, even Ian Rankin fiddling with his first draft. So, you can sprint your way through November on NaNoWriMo or whatever; it’s only later you have to go back to the little beast and turn it into something readable. Don’t be fooled by your niggling little inner critic, telling you how rubbish you are. Everyone has one of those. Annoying little creatures who laugh at all your attempts to get the plot down. Mine is called Cruella and she is very, very cruel. I write while she watches, her head on one side and a smirk on her face, tearing to shreds my attempts to plot. Nasty sarcastic little gnome.
What does your inner critic look like? Got her? Good. Sit on her, shut her in a box inside your head. Tape it shut with gaffer and tie it tightly with a piece of pretty ribbon. She is not allowed out until after the first draft is complete and the muse has left, closing the door quietly behind her. Take a glass of Ribena or bubbly or whatever is your fancy and toast yourself. Tell yourself how brilliant you are. Then let Cruella out of her box to laugh at your feeble attempts. Laugh back. You did it. Hooray. And now you need Cruella, but only if her comments are constructive. Remember the marathon. These things take time to plough through. And sometimes it is a plough you need to pick up, one with a nice sharp blade that slices through the soil and muck leaving a clear furrow of truth and beauty. You may need to cross that muddy field several times before the road opens up clear and clean in front of you. That is your novel.
Will you be secure at the end? I doubt it. Insecure Writers get everywhere. Even into the best seller lists.