The funny thing is, this problem seems to extend well beyond the glorious milestones of representation and publication. Beth Revis, author of Across the Universe, admits to her insecurities on her blog, here. Jody Hedlund, award winning author, shares many of hers here. And the Authoress of Miss Snark's First Victim confesses her own fears here.
I recently read a Slate article by Michael Agger which shed some light on this widespread issue of self-doubt in writers. In it, Agger explains what should be a very simple and obvious fact to those of us who write: writing is hard. Here are some highlights from that article:
"Writing extended texts for publication is a major cognitive challenge, even for professionals who compose for a living... Serious writing is at once a thinking task, a language task, and a memory task." (Ronald Kellogg, Professional Writing Expertise)
It requires the same kind of mental effort as a high-level chess match or an expert musical performance... Kellogg terms the highest level of writing as "knowledge-crafting." In that state, the writer's brain is juggling three things: the actual text, what you plan to say next, and—most crucially—theories of how your imagined readership will interpret what's being written. A highly skilled writer can simultaneously be a writer, editor, and audience. (Link)
I don't know about you, but I find these passages to be both comforting and liberating. Writing is a highly solitary craft, and when you hold yourself to a high standard, it is quite easy to become discouraged; you rarely have someone next to you all the time to pat you on the back and say, "Hey, you're doing just fine! This is hard stuff, you know!" And the moment you indulge the whiny little voice in your head complaining about how difficult writing is, you start to feel like a wimp.
But isn't it nice to hear someone else verify that, yes, this is in fact a complicated thing you're trying to do?
It's easy to start feeling like a dunce when your work isn't measuring up to what you want it to be, but sometimes you have to remind yourself that it's okay to be where you are right now.
That doesn't mean we should cut ourselves any slack in what we expect from our (slightly overtaxed) brains. It just means we shouldn't start allowing ourselves to feel inadequate just because it takes us awhile to get to where we want to be. Because if we continue to work at it, we will continue to make progress. And despite the insecurities, despite the difficulty of it all, writing is in fact very rewarding work. Otherwise, why in blazes would we be doing it?
Take this advice from Lois Peterson: "The more you write, the easier it gets; the more you write, the better it gets. So just write the damn thing!"
What about you? Regardless of where you are in your writing journey, do you feel plagued by insecurities from time to time? How do you cope with them? And what do you do when you discover that writing is indeed very hard?