Welcome to Wednesday

Insecure Writer’s Support Group

Happy “Insecure Writer’s Support Day!”
By Elizabeth Cutright

You are not alone.  Yes…I know you hear that often – we all do – but the frequency of the statement (or its super-status as a cliché) doesn’t make it any less real or truthful, or significant.

You are not alone in your writing.  You have an audience, sure, but you also have your tribesmen – your fellow writers, authors, reporters, bloggers and assorted wordsmith out there slinging sentences, firing off paragraphs and understanding and relating to the trials, tribulations, setbacks and super-human frailties that often get in the way of our creative out put.

Which is what makes Insecure Writer’s Support Day so great.  Started by Alex J. Vanaugh, the purpose of Insecure Writer’s Support day is to inspire and encourage writers to persevere in the face of crippling self-doubt, sloth or ennui.

“Discuss your struggles and your triumphs,” writes Alex. “Offer words of encouragement for others who are struggling.”

So how does one become a member of the insecure writer’s brigade?  Every first Wednesday of the month, write a bit about your own insecurities as a writer – what frightens or intimidates you?  Are you constantly standing in your own way?  Do find yourself adrift in a becalmed sea after the winds of enthusiasm flag and your latest project stalls and stutters?

We’ve just concluded NaNoWriMo, and for many of us – me especially – November 30th came and went without a completed manuscript to raise up over our heads in triumph like the a scene out of The Lion King.  I wrote about my inability to hit the 50,000 word goal-post last week, and while that finish-line-failure still stings, I know it’s important to re-seat myself in the saddle, jingle those spurs, and ride out into the open plains.

Oh ugh – don’t you hate mixed metaphors and tortured similes?  I tend towards fluorescent, flower and florid prose, and one of my challenges is to keep it simple.  I also struggle with repetition – revisiting the same ideas, the same plot lines, and the same characters.  I know plenty of authors have found success returning to the same well over and over again – and maybe if I found a topic that attracted me that powerfully, I’d do the same – but for me, predictability and bad habits only kill my enthusiasm and make me question my literary ambitions.

Another issue I deal with is the feedback-valley-of-death.  Otherwise known as, “why is no one commenting my content?!”

There’s nothing worse than pulling out your shiny new poem, essay or blog entry only to have its debut met with utter silence.

You mean my efforts provoke no response?

It’s disheartening and difficult to overcome.  Of course, for many of us, there’s no choice but to keep trying, to continue writing and to persist in fanning the flames of optimism in the hope that someday, someone might have something to say about what you’ve done.

During my college years, I attended a screenwriting class put on by a former television writer of some renown.  You had to apply to get into the class, and he only accepted a handful of students a year.  Of course, I made the rookie mistake of assuming admittance denoted talent, and so I shirked off the hard work and dedication required to succeed, and skated along the line of bare-minimums.

We met every Monday morning at 8am – an ungodly time for any college student, and still not my favorite hour of any day – and were required to arrive with 5-10 fresh pages, to be read aloud and critiqued by fellow classmates.

Oh how I hated reading aloud.  When put on the spot, or forced in any way to participate in public speaking, words spill out of my mouth at record speed.  Few can keep up with the velocity of my sentences, and I often leave my audience puzzled and unfulfilled.  I’ve been aware of this tendency since junior high – when our 6th grade teacher filmed us delivering our oral reports – and I’ve tried (in vain) to slow down my speech to acceptable levels. (By law school I’d managed to downshift from Formula 1 to street race.  Eventually, I hope to bring it down enough notches to hit the sedan-sweetspot .)

On those early Monday mornings, each student would take their turn reading aloud and then listen attentively as the verdict was handed down.  Some spec scripts were fantastic (I still remember the one that re-imagined the last supper in space), others a bit dull.  Some were too full of description; others suffered from stilted dialogue or ubiquitous clichés.  But still, there was always something to say – something interesting enough to spark discussion.

Except my submissions.  I’d read at super-sonic levels, then sweat it out for a few minutes as my output was met with blank stares and uneasy silences.  The teacher would try to prompt the class to speak – what did they like or loathe? Did anything confuse them?  Were they titillated? Bored?

There’d only be a few mumbles before the moment became too excruciating to continue.  We’d move on to the next participant, and I’d be left wondering what I’d done wrong.

And of course, the vicious cycle would kick in.  I’d skip class to avoid those five minutes of silence, and then spend the rest of the day feeling guilty and pledging that next week I’d show up with something sensational.  But each time I appeared, I’d get the same reaction.

At the end of the quarter, we each met with the professor for our final grade.  You had to earn at least an A- to continue to “Phase 2”, and when I showed up I was handed my final paper with the class grade scrawled across the top in red.


“You should have made the cut,” the professor said, “but I had to ding you for failing to show on a regular basis.  You’re dialogue’s great and your plots are tight.  I just wish you’d shown enough fortitude to face the class more often.”

So if I have any words of wisdom or encourage to pass on along on this Insecure Writer’s Day, it’s this:

In the face of criticism, naysayers and (worst of all) silence, just show up to the page– your attendance alone will get you further than you think.

12 thoughts on “Welcome to Wednesday

    1. Thanks for the tea and sympathy. It truly was awful, and I remember thinking “Geez, if it sucks just say so!”

      Perhaps they were stunned to silence by my brilliance?? 🙂

  1. And I thought I was the only one! Good to know I am not. Don’t be disheartened on not reaching the 50, 000 word goal in the NaNoWriMo at least you had the courage to try.

    1. I’ve been wanting to do NaNoWriMo for years, and I’m glad I tried – but…damn! I never realized how hard it would be! Next year, I’ll definitely make sure I have a plot before I start 🙂

  2. Sounds like your writing is a lot better than your public speaking. It’s too bad that the class was oral like that, rather than reading the work and commenting the next week or something. I’ve seen published authors race through readings out of nervousness, so it happens to the best of them. Glad you joined IWSG. Nice to meet you!

  3. So excited to discover IWSG – it’s exactly what the kind of thing I’m aiming for with The Daily Creative Writer.
    I’ve never liked reading out loud, and it’s even worse when it’s your own stuff.
    I’m always envious of those authors and poets who turn their readings into a performance.

  4. Really good post…and lesson. One I learned a long time ago in high school. I hated giving oral reports, or memorizing poetry to recite in front of the class. The first day of speech the teacher said we had to get up and talk about ourselves and started that very day. They didn’t get around to me and I dropped before the second class. 🙂 That was a long time ago. I’m a different person now. Thankfully!!

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