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How to not feel intimidated?

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I've only been writing for about 15 months now. I know I'm not very good and have a lot to learn. I'm okay with that because I can see how much better I am now than I was even a few months ago and I really love to write. But putting the first five pages of my first novel up on writeoncon has been really intimidating. I've received great feedback and been able to use it to really strengthen my manuscript.

It's just that I can't help looking at everyone else's pieces and thinking, "Wow! They are so good. I'm never going to be that good." and then wondering if I should just stop dreaming and give up. How do you battle the insecurity and intimidation of comparing yourself to other writers instead of just yourself?
#1 - August 13, 2013, 08:31 AM
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I actually first had those feelings when I was about 14 and started writing a book, thinking about being an author then thought, "Who am I to write a book? I'm not Jane Austen or Charles Dickens?" (If you're going to worry, worry big!) So I didn't think about writing again for years. When I finally did, I realized that there is room in the world for lots of voices, including mine.

Don't worry about what/how others write. Your voice is unique to you.
#2 - August 13, 2013, 08:47 AM

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Swallow the fear and intimidation. Remember there's only ONE you and only you can write the stories that burn in your heart. Write on.
Vijaya
#3 - August 13, 2013, 09:09 AM
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It's only in the last couple of years that I've taken my writing seriously, and feeling new to the game has certainly caused doubts for me. I ripped this Marianne Williamson quote out of a magazine once, and it has always stuck with me. Maybe it will help you. This is just part of it:

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?"
#4 - August 13, 2013, 09:14 AM

Maybe it will help to remember that all those people you think are so good have gone through that same battle, I can almost guarantee. They're the ones who stuck it out through that feeling and didn't give up.

(Well, and undoubtedly, are still going through it to varying extents.)
#5 - August 13, 2013, 09:14 AM
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Aww, Amanda.  There are so many ways to look at it but truly, comparing yourself to others and feeling like "I'm not as good as X--why am I even doing this?" probably never completely goes away, even for award-winning respected writers.

Ann has a great point.  You could tell yourself "They don't have my voice. Nobody does but me. That's one thing I'm bringing to the table."

Here are some other things that have helped me:

"I can only do the best I can do with the knowledge that I have right now."  (You can't logically do better than your current skills/information allow, so don't hold yourself to some impossible standard of what you might one day be able to do!  I know all of us love to read, and it's really hard not to read some wonderful book and think "But I want to do THAT--why isn't mine like THAT now?"  One day it may be, but giving up because you aren't perfect in your mind is so sad, isn't it?  Remember "Perfect is the enemy of good."  Voltaire said that, and it's something I've made my new mantra.  Don't let striving for perfection stop your ability to create GOOD, solid work.  Especially since perfection probably doesn't even exist!  Beauty is truth, truth beauty.  And true things are a little bit flawed.)

"I'm here to learn."  (Repeat this every day you live--never stop being in that "willing student" mindset. You can learn from better writers, you can learn from writers who aren't as good as you are.  You can learn from people who are right on your level.  You can learn, learn, learn from good books and bad and unpublished and published.  Be an open-minded, eager, positive student your whole life, even if you reach Stephen King status.)

"I love mastering craft."  (Nobody is born some miraculously skilled writer who is perfection from day one.  Even those who seem to be "naturals" early on probably put in loads of hours as kids.  They say it takes 10,000 hours to master anything, right?  Strive to become a master and love your 10,000 hour-or-more journey.  Make sure you're having fun even when you're putting in all the work, heartache, and headache time.  Inside your heart, aren't you loving it?  If not, you might need to take a break and reboot.)

"This is not a competition.  I'm only competing against myself."  (Strive to do better than you did a year ago and constantly improve yourself, not be better than others.  Aim to write more words, attend more events, submit more, etc. than you did before.  Or write smarter or use your time more wisely, or seek out new critiques.  The only person you're competing against is the writer you were 6 months ago or a year ago.  Not others.  Yes, you're trying to sell your stuff and other people are too, so be smart and keep that in mind--some people are ruthless competitors!  But try not to measure yourself against their current level.)

"Other people's success doesn't take away from mine."  (Again, this is sooooo hard to really accept, but there is room for all great writing.  Just keep telling yourself your wonderful work will speak for itself if you keep mastering craft and taking chances and writing from the heart, etc.  Don't get into that place where you feel like so-and-so's book deal/agent deal just took away the book deal/agent deal YOU would've had if they hadn't gotten there first.  That kind of thinking will make you nuts.  Great writing will break through.)
#6 - August 13, 2013, 09:18 AM

I like what Jaclyn said. The cool thing is to also look back on your own work. I know I'm a bit horrified at what I wrote at first, but it does show how far I've come.
And Amanda, I loved your query at writeoncon, so I don't think you have any reasons to feel inferior. You have an awesome story!  :)
#7 - August 13, 2013, 09:19 AM
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Oh boy,... I could write a NOVEL on feeling intimidated by writing... yet, I'd be too intimidated to!  I'm still not entirely over the intimidation of writing picture books (because it's WRITING--- and I'm not the most literate individual)... but I'm in a much better place now only because I didn't give up when it was really very bad.

It's okay to feel this way. In fact, it will be the driving force behind you getting better! Write through the pain, and keep writing. One day (say in a few months or even years), you'll look over your old mss and think, MY GOSH, I HAVE IMPROVED!!! It will happen. You just have to keep writing.
#8 - August 13, 2013, 09:23 AM

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Amanda, you have come so far in 15 months! Really, I was completely amazed when you said on some other thread that you'd only been writing about a year. I have known so many, many writers who are just as newbie at the 15-month mark as at the 1-day mark. I was no good 15 months in, either.

 :gogirl You are doing so many things right!

Picking up a great novel and thinking "I'll never be THIS good" doesn't go away. And I think that's a good thing. If every book I pick up makes me think "Ha, I'm as good or better than this," I'm both insufferably conceited and living in la-la land. "I'll never be this good" because I can't write that other person's story, in that other person's voice. Not because "S/he is amazingly talented and I stink."

I love Jaina's points. It takes reading them over and reminding ourselves of them to make them part of our mindset.
#9 - August 13, 2013, 09:36 AM
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I felt this way six years ago when I started, and I definitely WASN'T as good as those other people writing around me. I'd be embarrassed to show anyone my early work now. But I grit my teeth and kept reading and writing and learning, and now? I think I am as good, or at least I hope I am. It wasn't an easy road and there's a lot of feels along the way, but not giving up is the surest way to improve (How I love to state the obvious, sorry). Stay strong!
#10 - August 13, 2013, 09:53 AM
"The mind is everything. What you think, you become." ~Buddha   

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Ah, AmandaSue! Your sweet/sad question gave me a pang in my heart. Have some hugs!  :grouphug2:

We got to go to Scotland last year and we saw awesome gardens. Would it make sense for me to come home and abandon my tiny little gardens because they don't measure up?

I'm learning to play a new instrument. Should I give up my dream of knowing how to play just because nearly everyone on the planet plays better than I do?

In other words, don't my little garden and my little tunes make me happy and add to the world's beauty? Just a little bit?  :love5:

Edited to add: Also, you're getting great feedback on your posted work so you're definitely impressing your readers!
#11 - August 13, 2013, 09:54 AM
« Last Edit: August 13, 2013, 09:56 AM by Tamilyn »

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It must be in the water today, or more likely on WritenCon's coffee bar, because I just blogged about this...

http://mirkabreen.blogspot.com/

I remind myself of someone I worked for, in a very competitive business, who old me he doesn't look left or right, just ahead. Then he does the best he can. I don't think there is any other way to work.
#12 - August 13, 2013, 10:35 AM
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I love BB'ers. What wonderful support.  :fireworks
#13 - August 13, 2013, 11:35 AM

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Hi Amanda! You've already received some great advice, so I'll just add my favorite go-to-quote-when-I'm-reading-amazing-writing:

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”


― Ira Glass
#14 - August 13, 2013, 12:44 PM
« Last Edit: August 13, 2013, 12:48 PM by Bridgette Booth »
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I love BB'ers. What wonderful support.  :fireworks

Yes indeed. Great advice here.

And, having read your writing, cripes, don't feel even slightly intimidated! If half the wannabe kidlitters in the world could write as well as you after just 15 months, well, the kidlit market would be even more difficult to get published in than it is now! (Which is my very roundabout way of saying you write really well!)

Some of us have been doing this for years... ahem.
#15 - August 13, 2013, 01:13 PM

Thanks so much for all the great advice guys. I think I have some quotes to print out and hang on my fridge! As well as Jaina's entire post of thoughts. You guys are great, and it's just nice to know I'm not alone in feeling like this sometimes.  And thanks Franzilla, that means a lot to me!
#16 - August 13, 2013, 01:44 PM
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I think the best way not to feel intimidated is to "not" put anything out there. But waaay too many people do that and I don't blame them because putting yourself out there, dreaming the dreams, sitting down and writing something for others to read and "judge" IS intimidating and it's SUPPOSED to be intimidating. The same feelings that you are experiencing are also the ones that give you and all of us the capability to do this stuff. Feeling intimidated when you offer such a huge piece of yourself, like we do when we write, is as natural as walking upright and blinking...lean into it long enough and you'll pop through on the other side from time to time, even often.

Also remember, being a writer or whatever has a timeline, a beginning, a middle and an end, like any good story. You'll want to experience it all along the way. There will never be another beginning so I tell myself that "it's no more important to be there then, than it is to be here now" :]

Philip
#17 - August 13, 2013, 01:52 PM

Tamilyn's comment about learning to play an instrument reminded me that when I was learning to play the ukulele (which I still completely suck at, btw) I made a post in a similar vein on my blog. I'll post it here in case it is helpful to anyone:

Sometimes when I'm talking to teens or aspiring writers or whatever, I feel kind of bad, because I want to encourage people who are struggling to achieve their dreams. I ALWAYS wanted to be a writer, always wrote a lot, was always praised for my writing, had a lot of encouragement, etc. It did take me three years to find an agent and I really worked on my craft during that time, but it would be a lie to tell you that I started out completely clueless and awful. I was always good at telling stories. I don't feel it's braggy to say so. I could tell by the way people around me reacted. The same goes for art, although it wasn't my passion so I never honed it as much.

However, because I WAS really talented at certain things from a young age and I knew it, I tended to avoid new things I was NOT good at. Anything athletic, for example. I quickly gave up on learning to ice skate or do any sort of structured dancing, ditto karate, archery, or basically anything sporty, even if it interested me. Music was another one. I tried learning the guitar as a teen and dumped it pretty fast. I sucked at playing guitar. Learning to sew, you can add that to the list too. I deeply resisted learning to cook, too--it was only that my burning desire to eat decent food overwhelmed me.

When Magic Under Glass sold, I asked for a ukulele for Christmas. This time, learning an instrument was a new experience. Ukuleles are pretty easy to play in a basic way, so that's satisfying, but I still have to admit the whole world of playing an instrument is new to me. I don't know how things work or the terms. It's not intuitive to me. Sometimes I feel like I'm trying to do algebra when I look at ukulele lessons. There is nothing remotely special or impressive about anything I have EVER played on that ukulele.

I realized it's one of the first things I've ever done knowing that if I am ever praised or noticed for my ukulele-ing skill, that day is FAR, FAAAAR away. It's not like I write or draw strictly for praise or attention, but if everything you ever do is praised and noticed--at least sometimes--it's kind of hard to do something that you'll probably never be stellar at.

It's kind of liberating in a way I never knew. I can just mess around without any sense of pressure on myself. But I think I was able to do it because I've sold a book, and "proven" myself in my preferred area of expertise. And maybe because I'd learned a lesson by putting my book out there to agents and editors, something I couldn't do for a long while.

I wish I'd been easier on myself before. Why did I need to be good at everything? I didn't realize how much I feared failure, and might have held myself back from learning a lot of new things.

Succeeding in the arts (or probably, anything you're passionate about) is all about embracing rejection and failure, and learning from it, even when you're starting off with some inherent talent. For years I was afraid to query even though I thought I was a good writer. I must have suspected deep-down that I wasn't as great as I thought I was, and I was afraid to come down. There is definitely a deep fear about moving to a new level of achievement or competition, that what cut it before won't cut it there, that there are others much better than you are. The first rejection I ever got from an agent made me cry. The first rejection of a partial made me cry, and a full, and sometimes I'd just be in the midst of the process and random tears would sneak up on me: What if I'm never good enough? I thought I was special and I'm NOT. I am MEDIOCRE and my writing does not make anyone desperate to acquire.

But in other ways, I learned to enjoy even the process of submission and rejection. Every rejection meant I was OUT THERE. I was LEARNING. For years, I was afraid to do it, and now I WAS DOING IT. And man, even if I meant I had to step down from the protected tower, it also meant that I wasn't one of the people who just TALKS.

In hindsight, one of the things I'm most proud of about myself in the last five years is not that I succeeded, but that I learned to fail.

#18 - August 13, 2013, 01:56 PM
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When I saw JK Rowling at the Doylestown Bookstore some years ago (for the release of Prisoner of Azkaban), an aspiring writer asked her a question about confidence and fear of failure. Ms. Rowling said (and quite rightly), "Don't worry, sweetie, no one can write your book better than you. Knowing that, go have some fun doing it and don't burn calories worrying about what anyone says."

Nice.
#19 - August 13, 2013, 02:01 PM
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Great advice all around. No matter how good of a writer, you will always focus on improving your craft. Try to focus on the learning and the love of writing and it will all unfold.
#20 - August 13, 2013, 04:36 PM
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#21 - August 13, 2013, 06:17 PM

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Don't worry, sweetie, no one can write your book better than you. Knowing that, go have some fun doing it and don't burn calories worrying about what anyone says.

Between this and the Ira Glass quote, I'll never need advice again ;)
#22 - August 13, 2013, 06:35 PM
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What a timely post! I've been really struggling the last few weeks with lack of time and focus and briefly considering that "Why do I bother at all" thought because I wonder if I'll EVER get "THE call or THE email." I love reading everyone else's stories about those calls or emails but do get a teeny bit jealous at times. I'm thankful I read this post because my journey is my journey and others' successes doesn't take away from my own journey and my own work. Thanks for posting Amanda Sue and everyone who gave such great advice.
#23 - August 13, 2013, 06:57 PM
Freaky Funky Fish ( Running Press Kids, Spring 2021)


“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”


― Ira Glass


That Ira Glass quote has gotten me out of so many feeling stuck-feeling inferior moments. Amanda, the fact that you've been working on your writing shows you have the writer's heart to go the writer's path. Keep going. "Take pride in how far you've come and have faith in how far you will go." ~ Read this on Pinterest last week.

Such wonderful support here. :)
#24 - August 14, 2013, 03:58 AM
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 :exactly:


AND   :wow   

What a  FABULOUS THREAD!!!

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings Amanda.

AND  THANKS to everyone for their GREAT advice and quotes!   

Feeling empowered! 

--LiZ
#25 - August 14, 2013, 06:51 AM

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Thank you for sharing all these wonderfully inspiring quotes and messages. The support shared on this board is amazing!   

:grouphug2: to you AmandaSue. Thank you for sharing!


Sue
#26 - August 14, 2013, 07:00 AM
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GET OUTSIDE IN SPRING, Focus Readers, Jan.  2019

#27 - August 14, 2013, 10:47 AM
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Love the posts here, too! I needed this today!
I just saw this on writeoncon about being yourself as a writer: http://writeoncon.com/08/14/writing-and-walking/
It really inspired me.
#28 - August 14, 2013, 08:52 PM
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I'm constantly intimidated by other writers. In fact, I have a couple of critique partners who are so amazing that I constantly feel like I'll always be miles behind them. But the funny thing is, they've admitted to me on more than one occasion that they think I'm the better writer!

We all have a tendency to compare our own weaknesses with the strengths of others. I like to keep a feel-good file on my computer to refer to when I'm feeling down on myself. Whenever I get a critique with praise for my writing, it goes into the file. When I get an encouraging rejection from an agent, it goes into the file. When someone says something nice about me on twitter or facebook or any other social media, I often take screen shots and save them to my file. And when I'm feeling like I want to quit, I read those positive comments. If that doesn't work, I call one of my friends for a pep talk. (Supportive critique partners are golden!!)
#29 - August 14, 2013, 10:11 PM

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I want to frame this whole thread and doodle hearts and flowers around it and hang it on my wall.

Now back to revising.
#30 - August 15, 2013, 07:28 AM
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