Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Insecure Writer's Support Group Post 2

It is that time again.  If you haven't joined, you really should.  On the first Wednesday of every new month, the writers of the Insecure Writer's Support Group organized by super blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh step forward to give their testimony to the things that plague them most. These are doubts, fears, and terrors that lurk within the fragile mind of the author inside all of us that longs for a return to the days of J.D. Salinger and Harper Lee...when one could just put something into print and the publisher did all the work and the writer just collected checks and hid from view, never to be seen from again.

So what am I insecure about this time?  I'm going to answer this question with a question, so here it is.

Am I a good enough writer to be published?  Should I just have hidden my manuscript in a drawer and never let anyone ever see it?

The feeling that I get by putting myself out there is similar to the feeling I get while shopping for clothes.  It's like the plus-sized guy or gal that walks into an Abercrombie and Fitch store and sees all the advertisements on the wall of super-fit people enlarged 20 times.  These photos are all done in artistic black and white and airbrushed while enjoying an afternoon by some southern river with girlfriends and buddies in tow and wearing the latest fashions.  Lightning bugs and dew on the kudzu vines are optional but may help sell a pair of jeans.
Books put out by the Big Six reinforce this kind of branding over and over.
Basically, if you don't look like this, you have no business being happy.
In fact you really should be miserable and the people that do look like this
should pity you and be thankful that they don't look like you.
I look nothing like them.

The black and white model photos package a dream pretty nicely. Well so does all the work that goes into a Big Six published book from cover art to massive editing done by a team of the best and hired by a firm with bottomless pockets. Throw in a P.R. department and well...that standard is the Abercrombie & Fitch of the publishing world.  Harper Teen is the Hollister, Random House is the Neiman Marcus.

So here I am with my mid-size publisher with a whole world of "models" and "airbrushed" faces out there and I'm eyeballing one small empty shelf in an infinite warehouse and putting my stuff on it and wondering if it even has a chance.

So that's my insecurity.  Self doubt.  Maybe that's why so many authors seek validation for their work.  We live in a world that subliminally insists that we suck on just about every level because someone, somewhere decided upon a standard by which to measure if something is "good or beautiful".  The trouble is...not all of us fit so easily into the pre-drilled holes that society has made for us. And when we fight those molds, things can get ugly pretty fast.

So what do I do to fight the self doubt? Well...I listen to Eminem. He's kinda my muse.  He doesn't inspire, doesn't give me story ideas, but he's damn good at keeping me going when all I want to do is quit.  I've followed his career for twelve years, from the old slim shady stuff to his now cosmic superstar status, and this guy absolutely fascinates me. I own a bunch of his albums and listen to them in secret because most of my friends cannot understand why on earth I like his extremely powerful words.  Yeah he spouts a lot of hate.  But, I think it fits me because I have a lot of repressed anger.  I think he's a musical genius on the same level as Mozart or Beethoven...just born in a different era.'s his latest song with Bruno Mars (who has the voice of an angel by the way) that I listen to quite often and I have to say...yeah...I love it.  I even included it in my latest book because this is precisely the kind of music that Jordan would listen to (because he has a lot of repressed anger too).


  1. Love Eminem - I find his lyrics inspirational in a sarcastic kind of way:) Great comparison to your writing and we all feel that way very often - it's a saturated market, but also has a lot of opportunities so just got to keep our chins up:)

  2. I'm leaving a virtual hug for you and all the other insecure writers! It's our desperate need for approval that drives us to write better and better all the time. :-)

  3. I think you fears are normal, natural, and to a large extent healthy. Without those writing doubts you'd never push yourself in your work. At least you're getting your stuff out there. That's a lot further than many people will go, and is something to be applauded.

    As regards the endless beauty = happiness thing -- yep, the media of the last 100 years has a lot to answer for. But the more society tries to train us to be vacuous, braindead, image-obssessed consumers who do nothing but earn, want and spend, the more we need artists and creators of meaningful, intelligent, thought-provoking and challenging work to counteract and combat the piles of bullshit that otherwise threaten to bury us whole. There is an obvious spiritual (spiritual, not religious) and intellectual void in Western society, and it needs to be filled with food for the soul and the mind. And therefore, one could argue, the need for literature has never been stronger or more urgent. None of what I'm saying here on my soapbox is new, I know. It just bears repeating from time to time. And it's the morning here, and I haven't even had my first coffee of the day, so maybe I'm talking crap. But I don't think so.

    Be glad, Mike: you're part of the solution.

  4. Thank you for reminding me of Eminem. Hadn't listened to him in a while. There are some great lyrics in this song.

    It would be easy to get into one of those holes, but nobody who is smart ever climbs willingly into a hole.

  5. Nice song! And nice post, too... your metaphor worked well! It's the same with anything, you think you'll never look as good as the person from the catalogue, or your living room will never look as perfect as the picture from Ikea or your cake won't look so artistic and picturesque as the one on TV.

    I haven't come across these worries myself yet (I need to actually write a book first!), but I know there's a lot of publishing giants out there, the same as with any industry. I think the biggest comfort I can offer is that every writer in your position probably feels exactly the same. At least you have a section of shelf, that's a start!

    Plus, you seem to have a lot of friends here on blogger who are supporting you, so I'd definitely say you have a chance. I'm a new supporter of yours! So just keep doing what you're doing :)

  6. This is something I can completely relate to. As a matter of fact, it is basically what I wrote about today. :) Funny how we both related writing to body self-image. I guess that is something everyone can connect with.
    I personally can't wait to read your work! You will face good and bad reviews, numbers, and editorial comments, but all of us will stay by your side cheering you on. You are not alone on this journey.
    My entry is on my IWS tab on my blog. Have a great day!

  7. "Brain Damage. Ever since the day I was born. Drugs, is what they used to say I was on."

    Love that shit. I have his first single on 12 inch vinyl.

  8. What society idealizes changes over time. Back in the Renaissance they thought plump chicks were sexy, as evidenced by the paints back then. Or at least maybe they were plump by today's standards. Now it's all if you're not a size 0 or have six-pack abs you're just a loser. Except how many people actually fit that mold? Not many. I guess that's why it's the ideal.

    I only listen to a little Eminem. I got his greatest hits album when it was on sale on Amazon once but I don't listen to it that often. I listen to Bill Shatner's albums more often. There's a good life example, someone who wasn't extremely talented never very respected but he's 80 and still hanging around.

  9. I have those same doubts too. It would be easy for me to write about my insecurities. I probably should join the

  10. Yeah, I don't get along well with pre-drilled holes, hence the StrangePegs.

    I think it really comes down to what you want. Do you want to be one of the people on the huge black and white ads or not. Either way requires work.

  11. Ok, I have to admit to not listening to Eminem. Ever. (And I do like Angel Boy's voice. Wow.)

    But I listened, because if he inspires you, there must be something there.

    I think we have to arm ourselves with whatever arsenal we can to fight the doubts. They are creativity killers, in a real way, they are the evil in the world that keeps the beautiful and good from being created.

    (p.s. I love that our era fights against the airbrushed beauty and glories in the individual. Or maybe that's just me. :))

  12. @tfwalsh: I like how his lyrics are so full of confidence that they spill over and fill your confidence as you listen to him.

    @tamara: Awww /hugs back.

    @Neil: Thoughtful and engaging commentary sir and I agree with you. I don't know if I'm part of the solution but I do know that literature provides me with solace vs. the shallow and vain influences of the world.

    @Sarah: Indeed and you're welcome. He's great.

    @Lee: I'm putting up your interview tomorrow! Hopefully it will drive some traffic to your fledgling blog. You are awesome and am glad I friended you on Twitter.

    @Ciara: I'm off to check it out :) Great minds think alike.

    @Matthew: When those words are said by Yoda...they become all powerful.

    @Rogue: You know...your man crush for Bill Shatner has me seeing him in another light. He is an inspiration. I don't think I'll ever crush on him like you do but I certainly see things in his career that I never saw before. He's a pretty amazing individual.

    @Cindy: I don't know why you wouldn't join. It gives you a post once a month, it drives traffic to your blog, and allows you to air some insecurities you feel to others on the same day.

    @Andrew: Now the strangepegs title on your blog makes sense. I'd never really given it much thought, but now I see it. Very profound sir.

    @Susan: Bruno Mars on the piano gives me goosepimples whenever I hear him. The first time I heard one of his songs on the radio I pulled over and listened to the whole thing and thought...who is this guy?

  13. Eminem is great, but "Lose Yourself" is surprisingly motivational. Great choice. That and Ying-Yang Twins "Get Low."

  14. I just had a conversation about this with a writer friend the other day. I've been struggling with this myself for, oh, pretty much my entire writing life. It's hard to be confident when you see books that shouldn't sell make millions of dollars, and really great books collect dust on the shelves. I haven't read your book, but based on your blog, I'd say you'll be just fine. :)

  15. This is an excellent post. Ya see, none of us are any good, or we're too ugly, heavy, or we wear out-of-style clothes, or we need a certain drink to "be like Mike." That's why we're so lucky to have Madison Avenue cure us of our imperfections, to help us be accepted.

    (Using these jeans can have adverse side effects such as diarrhea, vomiting, dry-eye, persistent abdominal pain and arrhythmia. In come rare cases gangrenous toes were reported in patients above five years of age, but these findings were inclusive. Consult your doctor to see if these jeans are right for you.)

  16. I think this was a very thoughtful post and your song selection made it perfect. Yes, we're exactly where we need to be on this dark, dusty, albeit strange road of life... a road that might lead us to a sky full of lanterns that will light our way.

  17. I don't care for Eminem, but then, I don't care for anything that becomes superpopular. I like that you declared him a musical genius, though. Stir that pot!

    What makes me insecure is the idea that nobody is reading my stuff. I like hearing that someone read something of mine, even if they didn't like it. Otherwise, I feel like I'm just standing on a streetcorner talking to myself.

  18. Great post and lovely theme for a blog hop.
    I know there is a lot of writers out there who can relate. Self-doubt is a tough one.
    I have observed, the authors who feel the best about their work--confidence aside- the ones who are really passionate about the story they have created, regardless of anyone's opinion, are the ones who enjoy the success they have-mid-sized publisher, small publisher, self-published-, the most. Maybe its a matter of getting back to and remembering why you wrote the story, what inspired you to write it.

    Anyway you can find to hedge off self-doubt, is a great thing....Eminem works for you, that's great! :o)

  19. We are insecure creatures, aren't we? It's shameful how those messages of perfection continually get shoved down our throats. I'm all for beauty in life, but those are impossible standards for anyone to live up to. Makes me wonder if anyone really believes buying a pair of jeans will make them all THAT?

  20. YOu are awesome, Michael. If your blog is any indication, your novel is amazing. I look forward to reading it. And what is with the cologne in those stores? It's like they use a fog machine filled with the stuff. I get a headache within three seconds.

  21. I avoid preconceived stereotypes. My personality and ghetto booty would never fit anyway, no matter how hard I tried to shove them in. It might mean I'll never sell a book, but at least I know I'm staying true to myself.

  22. I really like Bruno Mars and the duet worked well. It's more important to write from the heart, then to look good in a pair of jeans. Be proud of what you've accomplished, and your positive energy will shine through Julie

  23. Michael, you've introduced a theme anyone who creates art can relate to. Even when we do our best and stay true to ourselves, there is no guarantee that the world will support us. I've often wondered if those who do succeed fought against the norm or if they conceded to it.

    I have learned that it is great to have dreams, but a part of me must also be ready to accept failure. That may be the self-doubt speaking, but even if I have all the confidence in the world, that doesn't mean I'll reach my dreams or that I deserve to.

  24. I think it depends on one's goals. I never wanted to be a career author. Didn't want the pressure. I'm happy with my small publisher. Now, if someone wants to make a movie out of my books, well I'm fine with that!
    And I want to know where they are displaying ads like that!!!

  25. I guess my insecurity has more to do with somehow finding success in the query process. The only thing from stopping me from getting my writing out there is someone else.
    There are so many amazing authors out there-- yet to be discovered. And many who have been and have their books out are in no way better-- just got an agent first.

    But persistence will triumph. Right? (=

  26. mostly agree, mike... except for that last bit...

    too old to give a rat's ass about that kinda stuff... does not mean you, and others, should not, tho, it's just not for me

  27. IWSG is fab. I hear you and second your doubts. I have them, too.

    But you know what happens when you get out there? You make a fan or two who don't think you suck and ask you when you're next release will be out. And they're people you don't know. That's our validation. It doesn't suck at all.

    We build our beach one grain of sand at a time, no matter how we publish.

  28. I suppose because I haven't reached that point in the process yet, never really thought of the comparison.

    Never listened to Eminem . . .

  29. One size does not fit all. Great analogy. I'm sure your book is fab!!!

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  31. I hate the monster of self-doubt. Curse him! But we all have him. In fact, I love this post because how you feel is exactly how I feel. It's scary. It's hard. But if we work for it I truly believe it will be worth it. I love the voice in your posts. I'm sure you have a talent with whatever else you are writing too. :) Glad eminem is keeping you going. I haven't listened to him for a while - I need more mellow music, but he really is talented.

  32. A and F ads and stores - ick! Not only do they make the mere mortals of the real world feel like they don't fit, they also stink - literally. Or at least the one at our local mall does - spraying perfume out of the doors and all over the place. I've only been in one once . . . and I felt like I needed to immediately wash all my clothes and my hair afterwards. One of my daughters' friends calls it the Night Goggles and Gas Masks required store.
    We'll all been slimed by overzealous advertisers trying to sell us perfection, and any writer worth their words has felt some self-doubt. Don't let the big 6 or A and F get to you. Write on!

  33. ...self doubt is a morbid creature that causes us to hesitate despite knowing with absolute certainty what our next maneuver should entail.

    It causes us to sometimes think too much, overwork an otherwise easy process, to stumble over a crack in the sidewalk. Confidence is the antidote, and a steady dose of success may be the only way of achieving it.

    Great post,


  34. Hi Michael. I realize I don't actually know you, but Eminem surprises me about you. I just didn't expect that...which is cool. Sounds like a song that could grow on me.

    This was a really interesting analogy. Always the old division of the classes, eh? I wish you could see that you're a rockstar. Getting published with a mid-size publisher is amazing, a dream. So relish it and don't worry about that shelf---we don't need no stinking shelf; we've got the internet. ;)

    P.S. Thank you for your advice at my ePlace. I shall take it.

  35. I'm not a huge Eminem fan (or a rap fan in general), BUT...I can appreciate that the man has talent, for sure! And if he keeps you on track with your determination, then all the better!

  36. I read tons and tons of books from all genres. There are always some that I feel didn't deserve publication and that helps me believe I'm good enough to be published.

  37. Well, I hope you take some comfort knowing that someone believes in you - in this case a real life publisher. Sure, they may not pull Stephen King off the shelf to make room for you, but at least your in the game. And you never know, somebody has to be the next big thing.

  38. Well, I hope you take some comfort knowing that someone believes in you - in this case a real life publisher. Sure, they may not pull Stephen King off the shelf to make room for you, but at least your in the game. And you never know, somebody has to be the next big thing.

  39. I like Eminem because of his unapologetic nature--he's not the classic rap success story and yet, he is a huge star. I think the most fascinating people are those who aren't the interchangeable characters in a black and white ad, but the people who have some depth and are more than just a pretty face. The mold may sell the "flavor of the moment", but those who break it persevere.

  40. Self-esteem is one of my biggest problems, but I think I'm overwhelming it by listening to P!nk. You have to listen to her latest song "F**kin' Perfect" :D
    Wow, Eminem is a great talent! His words really matter.
    Good luck to everyone! Thanks :)

  41. "The trouble is...not all of us fit so easily into the pre-drilled holes that society has made for us. And when we fight those molds, things can get ugly pretty fast."

    Totally with you there Michael.

    I suffer self doubt every time I refer someone to my short story publication in Bewildering Stories. I'm sure nobody is reading it; and I'm equally sure it was just luck that I got the one story published. What if I submit again and get rejected?

    Your foot is in the door Michael. You have succeeded where so many others have not. I am impressed with Double Dragon Publishing. Your story must be intriguing to have found a home with them.

    Thanks for the Eminem song. I like him too, and have listened to a lot of his songs. I don't like it all, but I like enough of it. And darn, the song has ended so it must be time to move along :)


  42. Eminem has a most interesting background. I love his interviews, especially from the early days when he was just breaking out and becoming well known.

  43. It seems there are very few who are not square pegs being shoved into round holes. The ever present but elusive "they" who dictate.

    As for Eminem...I think he is a modern poet. He is so beautifully lyrical.

  44. Yeah, I had to go a step beyond the whole square peg thing.

  45. to old to go down the one peg being perfect fit for all - but certainly when I was younger I suffered from society trying to squash me in a round hole - I never did fit - insecurity i am coming to believe is a spur for us to continue trying to perfect our craft - it is hard not to get down - but hey thats why we are all here

    keep smiling