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Writer's Life

Don’t Let the Void Destroy Success and Other Good Feels

For the last few months, I’ve taken a step back from my digital presence. Most of my blog posts have been contributed content–things I would write if I had the energy and headspace, but am content editing into my own voice and making a little money on the side. If I’m posting anywhere, it’s on Instagram. And it’s pictures of flowers and cats.

But the unseen work has been on The Thieves of Traska. I’ve written over 50,000 words in the last three months, which is a personal record.

It used to feel weird to say I’m still working on it… six years later. But the nice thing about stepping back from the social void is there’s less pressure. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled whenever I see someone announcing they’ve signed with an agent or just got their publishing deal. I will retweet the hell out of your good news.

And die a little inside, wondering why I’m even on Twitter right now when I should write instead. So I stopped checking my notifications. I stayed focused and got a lot of good work done.

But 50,000 words is a hard thing to celebrate when your brain is tangled up in imposter syndrome and “fake it til you make it” mentality. Because I feel like I’m faking it every step of the way, and anything that feels like I’ve made it is a lie.

Other writers read a bad book and wonder how it got published. Seriously, how many people had to give this flaming dumpster a green light?! They think, “Well, if this can get published, then I have nothing to worry about! I’m a much better writer than this!”

For me, right after that thought comes another: “But what if I AM that terrible writer? Are people lying to spare my feelings? Do I subconsciously seek out yes-people to surround myself with lies?!”

Ridiculous, right? I laugh, too.

But it’s not unusual. In fact, imagine how surprised I was when casually watching Cars 3 of all things and this scene hit:

It’s okay if you cry. I cry, too.

I didn’t start thinking that way overnight. When I got to my college writing classes, I felt like the world’s biggest jerk. So many of my classmates were relatively new to a craft I’d been studying since I was 12. I went into every critique looking for feedback from specific people I felt were near or above my level. Honestly, their feedback was the most valuable.

But after graduation, it was always other people who got recognition. Over little things, like having the department alumni website update where you’re working. Despite occasional emails and personal connections with the people in charge, my name has never been included. And it’s never been because of where I worked; other people working at the same places before and after me had their names and jobs not just posted but UPDATED whenever it changed.

When your achievements are swept under the rug by the only people and institutions you want recognition from, it’s gutting. And having to be your own biggest cheerleader is exhausting.

Even trying to hype my own manuscript is a pain. I worry about overselling a disappointment. If I make the main character too cool, does she become a Mary Sue? If she fails too many times, does it just become boring despair-porn?

The cool thing, though, is that sometimes I can find the mute button to shut up The Void. Then I can listen to my critique partners and actually believe all the nice things they say (maybe if they said it in a mean way…?).

For those who wonder how my actual writing is going, it’s awesome. Really. I might even start talking about it again in between posts on digital marketing. But the important thing is that things are happening. And I’m excited. Even if The Void is being loud.

Hopefully there will be more to share with you all soon.

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