As a newbie writer fairly low on the totem pole, I am sharply aware of what it’s like to want that fruit of Publication And General Being Amazing dangling from the tree, which so many others seem to pluck without effort. And, being a writer, I’m also excessively neurotic. Lastly, I’m an engineer, which lends itself to an obsession with process and cold assessment of any system I engage with. Combine the three, and you have nightmare-inducing over-analysis of every situation related to my writing career. Most of which will turn into flow charts.
Here is one I made for you.
I believe with every iteration in this flowchart, a writer moves one inch closer to irredeemable madness. At least, that’s how I feel.
Click on the image to view the full thing. Or a link, that works too.
Of course, madness is pretty awful. Best avoided entirely. How do you do it? I ask this honestly, because I have no fucking clue. But I have ways to stave off the madness. It’s a Band-Aid, but it’s served me well enough thus far.
The obvious solution is to not have friends to compare myself to. But this hurts me twofold. One, writing is pretty lonely. Sure, most of us are introverts, I’m no exception, but that doesn’t mean I want to cut off all people from my life. (Typically just the boring ones.) So, having no friends is not a viable solution. And two, without writer friends, who’s going to be willing to beta read my latest DnD-adventure-turned-novel and let me know that maybe I can do without three hundred plus pages of kobold encounters?
Better solution? Well, like it says in the flow chart, I give myself that mourning period, filled with whiskey and Oreos, then I have to man up. I get back to the writing part of writing, not the obsessive stats-checking, self-comparison, self-critical nonsense. I go put words down in the right order. (It’s okay if I get them in the wrong order at first, I can figure that out later.)
The only part I should focus on at this stage is the craft of it. I should be concerned with generating a narrative using the written word that convinces other people I know what I’m doing. Get crits, and learn from them. Submit my work, and forget about it. Write the next thing. Focus my neurotic, obsessive mind on self-improvement, and leave no room for anything else, least of all this specific brand of soul-crippling self-doubt.
But I have to remember, it’s okay if I slip back into the Death-Spiral. I’m a writer. I’m neurotic. It’s what I do. So, I’ll save some whiskey and a big pile of forgiveness for myself, for the next time I spiral to the bottom.