The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
It’s a pretty amazing feeling that I published a book at seventeen years old. Four years later and I sometimes still doubt myself and my ability to write. What authors rarely reveal is the sense of doubt that comes after publishing their soul for the world to read. Am I good enough? Are people laughing at me behind my back? Have I been reduced to a one-book wonder?
I cycle through these emotions frequently. Self-admittedly, I am not the same person nor the same writer who published that first book in the summer of 2018. There is a level of detachment I feel towards it now, like it was some past life that I recall every so often instead of the thing that drove me through high school. I wanted to prove to people that I could do it, and I did. But since then, my circle has gotten bigger, my worldview has expanded, and I’ve grown to look at my first book with a level of detachment that I’ve come to know is common in writers like Sabaa Tahir, who has expressed this on her social media. People change; it’s okay if your outlook on your book changes as well.
I now look back on my first novel with a fondness and a very distinct notion that when I published it, the high school atmosphere was the only thing I knew. My little corner of the world was the extent of my boundaries and I can see that reflected in my book. The people reflected in my characters were all I knew, the places I loved were the only places I’d been, and the drive that I had in publishing my first book was the only thing keeping me going.
So now, when that drive has diminished due to other life events getting the way, what do I feel when writing my second book? Sometimes I feel elated, emboldened, and passionate about the stories I am trying to tell. Other times I feel sad, defeated, and hopeless that I will ever finish this piece. Most of the time, I feel as though I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. Further examination has revealed that my self-imposed deadlines have seriously affected my work ethic and my writing.
I told myself this book would be different in its conception and writing process than the last one. Previously, I knew the beginning of the story, and I had envisioned the scene in which I wanted to end it. Everything else I just had to fill in. I didn’t allow myself to write the final scenes until the middle pathways had been filled in. After all, my characters needed some development to get from Point A all the way to the Point Z I was proposing.
But with this next piece, I decided things would be different. I would write when I felt like writing, about whatever I wanted to write. I would craft scenes and add character names later. I made up plotlines as I went. I wrote thousands of words in a matter of minutes because I was so driven by the scene inside my head. And now, I am left with what I can only describe as a heavily entangled ball of yarn. Those feelings of hopelessness and defeat come from the question: how will I ever get all these knots out?
Those big and overwhelming emotions (combined with a rigorous academic load and social life) stopped me from writing more for a long time. Without writing anymore, my self-imposed deadlines grew bigger and bigger until they felt like a monster looming over my head, shaking its head at me every time I mentioned to someone that I was working on another book.
My desire to write decreased. My feelings of being a fraud increased. My doubt was at an all time high.
But this was normal.
I looked into other authors I admired, ones where writing was their full time job on which their income depended. Those same emotions I felt, they also articulated. In feeling those same emotions, I felt bonded to a community I’d always believed to be on the outskirts of.
On a whim, I read several of the chapters I had written. They were fantastic, so much so that I couldn’t believe I had written them. I could see the difference between scenes that I had written in the proper mood and ones I tried to force in order to connect the plot. Instead of seeing my new piece as a ball of entangled yarn, I began to see it as a living, breathing entity that shifted and changed in ways I dictated.
I began to piece stories together. I entwined scenes with filler text until there was a seamlessness that hadn’t been present before. Slowly, my novel began to come together. It still is not finished, not by a long shot. But taking a deep breath and having confidence in myself as a writer, as someone who is exactly where those authors I admired once were, assisted me in diminishing those looming shadows.
There are still moments of doubt. But in those times, I return to my text and read it over again. I imagine the scenes I crafted on-screen or my characters as action figures. I see the potential, and that is the most important thing you can do as an author.
When you feel those emotions of doubt, channel them into your writing. Even if you delete an entire scene afterwards, as I have done many times, your shadows will lessen because you are doing the one thing you were meant to do as a writer: create.