Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Horror of Writer's Doubt

Posted by LD Keach on Thursday, April 22, 2010

(Or, is that an angry mob in your pocket, or...uh…)

Writers have a lot of afflictions to suffer from. We have the commonly known Writer’s Block, the lesser known Writer’s Apathy (when we need to write but kinda don’t want to at the moment), Writer’s Carpel Tunnel, Writer’s Desksores (like bedsores), Writer’s Syphilis…okay, maybe that last one is just me. But one of the most horrible writer’s afflictions one can suffer from—second only to the dreaded Writer’s Block, which has been known to wipe out whole villages—is the horrible Writer’s Doubt.

Writer’s Doubt often strikes just after that short period of euphoria that comes with getting something published. It’s that moment when the happy glow fades, and a doomful feeling creeps in to settle into the bottom of your stomach. It’s the “Oh, crap, somebody might actually read my stuff now” feeling. And the “Oh, crap, what if they hate it?”

Maria is one of many stricken by this horrible blight, and she had the courage to write in and tell us about it. She says:
April 15th saw the publication of my poem "Spectral Compromise" in the Absent Willow Review. I enjoy this magazine which is why I was eager to submit something worthwhile. I was thrilled when editor Rick De Cost emailed me back in February telling me the poem had been accepted for the April issue. Now…Day and night for the past few days my thoughts have been reeling over what the readers are thinking, what unkind things about the poem people from my former job might be emailing to the editors of the magazine, and basically just how unwelcome I feel in the world.

A lot of worry to lay on the shoulders of one little poem. Now, of course, I'm dreading to even go to the magazine's website for fear that the poem might be taken down due to unpopular demand. While I've never seen the magazine's editors do this, in a nightmare it seems entirely possible. In a nightmare every one is panning your work, everyone is spreading lies about you, and everyone has nothing better to do except try and ruin your life.

What Maria is experiencing is Horror Writer’s Doubt. For Horror writers, Writer’s Doubt comes with an additional symptom—the nail-biting fear that once people actually read the gory stuff we’ve written, they’ll suddenly think us deranged serial killers and seek to destroy us.

But, take heart! Dr. Baphomet is in the house, and he has a few suggested medical treatments:

  1. Don’t talk about your writing to your co-workers (or any other non-writer, non-Horror people you hang out with.) Oh, sure, tell them that you’re published, but don’t tell them where. This is a tactic I’ve employed to great effect. (I was a public school secretary for five years—one does not share their bowel-eating Lemur story with their kindly Republican principal.) Instead, choose to share your successes with those who will truly be able to appreciate them, like the friends who love how twisted you are or other horror buffs.

  2. Just remember; it’s more likely no one’s reading our stuff, anyway. Yeah, that’s a bitter pill to swallow, but it’s a realistic one. And there’s nothing like crushing disappointment to fill the twitching, panicky void within us.

But, another thing to keep in mind is, hey—you just got published! Holy crapballs! Somebody liked your stuff enough to put it in their publication, and the people in this industry are freakin’ crazy about their publications. It’s their blood, sweat, and bloody-sweat that goes into making these magazines and publishing houses, so they only want to put the most awesome of Awesomeness into them. So, the fact that you’re suffering from Writer’s Doubt in the first place is an excellent sign. It means you wrote something that cast a glimmer of light from the murky depths of the slush pile to shine on some poor, beleaguered editor’s face. This is where, as a writer, you get to be proud.

You get to be proud you wrote something awesome. Sit back and enjoy it!  And, just remember that pride when a rampaging horde of former coworkers come to your door waving pitchforks and torches, crying "Kill the monster!" They probably wouldn't understand if you explained it to them, anyway.

Maria’s super-cool poem can be found at, that is, until the angry mob manages to get a hold of her. Read it while you can!