Insecurities and bragging about writing talent

chosen one brag

Recently I was talking to a fellow writer, and shortly into our conversation, I got the impression they were showing off about how talented they were. Their stories were, not to brag, really popular. They were told at a young age they were a great writer. Etc.

In that moment, I felt my own insecurity creeping up. They’d reached milestones I hadn’t, and I felt compelled to defend myself and point out how experienced and knowledgeable I was, too. How dare they try to upstage me!

And then I wondered … why am I letting this annoy me so much? Why does it matter how good they are, compared to how good I am? Their achievements as a writer don’t detract from my own, which are different because our experiences have been different. But as writers, we’re often so insecure about how good we are that we constantly compare our skill to other people’s. We beat ourselves up and get defensive.

Here’s the thing. We don’t need to prove to anyone else how good we are. And if we feel we need to show off, it’s because secretly we feel insecure. As my husband pointed out, maybe that’s why this person felt the need to brag in the first place. Maybe they felt they needed to prove how they stack up to me.

Writers don’t need to compete with each other. We don’t need to measure our success against someone else’s. All that matters is our own journey, and how far we’ve come, and how much farther we’re willing to go. Just persisting and writing new things is progress. When it comes down to it, being popular once or writing this amazing thing this one time doesn’t make the other person a better writer. There’s so much more to it than that. And even if they are “better” (who’s judging that, anyway?), that doesn’t mean you or your writing is worth any less.

Sure, we can think someone’s a better writer than us — because they’re published or a bestseller or whatever. The truth is, a lot of writers are. But maybe they’ve also been writing longer, or just got lucky, or they have agents and editors and marketing teams helping them. Or they simply put in a lot more work. Chances are their first draft still stinks.

It’s a waste of time to compare ourselves to other writers. All that leads to is us feeling bad about ourselves. Being a “good” writer isn’t about how many fans you have or books you’ve sold or even whether you have an agent. It’s about how dedicated you are to your own craft — how honest you can be with yourself about where your work needs to improve, and how much energy you’re willing to put in to make it better.

Good writers push themselves. They don’t diminish other writers, because they know the only person they’re really in competition with is themselves.

And you are not your work. If your writing sucks, that doesn’t mean you do.

It just means you haven’t made it better yet.

$1000 writing competition at PUBSLUSH Press

PUBSLUSH Press is calling all manuscripts for a writing competition that will award $1000, “the chance to be published” (in other words, it’s not a sure thing), and a featured spotlight on their website. The submission period is open from now until March 31, so finish those manuscripts and good luck! The winner will be contacted by email in April.

Manuscripts will be judged on “style, content, and commercial viability” and include but are not limited to the following genres: “Biography, Chick Lit, Children’s, Comedy, Fantasy, History, Horror, Mystery and Crime, Poetry (compilations only), Politics, Religion, Romance, Sci-Fi, Self-help, Teen, and Thriller.”

This is a great opportunity for aspiring novelists and poets to market their book, even if actual publication doesn’t happen. Remember, word of mouth goes a lot way, and so does an extra thousand bucks in your pocket. If PUBSLUSH doesn’t pick up your book, someone else might take notice.

PUBSLUSH sounds like a good publisher to be involved with, too: According to their About blurb, they let readers decide what books get published and donate a book to a child for every book sold. That’s something worth more than seeing your book in print.

My novel’s stuck in Revision Hell, so I doubt it would be ready by the competition deadline. I’ll give it my best shot, though! I’m trying out Scrivener (on Windows since 2011 and Mac since 2007) thanks to blogger Aly Hughes, who convinced me to finally give the trial a download, and revision is already more appealing. Juggling Word documents was becoming a job in itself, and I was torn between typing in my preferred composition style (my desired font, etc.) and a traditional manuscript presentation (I’d just have to do the work later). Scrivener leaves the compiling and formatting as a final step, so you can type the way you want without worrying about the dirty details. Plus, the program gives users a generous amount of options for putting together and organizing ideas via outline or visual flowchart (aka the Corkboard, which is one of my favorite features). It’s great for getting a better handle on your structure and concept and exposing weaknesses in your plot.

The written tutorial was lengthy but very useful and informative, so if you give the trial a chance (no personal info needed), definitely take the time to familiarize yourself with all the available features.

My only problem initially was the Scrivener wants you to type your manuscript without indenting paragraphs and without skipping a line between them; otherwise it messes up the standard manuscript look, and this is the only thing that can’t be easily changed in the compiling process. I’m fine with not indenting, but not having spaces between paragraphs was throwing me off—all the text looks packed together. My solution? Go to Format –> Text –> Spacing, and set the spacing “Before” and “After” to at least 5 pts each. This doesn’t actually double space, but it does make your paragraphs a little roomier.

Are you a Scrivener wizard? Feel free to share your expert tips with me.