Wednesday, November 2, 2011

An Insecure Writer

This post is my first entry for Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

Question: Why am I an insecure as a writer?

Answer: Why shouldn't I be?

After all, I'm a chemist. I've never written a book or short story before (except a one page story about a silly rabbit back in fifth grade). I didn't grow up wanting to be a writer. I've never taken a single course on writing and I've only recently learned that the term "fiction novel" is redundant. Up until a few years ago, I thought the ability to string together enough words to create a story was reserved only for certain god-like beings granted "THE GIFT".

Oh, and one other thing. I've always hated writing.


With the fire of a thousand suns kind of hate.

It's not as though I've had no experience with writing. I've written technical reports at work and submitted a few papers to scientific journals, but only when my boss or advisor made me do it. My big problem is that translating my thoughts into words on a sheet of paper (or computer screen) ranks as one of the most difficult things I can ever imagine doing. It's like swimming in molasses. It's like climbing a mountain while wearing lead weights. It's like passing a kidney stone.

I'm just guessing on the last one, but it sounds about right.

Writing just doesn't come naturally to me. I've often likened my writing process to that of trying to sculpt a statue from a metal block by repeatedly pounding it with a hammer. Eventually it kind of resembles what's in my head, but that's about it. And my revision process consists of repeating the process over and over again with successively smaller hammers. I don't create sentences -- I beat them into submission. My manuscripts resemble battlefields, not something anyone would want to read. Slow and painful.

And yet, two years ago, I decided to become a fiction writer.

This paradigm shift had nothing to do with any surgical procedures or dalliances with drugs. It occurred two and a half years ago when I began contemplating how a certain well-known author (hint: see blog title) might go about beginning another storyline, and I discovered just how much fun it was to create fiction. Developing new worlds and unusual characters and intricate plots is simply a hell of a lot of fun. I'm hooked. Forever. I think about my story every free moment. How should I introduce such and such a character? What is their motivation? What's the most horrible thing I can do to them and still keep readers interested?

So no matter how painful the process of getting all those thoughts down onto paper can be, I just can't stop.

So why am I insecure about writing?

Because no matter how great my plots might be or how well I've crafted my characters, I don't know if I will ever be able to conquer my seeming inability to convert thoughts into words -- at least well enough to be published.


  1. I love it that you "don't create sentences but beat them into submission".

    I too never thought about being a writer until recently. I love to tell a story, but for me audio (the beautiful sound of my own voice) has been my medium. The thought process to create and actually write a sentence or may be beat it into submission, as the case may be has completely captivated me. I am having the ride of a lifetime. Hope you are too.

  2. This is great Ken, I am kind of the same way. I hated writing. Why did I start to write... well lots of things kind of lead me in this direction. It is addicting. Especially when you get a great idea.

    Keep working hard and you will be able to do what ever writing you want. Good Luck!

  3. I think there is a difference in how we respond to being MADE to write something and WANTING to write something. After reading this post I would never guess you struggle at all :) Your voice is with quick humor, honest with a little sarcasm thrown in. Stick to your voice...that's what's natural. The guy who came through in this post is where the honey is. I'd read a book written by that guy. Stay motivated!

  4. Well, I've always hated chemistry, so take that! Haha. But like you, I didn't foresee writing in my future (I was a finance person) it just sort of happened. And just guess what got me writing...dun dun duuuun...(hint: see your blog title. ;))

    Enjoy your immersion in your story - it's the best, isn't it?

  5. Am loving the castle image! HUGE Potter fan here. I wish she'd have continued the stories!

    And yes, stories and characters are a hell of a lot of fun!!! Keep having fun. Expressing the word "writer" comes easier the more you write.

  6. Just because you don't like it doesn't mean you can't do it.

    You, sir, are a writer :-)

  7. Thanks for the words of encouragement, everyone. For me, the hardest part of being a writer is when I read someone's else's book and see the smoothness in their writing. Then I look at my own manuscript.


  8. I've always wanted to be 'a writer' in any form at all. I love writing and always have done.

    But I am still insecure and feel the same way as you about my writing compared to others' work.

    It seems many of us feel the same.

    Cue stroppy teenage voice 'It's so unfair!'