Writing insecurities

In my head, on the page, my story is real.

I am in the story, I can feel the characters’ breath on my neck. I sigh when they sigh, I see what they see. It is a work of genius. I sit upright. I’m smiling.

Read out loud to the group though my words become clumsy and uninspiring. Moments of intense pain sound hollow and cliché. The more I read the more foolish I feel for the smile I had on my face, the enthusiasm I had when I offered to read. My voice stumbles, I can’t catch my breath, I twist the ring on my left hand frantically.

When I’m done, people say kind things. But then they would wouldn’t they? I interpret the silences as awkward pauses, where no one can thing of anything good to say, so they decide not to say anything at all. I slump back in my chair, fold my arms across my chest and vow not to volunteer for the next reading.

I listen to other people read their stories, watch as the group stares at them as they read, eyes fixed, bodies leant in. At the end people are smiling, everyone is full of praise. More praise than I had? I think so, but I can’t be sure. I inwardly chastise myself for comparing myself to others, for wanting the other stories to be bad, so that mine will seem better. I envy the writers their beautiful memories of evening cricket games with friends, leaning against a lamp-post, of hospital waiting rooms where time slows down and family members squirm and fidget their way through visiting time.

After lunch I meet with one of my tutors and show him the piece I have written about being ten. I cry. He tells me I write beautifully, and to have confidence in myself. But then what else could he say to a woman sat with her knees pulled in tight to her chest, sobbing quietly?

I go over to the barn, and curl into the corner of one of the giant sofas. I want to work on my piece from the morning, an exchange between two almost lovers, but every sentence feels forced and ridiculous, like the very worst kind of writing. I wonder why I came, what was I hoping to achieve? To write a poem, a story, a whole book? I imagine myself five years down the line, with a book published, but it doesn’t make me happy.



  1. Beth
    9 November, 2011 / 4:45 pm

    That’s a sad post, I’m sorry you feel like that. Know that you DO write beautifully and all talents have insecure times. The key is to not give up just because your brain is playing tricks on you.

    • 9 November, 2011 / 4:52 pm

      I’ve actually been a bit of a cheat Beth – I wrote that post about a year and a half ago, but only came across it today. I like it because although I did feel quite sad when I wrote it, it made me realise how much more confident I feel now. I think sometimes it’s good to remember the times when you’ve felt not so good about things to make you appreciate the better times.

      That’s not to say of course that I don’t still get those same feelings of self-doubt, but I try to remember it’s a normal part of being human – we all feel like that about something at some point – and try not be so hard on myself.

  2. Beth
    9 November, 2011 / 5:16 pm

    Well, I’m glad it wasn’t a recent feeling and you’re better than me at keeping those written down moments-they do show us where we’ve come from emotionally and can help us see that it was an irrational thought. Wish it stopped those thoughts coming altogether, but we wouldn’t be human!

  3. 9 November, 2011 / 8:04 pm

    I was reading and wondering whether you’d gone back on one of those residential writing courses that you did before – I can remember reading when you went on it, I bookmarked the company for when I have the courage/time/money!

    Do you read this back now and think you are a more confident writer, a year later having written such a brilliant post about a well and a crazy little ditty about a camel? I do hope so.

    • 11 November, 2011 / 12:18 pm

      I did actually write this at the course last year where I wrote the camel story :-)

      I don’t know if I feel differently now, because to be honest I haven’t done much more creative writing since then. I feel fairly confident about my voice on my blog, and in the non-fiction and copywriting stuff I do, but when it comes to fiction, I don’t have the same instinct, and never really know if anything is any good or not. Like sometimes I will write a poem, and just really have no idea if it’s brilliant, or something Adrian Mole would write.

  4. 9 November, 2011 / 10:08 pm

    I got a bit sad reading this – I often feel the same. But SO glad you’ve come positively out the other side. There is hope!

    • 11 November, 2011 / 12:19 pm

      There is definitely hope! Writing, like most things, is just about practice. I think we like to think with more creative things like writing that it all comes from some sort of ‘gift’, but it’s actually just about hard work and doing things again and again and editing and editing. Damn.

  5. 10 November, 2011 / 10:22 am

    I so often feel like this, which is why I like to push myself to do more writing, to get better at something I love. Thankyou for posting this, its great to see how far you have come.

    • 11 November, 2011 / 12:21 pm

      Good for you Mary – like I just said in another reply, it is definitely something you need to do all the time to build your skills and confidence, and something you can get better at with effort.

    • 11 November, 2011 / 12:22 pm

      That’s a brilliant quote! And it feels so true sometimes!

      I will go and have a look at the link now…

  6. paul murphy
    15 November, 2011 / 7:49 pm


    Sounds like you have been sitting in on one of my Professional Writing sessions. As you say no win scenarios, nice comments are platitudes, silence is a killer…


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