Writing Demons

I have this nasty little creature that rides on my shoulder. He’s no taller than a liter of coke, with wicked fangs, orange eyes, and fingers that end in razor sharp talons. Many people have similar beasts that accompany them through life, not so much companions as curses. Mine does not talk me into doing the immoral or selfish thing, as some might. Instead, he nips at my ear, tangles his fist in my hair, and tells me how inadequate I am, how undeserving.

A while back I wrote about my writing fears and feelings that I will never be good enough. In my post, Quieting the Voices in My Mind, I talked about how when I am lost in the moment, and the passion is burning me alive, I cannot sense good from bad; I can only feel the words bleeding out of me, onto the page. “Is it good enough?” has become my constant litany.

I mistakenly believed that my fear would lessen and my confidence grow as I proceeded down this path and received positive feedback. Still, no matter how many times my critique partners tell me they think I have talent or the love a section of my writing, that damned demon whispers they are lying because they don’t want to hurt you, because they like you. I recently received another scholarship opportunity from one of the universities I applied to for my masters of fine art in fiction. These offers are based on my writing sample. Someone believes in my writing enough to put money behind it. Yet that nasty little creature whispers what if this is the best you’ve got? What if you’ve used up your talent?

I’m not writing this piece to whine or garner more complements, I am writing this because I know there are others like me who can’t seem to silence those self-esteem devils. In this past month, I have made some discoveries. First is that no matter how many accolades and compliments I gather, they will do nothing to silence the beast. That is something only I can do because the demon is not some magical deity, but a really ugly part of me. I can be a real jerk to myself sometimes. Second, stubbornness and tenacity are about the only two characteristics necessary for being a successful author. Thankfully, I’ve got boatloads of both.

Finally, knowledge is power, especially power over oneself. Read, take classes, learn from your peers, and eventually your confidence will quiet the worst of your inner demons.

It is like Gustave Flaubert said,

I am irritated by my own writing. I am like a violinist whose ear is true, but whose fingers refuse to reproduce precisely the sound he hears within.

If a literary great like Flaubert dealt with the same demons, it is a testament to the fact that we will never be good enough for ourselves. We just have to push through and keep going in spite of our fears.