When you sign up to be a writer you expect lots of difficulty. First drafts, redrafts, long days, sleepless nights and the full gamut from corrupt Word files to the plot not making any sense. If you know the game, you know that’s what you’re in store for whenever you set fingertips to keyboard. What you may not be anticipating, however, is the fear.
You’ve probably felt it if you’ve ever submitted your work to others, be they publishers, agents, beta readers or even just friends and family. It’s the fear that you’re no good. The fear that you’re a terrible writer. The fear that, even if your readers come back to you with praise, in reality they’re just trying to mask how God-awful you work is.
I’ve never really known that fear before now. Yeah, I’ve had things read by a whole range of people, and I’ve submitted plenty of stories to publishers and agents. For me the entire process feels too detached to inspire anything like genuine worry. Out of sight, out of mind, that’s me. Normally.
The thing is, it’s different when a publisher asks you to write something for them. Usually it’s the other way round. I submit things, unbidden, and they get accepted or (mostly) rejected. That’s the writing world. Responses take months, and one way or another you just forget to get too worked up. But when a publisher specifically commissions you, well, let me tell you, that’s a different game entirely.
It happened recently to me. I’m so glad it did. It’s literally a life goal realised. And yet, with it comes The Fear like I’ve never known it before. The first draft is done, dusted, sent. The waiting has begun. The silence is stretching. Against all advice, that first draft has been re-read half a dozen times already. Pointless now that it’s already been sent, right? That doesn’t stop me looking at it. Is it good? Is it terrible? I can’t tell. I’m now totally blind towards it. For all I know it’s no better than my early teenage fanfic, and a poor editor is currently trying to work out how to salvage something, anything, from the wreckage. Maybe, heaven forbid, it’s so bad I’ll never be commissioned again.
These are worst-case scenarios, but a writer’s mind should always be a febrile place, and mine has a habit of concocting disaster. There’s other work to be getting on with, of course, but I’d be lying if I claimed I wasn’t refreshing my inbox every 10 seconds.
Hopefully these are just newbie jitters. Hopefully I’m underestimating myself. Hopefully I haven’t blown my big break. Only time will tell. In the meanwhile, there’s always The Fear for company.