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  • Barbara Copperthwaite

Writing & self doubt #amwriting #writerslife

“Writing is about laying yourself bare”

Anyone who follows this blog will know I suffer from regular bouts of crisis with my self-confidence. Now, right before my new book is published, it’s hitting hard again. The conviction that I’m no good, that I should stop messing about pretending to be a writer and get a proper job, that I’ve produced my best work and it’s downhill all the way from here…

In my more than twenty years as a journalist, I never suffered in this way. I knew I was good at my job. If I doubted it for even a second, I only had to look at everything I had achieved to realise I really was good at my job. For some reason, that doesn’t work as an author. No matter what I achieve, or how many wonderful reviews I get, the only ones that stick with me are the one stars.

When the nerves and self-doubt started to happen, when writing my first book, I assumed that my confidence would grow with each novel completed. Curiously, the opposite is true. The pressure is on to do better with each fresh release; the pressure comes from me, no one else, but that doesn’t make it less pressing.

It’s something that seems to plague many authors, even the ones who are hugely successful. Yet it’s not something openly talked about beyond whispered confessions snatched hurriedly in a rare gathering of writers. It’s almost as if, by telling people how we feel, we’re alerting the world to our terrible truth. Better to keep it quite, then perhaps people won’t notice how awful we truly are.

So why is it that writing a book is so much harder than writing articles for magazines, creating new magazines from scratch, balancing budgets, and managing a team? I think because in some ways writing is about laying yourself bare. It’s not that the characters are like me, but they are part of me, they are my creation, my imagination, something I have birthed. Rejecting them is a rejection of myself.

It’s hard struggling against the conviction that I’m a fake and a phoney. I could stop writing. But I won’t. Despite the fear, being an author is also the most wonderful thing I’ve ever done. For every low, there are ten highs. For every fear, there are ten hopes. For every awful review, there are ten great ones that help me to keep going. So, despite the fear, an idea is born that won’t be ignored, and I open my laptop and start to tap away. Maybe this one will be the one that banishes my self-doubt…

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