About Me, Meaningless Drivel, My Thoughts, The Writer's Life, Writing Encouragement

What If?

Usually it goes something like this:

What if I’m a terrible writer. Or (gasp) a truly average writer?

What if all the kind words people offer about my stories are nothing more than polite lies accompanied by fake smiles because they want to avoid hurting my feelings?

What if my dogged pursuit of traditional publishing is a fool’s errand? What if there are exactly zero literary agents interested in the kind of stories I write? What if the only thing I learn from querying is how poorly I handle rejection?

What if I self-publish and the book just sits there on the virtual shelf, impervious to my attempts to find an audience for it?

What if the book’s cover is all wrong? What if the marketing blurb sends people away with a shrug? What if people think it’s too expensive? Or too cheap?

What if readers hate the book and slap it with 1-star reviews? What if they find it bland and purposeless and don’t review it at all?

What if I run out of story ideas? What if all my stories just plain suck?

Or it could go something like this:

What if I’m actually a decent writer? Or maybe even a really good one?

What if I start to believe the nice things people say about my stories?

What if I learn to trust my writing voice on the first draft, and my re-writing voice on the second and third and fourth?

What if I accept the possibility that I just haven’t been lucky enough to find the right literary agent, and reject the idea that my work isn’t good enough for traditional publishing?

What if the 1-star reviews don’t matter? What if I own the idea that I’m writing for the people who do get it and that this is more than enough?

What if readers fall in love with the characters, the plot, the words? What if my stories matter?

What if I’m a better writer than I think I am? What if I get better with every story?

What if I could trust the “what ifs” in the second half of this blog post more than those in the first, and still be thinking about them long after I’ve clicked out of cyberspace and returned to my writing reality?

I wonder what that would be like.

3 thoughts on “What If?

  1. It probably says a lot about me that the second “What Ifs” embarrassed me and I immediately felt the need to turn to the emptiness next to me at this table and assure it that I don’t actually think any of those nice things about myself.

    “Don’t worry,” I find myself explaining to literally no one, “I know I’m average on my absolute best day.”

    It almost feels like cheating to even begin to consider any other possibility. After all, if I were any good, wouldn’t someone have noticed by now?

    *I interrupted a short story to reply here, and now I’m going to go back to it, and publish it on my blog that no one will read, so that my little ones and zeros can entertain the other ones and zeros that sit next to it.*

  2. I have as many non-readers as you. But if our skill as writers is based primarily on being noticed by a certain kind of person or having a certain number of readers, then I know a lot of brilliant writers who would be thusly considered average right along with us.

    I’m not going to lie: I spend far more time in the first What If? list. It’s hard to even look at the second. But the fact that the second list exists at all probably means I ought to at least consider it once in a while. When I finally do, it’s like sticking my tongue on a nine-volt battery. There’s the anticipation that this is going to hurt (because it hurts to imagine you’re actually talented, doesn’t it?), then there’s the shock itself. Then there’s the realization that it didn’t kill you.

    That said, I don’t particularly want to go licking nine-volt batteries every day. So…I’ll read that second list when my stomach can take it.

    I think my metaphor needs work. But hey, it’s Friday. Er…same as every other day for a freelancer, so I can’t use that as an excuse, can I.

    1. I actually used to be a sound technician and, on a regular basis, had to stick nine-volt batteries on my tongue. It still freaks people out. It’s like a party trick. I can feel it now, talking about it. My mouth is watering, my tongue is jolting with anticipated electricity. So, that metaphor makes perfect sense to me. 😉

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