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.