Friday, September 29, 2006

Doubt Demons

First let me get off a mini-rant.
Geesus, I hate the cliche "aspiring writer."
Makes me want to shake people.
I know, I know.
It's meant to convey acknowledgement of status as an apprentice, as a supposedly honest and winsome appreciation of one's own worth and place in the vast publishing puddle, an offering to prevent annihilation by the publishing powers.
However, any lightnings that might zot you for your presumption are actually more apt to come, not from the publishing gods above - but laterally.
The phrase carries with it a weasely safety reservation: "Don't hit me, I'm humble," as well as a pre-planned excuse for projected and possible failure.
That said, I've probably offended scads of aspirators.

I see it this way: If you write, you're a writer. You may be unpublished - but you're a writer.
You may have only minor or insignificant publishing credits, but - you're a writer.
Why dick around and label yourself?
Are you inserting a pre-empt, fail-safe when you meet rejections? If you really think success is so impossible, that you need the psychological bolt-hole, why are you trying?
If that's the case you might as well call yourself a hobbyist and be done with it.
Screw up a little courage.
~rant ends~

Even more frequently than writers who claim they are the next Dan Brown, we see writers expressing a belief, in various forms and venues, that they have written crap.
These doubt demons are standard equipment. Writers who have numerous novels under their belts confess to possession by them.
Think of it this way: creativity invoves a mental adrenalin high - which is usually followed by a low.
Recognize it for what it is - a natural effect. This is one of the reasons why experienced heads suggest you put a just-completed work away for awhile - to allow your mental objectivity to recover its equilibrium.


Scott said...

You really cracked me up today. I'll have to change my tag line now. Damn you!

Still, good point. We either are or we aren't writers. No more pussy-footing around the subject. I'm a writer damn it!

The last part is so true. I get sick of hearing people talk down what they have written, when you know damn well they are looking for your contradiction.

kmfrontain said...

LOL over scads of aspirators.

I love the adrenalin high. It gets a work finished. If it lasts long enough. The low is when I goof off and play video games, watch movies. I just hate it when it happens before a project is finished.

Flood said...

What about "aspiring author"?

Jaye Wells said...

Bernita, mrrrowr, sheathe those claws! Just kidding. I agree 100%. I have certainly been guilty of both points, but now I know both are tied to my ego.

Bernita said...

Yes, Scott, you ARE a writer.QED.
I'm not thinking of those who fake humility to garner contradiction, but natural fears - which are sometimes physiological and just part of the process.To be endured,not taken way too seriously as indications of some deep-seated mental problem.

Hee, Karen, I always link aspiring to expiring.

No dice, Flood, same weasel.Semantics doesn't hide the unnecessary timidity.

It's a general observation about a ubiquitous self-classification, Jaye,and not aimed at any individual, so, please, don't try that shoe on.
I'm talking about conviction and confidence, not conceit; assertion, not arrogance.

JLB said...

It's true that many writers use the term "aspiring" as a nod to their apprenticeship status... But I definitely agree with you Bernita in that the term "aspiring writer" is really a misnomer.

A few years back, when I first started to carefully consider making some attempts at publication and sending my work out, I began using the “aspiring” term... it lasted for just a few weeks. One day I really gave it some thought, and realized, "Hey! I've been writing since I was six. I am a writer, wrrregardless!" :)

Published or not, I think that it's an important process for writers, or any other types of artists, to consider themselves and their work and what makes it important to them.

If the only way that someone feels that they can be an authentic and valuable artist is through publication and recognition, then I believe that they may be missing the intrinsic value of their art all together.

anna said...

I love it when I say I write (I never say I'm a writer)
and they say - anything I would have read? and you see their mind's eye scanning through the Grishams, the Corwalls, the Tylers, etc. etc. down at Indigo.

Angel Feathers Tickle Me said...


An Angel Visits You

MissWrite said...

I think a lot of those 'pre-pubbed' authors use aspiring, not quite so much out of their own doubts as to self-worth, but more to humbly bow to those ahead of them in the game if you will. I remember way back, and I used that term for myself (and no one in their right mind can say I have flagging confidence... ever. LOL).

It was more a definitive term. A writer -- not published.

I may have plenty of confidence, and usually humility is a bit of a side dish on my plate as well... however, I hope to think I don't attempt to blur any lines of truth.

I can definately see your point, and its a good one--but may I take just a moment to point back a few weeks to a certain writer who shall remain nameless for purposes of privacy (lol) who humbly refused to call herself a FB author because her publication wasn't of a certain standard only she herself had set?


Humility is a wonderful thing, but it CAN get in the way, and be counter productive, and usually is self-limiting.

Bernita said...

JLB, thank you.
I think dropping the adjective avoids all those questions of ambition and direction, whether to be published, or to be puplished but considering only a book legitimate, or if a book, only by a print publisher...

Good point, Anna. "Writer" conveys only part of a what you are.

Angels are suspect when they only flit through, you know...

Certainly, Tami, some use it in the "excelsior" context.

Think that was more along the lines of "one swallow does not make a summer."

Trish Ryan said...

Sometimes (and this happens with any profession you don't necessarily want to discuss at the moment) it's easier to say, "I work in an office...standard stuff...what you YOU do???"

All the writer/aspiring writer awkwardness doesn't do much to get those pages written, so why not avoid it completely??? :)

Bernita said...

Very true, Trish.
I usually say "I do research."
Few people want to go there.
However, if I arrive at the point where I can say "I have a book coming out"....

Bonnie Calhoun said...

LOL..."Why dick around and label yourself"...word picutes!!!

I love calling myself a writer, but then I get the questions about what I've written and where I'm published *sigh*...the I aspirate all over them!...LOL!

Bernita said...

"then I aspirate all over them.."
Talk about word pictures, Bonnie!!!!
Way to go!

December Quinn said...


You make a very good point, but I'm afraid I do prefer "aspiring" writer to "pre-pubbed" writer. And I think a lot of people prefer to say aspiring simply because, as Bonnie said, if you just say you're a writer they want to know what you've written, and if you haven't published anything you're going to get "the look"--the one that says the person you're speaking to thinks you're an idiot.

Excellent point about the adrenaline high--I never thought of it that way!

Erik Ivan James said...

SHE: What do you do?
ME: I'm a writer.
SHE: Oh, really? What do you write?
ME: Lately, mostly about sex.
Subject changes.

HE: What do you do?
ME: I'm a writer.
Subject changes.

Bernita said...

Thank you, December.
Don't see any shame in saying "as yet unpublished, but I'm working on it."

Hee, Erik!

Jim said...

Talking to a banker over lunch today, I introduced myself as a writer. His first question?

"Who are your influences?"

That's the kind of response I love.

Gabriele C. said...

I took the 'aspiring' off the moment one of my short stories got accepted by an anthology last fall. I am published, dangit. :)

Not to mention I have several non fiction essays published.

Bernita said...

Yes, indeed, Jim. We love an intelligent question.

Don't think I've ever used the word, Gabriele, because of my personal prejudice, and I also have had the odd non-fiction piece published and paid for in professional venues over the years.

cyn said...

i have a problem calling
myself a writer. i'm just
so undisciplined. i f around
all the time. when i can
write five, no four days
out of the week, i'll be
proud to call myself a writer.

thanks for a great post
as always, bernita.

ali said...

I have a friend who calls herself an aspiring writer - she keeps wanting to write something, but has never gotten around to it. Hence, she's aspiring to be a writer :).

Bernita said...

Don't think the designation depends on the number of hours, Cyn, if you produce, then you're a writer.

Once where the word might truly fit, Ali!

IM Cupnjava said...

I'll fess up. I used the phrase "aspiring writer/author" and/or "I'm not a real writer yet" when I started networking in with "real" writers and editors. The label wasn't rooted in self-doubt.

It was rooted in a fear of rejection. I had no idea if I would be facing elitist attitudes or not. I figured by coming right out and stating that I wasn't there yet, I'd avoid the embarrassing moment that comes after, "Oh, where are you published?"

" where yet."

"Oh, so you're not really a writer."


Great way for me to make a first impression.

Luckily, I met wonderful and inviting writers and editors and earned a contract before I ran into an elitist crowd.

I do agree with you. I tell people, "You're a writer. You're just not published – yet."

Sam said...

Gack - I have to admit aspiring writer sort of gets me riled too.
As do people who think stay at home mothers don't work.
I remember filling out a form and the woman at the agency asked me what I did, and I said I was a housewife. She said, 'Oh, lucky you, you don't work'.

She will not make that mistake again, lol.

Lisa Hunter said...

Absolutely right, Bernita. Someone may be an "aspiring actress" or "aspiring director" because someone else needs to hire you before you can act or direct. But the beauty of writing is that you can just DO it. I've thought of myself as a "writer" since I was 8, and my only "publication" was a hand-written poem tacked to the bulletin board.

Sela Carsen said...

A friend calls them the Crows of Doubt nesting in her hair. Great image.

Bernita said...

Those "not a REAL writer" rulz really turn my crank, Im.

Like the dotty female who tried to do the charity begging from you in the middle of an accident scene - I hope you gently tore her a new one, Sam.

Right, Lisa -someone who makes quilts is a quilter, someone who gardens is a gardener, someone who writes is a writer.

It is indeed, Sela!

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