The Curse of the Glossy Hardback

It happens to every writer. (There’s nothing new under the sun.)

You read a book and think, “I could never do that. I’ll never be as good as them.”

Why is writing so fraught with self-doubt and insidious comparisons? I believe it’s because every finished novel is a black box—inscrutable. There’s no way to look at a hardback in a bookstore and say, “Ah. This author spent three years writing this book. They struggled through four drafts and almost called it quits after a particularly rough spot in January of 2012. But they persevered, spent another two years submitting to agents and editors, and after years of dedication, they were finally able to publish this book, accompanied by a healthy dose of imposter syndrome.”

No. Of course not. We see an immaculate book with a glossy jacket, sparkling dialogue, complex, interwoven story threads, and gut-wrenching character arcs.

It’s not fair to compare our drafts to finished works, and we should stop doing it. Instead, let’s agree to give ourselves compassion.

Let’s agree to share our writing, commiserate over our awful drafts, and see other writers’ works in progress.

Let’s encourage each other to keep writing, even when we feel like our characters are flat, and we have no concept of how to write a scene, and our dialogue is as wooden as a log cabin. (All me at the moment.)

Let’s remember that practice is what matters, and practice takes time. Let’s remember that the creative process is messy, and we need room to play and experiment.

Let’s remember that every glossy hardback started in a quiet room somewhere as a terrible first draft with cliche characters, terrible pacing, and a sagging middle.

And let’s dedicate ourselves to writing the next draft.

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