Self-Esteem vs. Self-Doubt
My self-esteem as a woman and my self-doubt as a writer are two completely separate entities. I compartmentalize them much the same way I separate the fantasy world I live in while writing a book from the real world around me. Like anything, it gets easier with practice.
Self-doubt (noun): lack of confidence in the reliability of one's own motives, personality, thought, etc.
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
― Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
The curse of being a writer is constant self-evaluation. What did I just write? Why did I write it? Do I like what I wrote? What can I do to make it better? I've had more than one person ask why I put myself through this barrage of questions. Why can't I just accept that the art I make is good enough, and let it go?
Because when you accept okay for good enough, your standards become akin to your work—mediocre.
I don't want to be a mediocre writer. In fact, I refuse to acknowledge that mediocre is even an option. I want to become better, but how do I get there when the only one pushing me is me?
The idea of self-doubt should be disconcerting. What good can come from doubting myself? Here's a better question—what kind of writer would I be if I didn't doubt myself every once in a while? What if I believed with all my heart that every single word I've penned in my life is precious and perfect and deserves to be heard? Is that not disillusion? Is that not telling myself what I want to hear? If so, how is that healthy? And could that kind of thinking possibly lead to growth?
Am I a good enough writer? Yes. I've put decades of my life into my craft, and I've learned a lot along the way. But writing is a journey without a finish line. The end doesn't matter. My accomplishments, whatever they may be, don't really matter. The person I become along the way—a person that others can learn from, relate to, understand—that's what matters.
My ultimate struggle as an artist has nothing to do with art, but rather, fully communicating my emotions so that others may be inspired. Do I care if you've read my books? No, honestly, I don't (I know they're not for everyone.) Do I care that reading my book has inspired you to write a book? Yes! That's what art is about—not what I've done, but what I've inspired others to do. If that means questioning myself along the way, so be it.
“If you can quit, then quit. If you can't quit, you're a writer.”
― R.A. Salvatore