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The Writer as Warrior - The Writer as Fraud


I’m sitting in my favorite coffee shop with a cup of Ethiopian light roast and my laptop, and I’m feeling like a fraud. A lot of writers feel like frauds, I’ve discovered. Before we’re published, we feel like we’re trying to be something we’re not. After we’re published we feel like we’re trying to be something we’re not, but now we’ve got everone fooled. It’s a no-win situation.

On this Wednesday afternoon, I’m feeling like a fraud because I don’t practice what I preach. This week, I’ve been blogging about writers as warriors. A full quarter of Writing as a Sacred Path is devoted to the Warrior Road. “Be brave!” I tell my readers. “Be valiant!”

But today, I’m looking at that writing in a less-than-favorable light. Who am I to hand out such advice? I ask myself. I’m not brave at all.

This is the summer of finishing my young adult fantasy novel. I’ve been working on it for three years, and I’m determined to wrap the project up. I’ve got a schedule and everything. Finish my current revision in the next couple weeks. Give it another quick read-through before I leave for Italy in July. Then devote August to a final edit. By the time school starts in September, it will be off to my agent. That’s the plan, anyway.

It’s going well. (I think. I hope.) And yet, how am I handling it? Bravely? Valiantly? Courageously? Hardly. To put it bluntly, I’m pretty much awash in self-doubt and anxiety.

For those of you who know my work, you’ll be aware my success is in nonfiction. I’ve published dozens of magazine articles, some creative nonfiction, and three nonfiction books. So I’ve had some accomplishments under my belt. But fiction writing? That’s another story. Getting a novel published has long been my Holy Grail—the thing I want but just can’t seem to swing.

My current novel isn’t my first. I have two unpublished works snoozing on my hard drive, waiting for the kiss to awaken them. One has simply languished. The other went the rounds of agents and editors for eight years. Yep, that's eight years of rejection, folks. Not a pleasant thing. And what has me biting my fingernails to the elbow at the moment is the thought of going through all that again. Will I be able to handle the rejections? A few, sure, but what happens if there are dozens and dozens? What if they’re cruel? What if they’re an onslaught of negativity? Will I let myself slip into despair? Will I go to my Dark Place? Some warrior, I say to myself. I'm terrified. How can I tell readers to build strength in their writing lives, when I have so little? 

But then I ease up on myself a little. At least I'm forging ahead, I remind myself. I’m anxious as hell, but I’m finishing that novel. When it’s ready, I’m going to send it out. I'm scared, but I'm not letting it stop me. Okay, I have that. 

So, that's what's going through my head right now, as I face that blinking cursor on my screen, smell the coffee brewing behind the counter, and listen to the chatter all around and the jazz playing in the background. That maybe I'm not such a fraud after all. 

I have to keep remembering this. Being afraid is all right. Of course we’re afraid. Life is scary, and the writing life has its own particular terrors. The secret to being the warrior writer is to keep going anyway. To write despite being afraid. Despite the distinct and terrifying possibility of failure.

Like this post? Read more at the Writing as a Sacred Path Blog.