I’ve been reading through Somewhere Only We Know for the first time since I did my final check before publication in order to pull out quotes and passages that I can use for promotional stuff, and it is definitely a weird experience.
Two thoughts constantly run through my head as I read it. The first is negative—“I could’ve done that so much better.” I edit while I read, wanting to reach for sticky notes so that I can make changes, even though I know it’s too late for that. I wish I had changed that word, written that scene in a different way, tweaked that moment. This thought makes me doubt myself. I read through the book I wrote, yet I wish I could change everything. It makes me feel like I’m not good enough.
The second thought is a good one though—“Wow. You’re holding your published book. Someone chose to publish you. Your work is out there in the world. How cool is that?” It is a pretty amazing feeling to look at my picture on the back cover and see my name on the front. I wrote that. I got that published. My dog has a habit of climbing on my lap while I read and sniffing whatever book it is and giving it a single lick. And when I ask her if she’s licking my book, it really is my book. I don’t think I’ll ever get over how cool that feeling is.
But the doubtful thought is always more powerful. When I read my book, I feel like it isn’t good enough. I wonder why anyone would read it, because to me the writing seems bad.
I know I’m not alone in this. Self-doubt seems to be a big problem for a lot of writers that I’ve talked to. I think this is because we want to do the best we can, but we constantly compare ourselves to all of the books around us. There are millions of stories out there, and we want to stand out. Our stories are so near to our hearts, and we feel as if we are putting our souls on the page, so it is hard for us to ever feel like the work is good enough.
The key is to focus on the positive thought you get when you read your work. You’ve published a book. Someone thought your writing was awesome and chose to publish you. You have done it before and you will do it again. Remember that. And then go write something else.