Sunday, January 13, 2008


I've been thinking a lot lately about how difficult it is to produce writing, whether fiction or non-fiction, that is worthy of a publisher's time and attention. Actually, the determining factor should be whether it's worth anything to the reader, but first it has to be published. That's why the recent series of posts by Brandilyn Collins has been intriguing. She discusses a book, Art and Fear, and makes the point over and over that not even the most talented artist--musician, painter, writer, whatever--can produce great work without effort. Just because it takes effort doesn't mean that the artist is without talent. If no effort were involved, anyone could do it. And they can't.

It's been interesting to me over the past three years, as I've become friends with some very well-respected writers, to see how much effort is required for them to turn out their work. It doesn't just happen. And they know it. But they're willing to put in the time, apply themselves, sweat over their keyboards, until the product is right.

There's an entity called the "imposter syndrome," and I've suffered from it to a degree for many years. Although I had a very successful medical practice, achieved a clinical professor's appointment at three medical schools, had over one hundred papers published in professional journals, wrote or edited eight textbooks, and held high office in every professional organization of which I was a member, I was constantly waiting for someone to jump out from behind a bush and say, "I know who you are, and you're not that good." It was good to find out that I am only one of millions who feel this way. I'll bet that you feel the same way at times.

For a writer, there's always the need for a balance between self-confidence and humility. That's where the Christian writer has an edge. Because we know that we write, not to bring glory to ourselves, but to inspire others and bring them closer to the One who has called us to this discipline. In that, we can be confident.

Don't forget that writer Tina Helmuth, who placed second in her category in last year's contest, offers free edits of your first chapter if she can post the results on her blog. She also edits entire manuscripts for an extremely reasonable fee. I can attest that her writing and her editing talents are excellent. You can get more details at her blog.


Timothy Fish said...

I think part of the reason for “imposter syndrome” is that we measure success in subjective terms rather than by concrete objectives. This is probably especially true of subjective things like writing. As long as our measure of goodness is based on the opinion of others, whether it is that of agents, publishers, reader or others, there will always be that fear that some “expert” will jump out of the closet and convince other people that their opinion is wrong.

Anonymous said...

Richard said, "I was constantly waiting for someone to jump out from behind a bush and say, 'I know who you are, and you're not that good.'"

You know, I think part of this feeling, which I am part of the millions with this affliction, is that MOST people feel that if they didn't express and use a certain talent or gift by the age of 18, it must not be there.

In the last few years, I became a drummer...and it took my teacher, pastor and band members a WHILE to convince me that I can say, "I am a drummer." (I'm still waiting to be jumped from behind.)

Kind of the same with writing. But I remind myself that it is God who tells us who we are...when we let him. We're not "done" until we are "done." So keep exploring and writing and going to the places God directs you to.

Thanks for sharing this, Richard. So timely, indeed.