The problem with reading a great book (when you’re a writer) is looking at your own work and thinking fuck… I don’t sound like that. I don’t sound anything like that. Have I been writing garbage this whole time?
It’s not that I’m comparing. I’m not. I’m appreciating, and at the same time, noticing the vast degree of how well some people can tell a story and how I’m basically drawing stick figures on the page. It’s true. I’m not fishing for compliments or sympathy or whatever, but maybe a *little* empathy. Honest question: You ever think you’re hot shit when you nail a scene or literary device (or whatever blows the wind up your skirt) and then you read something spectacular and think my god what the hell have I been doing this whole time? I had that happen a few times recently thanks to Chloe Neill (this is your fault, Jamie) and her vampire series (yes, I know. Another vampire series. Let’s not go there now). Neill throws around words I studied for (and failed miserably at) for the GRE, but she does it in a great story-telling way. I kept thinking shit… she’s the real deal. So what does that make me?
Again, not being emo. Just honest. Sometimes it’s fantastic when you read a great book because your love for reading amplifies. You remember why flipping through pages (or scrolling – whatever your preference) beats out channel-surfing or playing on your phone. But sometimes it’s sucks. Sometimes reading a great book (when you’re a writer) is like sitting at the kids table on Thanksgiving. It’s humbling, reminds you of your place and makes you wonder if you’ll ever make the great leap over.
That’s my insecurity – sitting at the kids table forever. We all write differently—and that’s a good thing—but damn it, feeling like an amateur sucks.
Do you ever feel like this? Or do you have different insecurities? Come on and share as this is the day to do it. IWSG (Insecure Writers Support Group) posts the first Wednesday of every month (It’s December already, guys. DECEMBER) to admit to one another our fears and doubts and to battle these negatives with encouragement and support and all around groovy vibes. This awesome blog hop was started by Alex Cavanaugh and if you’re interested (you know you are) you can check out—or stock—all the spiffy writers participating here.
Happy December. You rock. And keep writing, kiddos.
We’ll get there.
19 thoughts on “IWSG – Don’t Make me Eat at the Kids Table”
Yup. I know exactly what you mean. I hadn’t though of it as “sitting at the kids table” but that’s a great metaphor. Sometimes you just read something really good and wish you could just come close to touching it. And then read your own stuff and it’s garbage.
But you know what? It’s probably not garbage. Not all of it, anyway. There will be good sections, good paragraphs, great turns of phrase, fun dialogue. There will be diamonds and gold among the shit and the muck. The more you read, the more you write and the more you practice actually getting better, the more gold and diamonds you’ll find. It’s a craft and a skill just like any other, it takes work to get better.
And truth be told, I’ve read some of the stories you’ve shared here, and none of it was shit. And there was plenty of gold in there. 😉
You’re sweet (a little delusional) but sweet. And I know you’re right. It can’t all be crap. Does feel like that though sometimes, doesn’t it?
I think I’ll always feel like I’m sitting at the kids’ table, to some degree or another. How do you even know you’re at the big table? What does the view look like from there? What’s the criteria to sit there? Wish I knew! 🙂
But you know what? I’m sure we’re the “adult table” to someone else. It’s all about perspective, I guess. But sometimes… man… the view sucks, doesn’t it?
I think you’re a great writer, as I’ve said before.
With my own writing, I just kind of shrug. I know I’m not as good as the masters. I know I’m better than some of the failures. I’ve never had the feeling of sucking after reading something magnificent. My analytical side kicks in and I try to figure out what generated the reaction and experiment with recreating something similar. It’s like, “Dude, that was awesome. I want to try!”
I know we’ve talked about our differences in aspirations before (your passion to become a career author and my contentment with being a programmer), and maybe that’s why I haven’t had the feeling. That’d be an interesting study to pursue…
It sure would. And yes, you’ll always be better than some and worse than others. Everyone is a middle ground at their level. I’ll try to remember that next time I feel shunned to the kids table. 🙂
“…I’ve never had the feeling of sucking after reading something magnificent. My analytical side kicks in and I try to figure out what generated the reaction and experiment with recreating something similar. It’s like, “Dude, that was awesome. I want to try!”…”
Same here. But I also do not see myself as a career author. I write, but it isn’t my one true passion or calling. Now when I see an amazing piece of artwork, that’s when I think “wow. I’m nowhere near that good. I suck.” So the idea of the passions vs the insecurities may be onto something. My main insecurity with writing is not “I suck” but more “I know no one will like it! I like it, but no one else will.” but I think that is an extension of my psychological need to be liked as opposed to writing in itself.
I know exactly how you feel. Even when I feel like I’ve written something that’s kind of okay, the next time I read something by a real professional I realize just how awful my writing is. I guess I’m starting to come to terms with the fact that I’ll always suck, but I’ve yet to give up writing altogether. (I’m not sure I’d be capable of that.)
The same thing applies, to a lesser extent, to my academic writing, too. Every time I read a history book or article, I realize how bad my papers really are. And then I end up having to read the papers by other people in my classes, and realize I’m actually about middle of the road…. (Which is scary, considering I feel like I’m still writing at a high school level.)
I think I’ll always be stuck at the real-life kid’s table, too. Last time we had a family get-together that had enough people for a kid’s table, I was sitting at it. Despite that I was about a month away from turning 40. (Seriously.)
Still, maybe someday I’ll move up to the adult’s table in one way or another…
I see improvement in my writing year-to-year, just not sure it’ll be fast enough to move me on. We’ll see.
I never thought of it that way, but you make a good point. When I read a great book, I see that my writing looks amateurish. But then I think, well, improve it. See how other authors write, how they put together their thoughts into spellbinding sentences. My writing will never be exactly like theirs, but it will be me, doing the best I can. And that’s my goal. Your writing is you, and it’s probably a lot better than you think. We sometimes are too hard on ourselves. Never give up.
Thanks for visiting my blog. Nice to meet you.
I do something similar when reading a great author, looking at what they did and how they did it. Sometimes I wonder if I should try their approach. Sitting at the kids table isn’t so bad if you know you’ll grow up and join the adults one day. That day will momentous. That day will change your life. 🙂
Anna from Elements of Writing
Oh God, I feel like this so much it’s ridiculous. I have to keep reminding myself that comparison is an act of vengeance against oneself. Can’t even remember where I heard that, but it’s so true. We are all unique and tell our stories in our own special way.
Definitely. My talent is for writing spare. At my best, I use the perfect word—evocative, vivid, expressive, unique—a word no other writer would think of. At my worst, I sink into cliche. The quality I most admire in other writers is how they can layer lush prose without bogging down the story. But that sort of writing fits neither my style nor my voice. In that respect, I will always be at the kids’ table.
I’ve totally been there. I get muse envy all the time 🙂
I’ve felt like that before. But I also believe that writers who work hard on their craft get to cultivate their own style too. and it’s probably better that your style isn’t similar to the other person’s because that way you can stand out.
I definitely feel like this, though I hadn’t thought of it this way – for me, it’s more like wondering how the hell someone can be that good, and trying to learn from them but having no idea how they do what they do. >_< Is there a word for something that frustrates you and makes you want to try harder at the same time? Because that's what I need right now. Grr. Arg.
I do have those moments where I read something and think “I’m nowhere near this.” I just try to tack on “yet.” Yet. It took them awhile to get there first.
You just hit the nail on the head for me.It’s a humbling experience and it happens way more often than I’d want. I cheer myself up by saying (to myself) that since I can recognize it in someone else’s writing, I’ll be able to recognize it in my own, so I just have to keep working, writing and editing until I get there (or pretty close).
Yes! I used to do this all the time. I still come across books that I just sit back and think, “Wow, this is awesome. I can never match the awesomeness of this book.” Of course, we just have to find our own realm of awesome. And it gets easier as you grow as a writer too.