Written by A Guest Author July 15th, 2021

Getting Past Author Angst

By Colin Newton

Creativity can be counterintuitive. You might have experienced that in the creative process, like when ideas spring from the most unlikely places, but it can appear in the results too.

One would think finishing a big piece of writing would result in a flood of positive emotions – happiness, pride or at least relief that it’s finally over. But for some writers, the mix of emotions upon completing a final draft is definitely different. They might feel unsatisfied, uncertain and generally unhappy with the result.

Author angst, the feeling that what you’ve written isn’t good enough or even outright bad, is far from an isolated sentiment. Plenty of legendary authors hated their own work, whether it’s because they grew to dislike their characters or the atmosphere surrounding it, or they just felt it wasn’t up to their standards.

If you’re also feeling it, there are a couple of things to do to combat, or at least ease, the feeling of author angst. The first thing is to acknowledge it. It’s not bad, it’s not weird, and it’s not a sign that your work is bad or weird. It means you’re a human being as well as a writer.

You can also acknowledge you might not be the most objective observer of your own work. Some of us have been living with these manuscripts for a while, for weeks or months or years. That’s a long time to have what is essentially a demanding roommate (there’s a reason some creative types call pieces of work their “babies”).

On the other hand, if you’re feeling tough, you can consider your author angst critically. Try to turn it into something productive. Objectively ask yourself: what do I feel angsty about? Is it something specific? Is my dialogue unnatural? Are my descriptions not sexy? When you’ve given it some thought, re-read a couple passages and see if there’s any merit to those fears. The worst thing that will happen is you’ll do some re-writing, and there’s noting wrong with that.

If you can’t pinpoint anything specific, then give yourself some space. Read a book, catch up on streaming, find some missing socks – and, okay, you can wallow in self-pity for a little bit. Then come back and ask yourself what was really there. You might find there was nothing to feel angsty about to begin with.

The final thing you can do is maybe the most important. Rather than acknowledge the angst, acknowledge the accomplishment. After all, you wrote something, and that’s kind of amazing.

Some people say everyone has the potential for a novel in them. Even if that’s true – and we all probably know at least one person who makes that maxim seem doubtful – what’s also true is that not everyone has the ability to turn that potential into an actual novel.

Whether you’re feeling angsty about your first draft or anguished by your nineteenth, you have to admit, you have more than potential. You took that novel inside and manifested it as something you can feel and read and, yes, wonder if it’s any good. You’re in the ranks of the few, the proud, the ones with worn-out keyboards and notebooks filled with crazy serial-killer writing we call “notes.” You’re a writer, and no one has more right to feel bad – or good – about your work than you.

Bio: Colin Newton is a writer (and sometimes editor) from Los Angeles whose short fiction has appeared in the Ignatian Literary Magazine, Red Planet Magazine and The Fabulist Words & Art. He is an upcoming Rose Library fellow at Emory University. He currently blogs about media, monsters and metaphysics at IdolsAndRealities.wordpress.com.


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