Confession: I am a super neurotic person.
This isn’t a particularly shocking revelation. Why? Because all writers are neurotic.
If you are a non-writer now doubting that statement, just stop. You are wrong. You either don’t know any writers or you don’t know the writers in your life well enough to actually know them.
If you are a writer now protesting that statement, just stop. You are in denial. You may pride yourself on being low-key and totally chill with shoving your words out into the world, but let’s face it — sometimes you’re really, really not.
Because, writers, if you’re anything like me (and don’t even play; you are like me), you often get sucked into what I’m going to call The Vortex of Doubt and Self-Loathing, or TVDSL, which is not a pronounceable acronym, or at least not unless you fudge it and say something like tivdsel, and what is that, anyway? Something vaguely Yiddish. Or maybe a legume. Also, TVDSL defeats the purpose of acronyms by actually taking more time to think about and write than the thing it’s abbreviating. But I’m a librarian, and librarians like acronyms, so here we are.
What is TVDSL?
I think TVDSL can be best explained by illustrating exactly how one falls into it:
1. One sits down at the computer with the intention of catching up on one’s social networking brouhaha before diving into one’s manuscript.
2. One chuckles at the witticisms on one’s Twitter feed, responds to blog comments, adds books to one’s Goodreads list.
3. One feels as though one is finally getting the hang of this “professional writer” thing. Look! A slight increase in blog traffic! Another person added my book to their to-read list! So-and-so McFlashypants re-tweeted my tweet! One celebrates.
4. …One stumbles upon a blog/tweet/giveaway/excerpt/interview/author photo/Goodreads entry/announcement/etc. that is more insightful/wittier/has more entries/hookier/cleverer/prettier/has more “to-read” adds/more $$$/etc. than one’s own.
5. One’s stomach disappears.
6. Immediately, all the confidence one had previously felt about one’s work ethic, manuscript, and social networking savvy disappears, too. One begins thinking bad thoughts.
7. One follows said bad thoughts to their completely irrational conclusion.
8. Instead of working on one’s manuscript, one cowers in the corner with blankets and tortilla chips, scrolling through “better” blogs/excerpts/tweets/Goodreads profiles/giveaways/EXISTENCES than one’s own, stifling the urge to vomit with more tortilla chips.
9. One feels even worse after realizing one has spent two hours not working on one’s manuscript, but rather binging on carbohydrates and being impressed with everyone other than oneself.
10. One thinks, “I rather loathe myself”…
…and before one knows it…
11. ONE HAS FALLEN INTO TVDSL.
What happens once in the TVDSL?
We don’t write our books. Instead of working, we freak out. We agonize over the fact that Mr. Blahbleebloo has more Goodreads adds than we do, that Miss WhyDoICare gets a fillion comments on, like, EVERY blog post, that we aren’t part of the 2012 Awesomesaucies or The Whatsihoozits or The Group You Should Probably Be In If You Ever Want To Have a Chance at Selling Your Book and Not Either Using Unsold Copies of It To Keep Yourself Warm on the Streets or Fading Into Inconsequence via Your Cubicle.
We worry if we should be developing this or that shiny new social media marketing technique, or creating a better header for our blog, or writing more blog posts, or writing COOLER!!1! blog posts, or befriending this person or that person because THEY >>>>>>>>> us.
And the more we do these things, the worse it gets! The longer our books remain unfinished! The longer our brilliance goes unrecognized! The more tortilla chip crumbs we collect in our hair! And on and on, until not even Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton will touch that mess!
You know what we should be doing instead?
None of that other stuff really matters if you don’t have a good product to back it up. And, once you do have that good product, none of that other stuff really matters.
Oh oh oh, see what I did there?^
So, the next time you find yourself panicking about how cool other people are*, remember that you’re pretty cool, too, but you’d be cooler if you’d stop worrying about them and what you aren’t, about what isn’t and what you don’t have and haven’t done, and instead just do this:
*Confession: This post was as much for me as for you. Seriously.