whiskey+glassIt occurs every time I complete a manuscript and send it out for comment.  I can’t explain it.  It just happens.  I tumble into something I call The Author’s Abyss, a sinkhole of self-doubt.  It’s recurring epiphany I have that, in plain language, reminds me I can’t write worth a shit.

I realize the beloved project–my novel–that I dove into with such enthusiasm and optimism has disintegrated into something worthy of only a paper shredder.  In the beginning, full of passion and fervor, I commanded, at least to myself, “Let there be light,” and a fictional world full of interesting characters and compelling stories began to take shape out of a formless void.  Pulitzer Prize-candidate stuff.

But by the time I’d spread my incompetent hand over the dark waters, and sent my baby out to “finishing school” for critique and comment, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt there was no Pulitzer in my future.  Probably not even a cheap ribbon for participation.

It happened with CASCADIA. The manuscript went out.  I fell into a depressed funk.  Schlepped around the house without shaving.  Stared at newspapers without reading, TV without seeing.  Poured a double shot of Jack Daniels.  Snuck an extra OTC pain pill before stumbling into bed and hoping not to wake up for several days. 

I knew I had failed as a writer and should probably spend my future waking hours baking Jiffy-mix corn muffins or trying to beat a Titleist to death on manicured Bermuda.

I don’t understand it, but that period of waiting for feedback on my manuscripts is like waiting for a jury to decide whether I’m guilty (of man[uscript]slaughter) or innocent (probably of talent).

Then the returns begin to trickle in.  “Excellent story.”  “Don’t touch the prologue!  Wonderful.”  “Great characters.”  “IMHO, Michener-like.” 

So I take a deep breath and sit down with myself and have a little talk.  I remind Self that while I will never win a Pulitzer or Man Booker, I have, in the past, cranked out a best seller and won a couple of awards.  I’m not a Michener (no matter what my anonymous first-reader says) or a James Lee Burke, but I do okay. 

The novel is far from perfect, of course, and my readers have suggested spots where it could be made better.   I’ve still got some work to do.

At least I’ve clambered out of my Author’s Abyss and am back at it.

Just curious: any other writers out there ever suffer the same problem?


  1. C. Hope Clark on November 5, 2015 at 11:43 pm

    Of course, Buzz. There have been times I think I’m so deranged trying to be commercially viable as an author. Like, what am I thinking? A hard night where the words are hard to produce. Or putting out a new book after a good one when I think I can never write that well again. I think any writer over time feels this way. It’s part of the game! Have a bourbon on me.

  2. Susan Lindsley on November 18, 2015 at 1:47 pm

    All I can say is “Join the club.” Can’t offer you a bourbon, but can offer you a virtual shoulder to cry on while you wait the next time.
    But remember: Self-doubt does not become you. We have faith in your work and eagerly wait for your next book!

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