I remember one night when I was feeling particularly discouraged, I flopped down onto the couch to pour out my woes to my brother. I remember feeling so afraid that when I finally plucked the courage to send my book out into the world, it wouldn’t do well. It would flop. Not only was I afraid of that happening for obvious discouraging reasons, I was afraid of it happening because I was certain that I would never be able to write anything that would be better than that first book I wrote.
Now, over the years, I had grown very very attached to my first novel, so much so that it got to the point where I was certain that I could never write anything as good ever again. I wanted this book to be the book that soared, and if it didn’t, well, how could anything else ever come close? I truly didn’t believe that any story I wrote afterwards would have half as much depth and meaning as I felt that my first book had.
My brother kindly, but half-exasperated at my melodrama, said this:
“If you don’t think you can write anything good ever again, maybe you’re not cut out to be a writer.”
That stopped me in my self-pity tracks. It sounded condemning at first, but then I realized he was right. If I was so sure I could never write anything good again, what was the point of me wanting to be a writer? I realized that my mindset was wrong, totally wrong.
It was a good lesson for me to learn, and encouraging. Many writers never publish their first books. Does that mean they’ve wasted time and effort on that book? Not at all! They learned so many things from that book that they took with them as they moved on to their second, third, fourth, and fifth books. They learned how to finish a project; they learned how to structure a plot; they learned how to make characters; they learned how to write.
It’s been a few years since that conversation, and I’ve written three books since it. They’re a little messy, a little stiff, and a little obvious, but they’re my books, my works of art, and I love them. I still tweak that first book from time to time, still holding out hope that it will do well and others will enjoy it, but my mindset has shifted enough for me to let go of that obsessiveness and learn to write with a better perspective on things.