What writer doesn't have angst? It's a mandatory condition of the person who feels compelled to spend hours alone with nothing but a keyboard and an imagination, and then puts his/her pulsing heart onto a gingerly thrust sleeve and begs, "Please like me."
Even when readers do say they like our work, we don't really believe them. "They're just being nice." Deep down we know we're not really worthy of the word writers; we're pretenders. Waiting for the day that will surely come when someone outs us as the frauds we are.
The good news is we all feel this way. On Saturday I was at the wrap-up party for the Muskoka Novel Marathon and, for me, this was almost a better learning opportunity than the marathon itself, where we actually wrote. At the party, we talked about writing and that's when it struck me that even the most successful, published authors suffer from crippling angst. That's such a relief, knowing everybody else is just as wonky as I am.
I'd been feeling extra angsty about my novel lately. I'm waiting for revisions to come back from my good friend and fellow writer Laurita Miller, who I completely trust and adore. On one hand I've got my sleeves rolled up, waiting to get to work. On the other, I'm tormented she'll say "this is a total piece of shite." I understand this is how all writers feel so I'm trying not to freak out about it.
Still, I wanted to test my writing. I wanted to read it to the group at the marathon, who knew nothing about my novel or, for that matter, very little about me. I wanted to hear their honest reaction – and that's easy to judge when you're writing humour. If they laugh, you're gold. If the room is quiet, you're sunk.
Well, they laughed. Heartily. The room rang with laughter. I had to pause in several places to wait for the laughter to die down.
Oh. How I relished that sound. It was like the warmest of blankets; it was like getting roses when it's not your birthday; most of all, it gave me hope that maybe people will like the story, maybe someone will publish it, maybe they'll make a movie about it and Meryl Streep will be the star and I'll be rich and famous and, and ....
Yes. I'm being silly now. But not about how that laughter made me feel. That exquisite laughter. I shall carry it in my heart, today and always.
Or at least until the next bout of angst sets in.