Self-loathing, self-criticism, fear of failure – call it what you want, but this way or that it is an integral part of every person doing any kind of creative work. In a line of work that doesn’t have any objective way of evaluation anybody is prone to start worrying about the quality of their work, at least from time to time. But most people think that writers, who are already established, are exempt from this kind of problems. Reality, however, is somewhat different – they feel self-loathing just like all the rest. They simply learn how to deal with it.
According to Jonathan Franzen, the author of best-selling novel “Freedom”, he feels self-reproach and shame almost constantly. And the only way out is to immerse himself in what he is thinking and writing about, hoping that some good writing comes out of it. Once there are some good sentences on the paper, he can relate to them, feel loyal to them and follow the logic he already established in them.
There is certainly something very real about it – otherwise people wouldn’t use narrative techniques to deal with their problems. And if people, who don’t have anything to do with writing can fight their fears and insecurities by writing, aren’t it only natural for professional men of letters to do their job and, at the same time, get rid of their problems?
However, it is only one of many different approaches – there are probably as many of them as there are writers. Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of “The Signature of All Things”, thinks that the dichotomy of self-loathing versus self-confidence is incorrect when it comes to writing. Both variants in their complete form are just two opposite but meeting types of narcissism, and the best thing to do for a writer is simply to be more forgiving. She is certain that there are many writers who don’t approach their work hysterically – they approach it as, well, work – by showing up to it regularly, doing the best they can and accepting the results without fighting anybody, themselves least of all.
Such writers as Alice Munro, George Saunders, Ann Patchett and many others write not because they want to prove something to somebody. They don’t feel that they have to hate themselves or anybody else while doing their job. They simply do it.
And it is up to each particular writer to choose which approach is more suitable.