Author Intimidation Syndrome(tm)

Yeah, that's right -- I was all over the OK Corral in AZ.

Oh, faithful three readers, I have fallen prey to a terrible malady. It all began when I took a break from writing my latest novel to travel to Florida and then through Idaho, Utah, Nevada, and Arizona. (Yes, I feel very cosmopolitan.) During this time, most of it sans Internet access (my IUD was almost incapacitating), I eagerly slurped up a dozen or so e-novels by my favorite authors.

When I returned home in early January from this whirlwind winter break, a new semester quaked and the tsunami of class preparation slammed into my tender person. Now, three weeks later, I find myself with some free time and could easily slide back to writing The Tithe. Only... Only... I can’t.

I reread the last chapter or so. I tinkered with an adjective here, a metaphor there. I got into the writerly swing of things by revising another book. But come time to jump back into The Tithe, I found myself cowed by the magnitude, the silent condemnation, the mocking rhythm, of that darned blinking cursor.

I don’t suffer from writer’s block. No, I suffer from something far less understandable and more, well, embarrassing: Author Intimidation Syndrome™. Yes, my friends, I am currently too intimated by the awesomeness of all those authors I read to dare pretend I can compare to their talent. How can I possibly write like Jim Butcher, like Ilona Andrews, like Terry Pratchett? Sure, I pen a mean research article, -- I tear up academia with my mad verbal virtuosity, yo – but how can my novels’ stilted dramatic pace, their fascination with emotional minutiae, their uneven application of witty verbal repartee, compare with the silk-smooth rhythms of fiction’s literary giants?

The first step is admitting it: I have AIS™.

Sure, I know the cure. It’s the same, extremely sage, advice my sister, Lauri, gave me when I told her a few years ago that I had been planning for a couple of decades to write a novel: Shut up and do it. I’m a firm believer that most of writing is forced labor (albeit beloved labor) with only the occasional, fairylike sprinkling of creative inspiration. Even braced with that knowledge, I find it so easy right now to continue “doing more research” by reading ever-more novels.

Cowardice: the most visible sign of AIS™.

Meanwhile, my characters patiently await me on the page. Sure, as soon as I either resolve my bout of authorly insecurities or else force myself to move on in spite of them, I’ll return to my literary babies. I just hope they’ll understand that even the most loving parent suffers from crises of confidence now and again. 


  1. Oh Elle, I SO feel your pain. Somebody once said that writing is the art of applying the @ss to the chair and that is way, WAY harder than it sounds. I think writing is the art of sucking down your fears and writing words on a screen while forcing yourself (at gunpoint if necessary) not to fire up the facebook status check crack pipe. But rest assured that although I have very exacting standards I deem you completely and unreservedly awesome!

  2. Elle, listen. Get a new notebook. Then start the writing over again. If you have to start from scratch, do it. The characters are saying to you that something has to be adjusted. (You may not have to go all the way back, but if you do, don't hesitate. Just go for it.)

    Iva G:)

  3. Fat Chick, you are, as always, wise and crazy awesome. As for this "not check facebook status," maybe we can skip that? I mean, I can give up Facebook anytime. For real. Anytime.

    Thank you for the kind words. Much, much love.

  4. Iva, my friend, I love your beautiful, holistic approach to writing. My characters and I just may need to have a conversation -- maybe what I used to call an "ST" for "serious talk." :)

    Thanks to you, my writing mentor for your generosity and wisdom.

  5. "Elle," the only thing to do is to STFU and write. Sometimes you have to force yourself to start a page. But plug into some mood music. Use headphones. Close your peeps and let the scene carry you away. Before you know it, it's 5 am and you're cursing the trembling light and the weight of your eyelids, and you haven't once thought about how you compare to Jim.

    1. I agree, LJ, my delicate little dove. ;) I concur with everything you said. Except comparing myself to Jim. I'm rereading his Dresden books, and I'm consistently blown away by his ability to pen metaphors and touching humor with such smoothness that I, the reader, barely even notice the writing. Butcher intimidation: I haz it.

      Plus, I frequently stay up till 5. ;)

  6. Awwww!!! :-( I SOooo sorry you have AIS!!! Truly I believe that the most brilliant and talented people are the ones that all question their talents and the people who never question are the ones that SHOULD have been questioning in the first place.

    Vincent Van Gogh had a lil voice that said he couldn't paint and that he was a nobody. To that he said:

    “If you hear a voice within you say 'You cannot paint', then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”

    And “In spite of everything, I shall rise again; I will take up my pencil, which I have forsaken in my great discouragement, and I will go on with my drawing.” ― Vincent van Gogh

    And Vincent van Gogh is AWESOME and made magnificent and brilliant works and so are and do you!!!

  7. My friend, I have heard/seen the way you put words together and it is magic. It would be silly and unkind of you to write like Jim or Terry or ... because then there would be two writing like them and none like you.
    We want you.


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