If John Green feels like fraud, how am I supposed to cope?

Apparently John Green feels like a fraud all the time.

Now, am I the only one who had a bit of a WTF flip-out? Because seriously, this list came out last week: John made $26 million this year, topping his first time appearance last year, when the poor guy only made $9 million.

And this from the man who had me in tears and made me write this post: Do you ever feel like the author of the book you are reading is trying to kill you? I love The Fault In Our Stars. I have made no secret of this and John Green is awesome. And I have to admit it makes me feel better that he feels overwhelmed and intimidated. It reminds me that these feelings aren’t going to go away.

There are many kinds of fears we face as writers. Fear of failure, fear of running dry, fear of having only one book, and also fear of success. Personally, fear of success hasn’t been a problem for me and I’ll be honest, it’s a fear I am willing to confront. Especially with an odd $26 million in my back pocket.

Under Pressure

  1. But can you imagine the kind of pressure John Green is under? I wanted to stop writing after I read the book, because it was just that good.
  2. Imagine how JK Rowling felt writing the last book of the Harry Potter series. And then she wrote The Casual Vacancy, which wasn’t as well received as she had hoped, so she resorted to a pseudonym for her next book.
  3. Do you want to be George RR Martin, right now? With people clamouring to know who is going to die next? Once again, I admit I’ll be willing to give it a go, but he must be bashing his head on a desk somewhere. He even tweeted in 2014: EVERY TIME I GET ASKED WHEN WILL THE NEXT BOOK BE FINISHED, I KILL A STARK. So please stop asking him. We are running out of Starks.

I listen to aspiring writers worrying about their writing every week. Fear is a constant. As soon as you conquer the one, the next one lines up.

My advice

And what do I tell the students? Shut-up and write! The only thing you can do to overcome these fears is to have something on the page. John says: ‘The only way through it for me is to take pleasure in the process of writing, or to find value in it. Even when I suck. Even when there’s no way anything I’m writing will ever see the light of day. The act of trying to write for an audience must feel valuable in and of itself, or else I am doomed.’

John Green has written five books, JK Rowling even more, and they keep writing. If you stop, or don’t start, the fear will overwhelm you. Blank pages are scary. John also says: ‘I still don’t feel like I know how to write a novel, and at this point I doubt I ever will.’ (We have a course for that, John.)

But, if you need help, ask for it. Go on a course or join a reputable, supportive writers’ group. It helps if you don’t feel so alone. Face whatever it is that is stopping you and karate-chop it out of the way. Don’t use lack of time as an excuse. Real writers make time, because there will never be enough time or the prefect time.

Shut-up and write!

Lots of love,
Your most supportive, loving and nurturing writing teacher,

Posted on: 19th August 2015

3 thoughts on “If John Green feels like fraud, how am I supposed to cope?”

  1. Fear of success. After having had my first novel evaluated three times, reviewing it as many times and submitting it to two different publishers, I can see that it might well be accepted if I review and submit it one more time. However, if I think of how much work went into it, I feel like a boxer who does not have the guts or energy to get out of his corner for another round. I can finalise this one, but the thought of writing another scares me. So, my career as a writer comes to an abrupt end. Signing off, Hannes Nel

  2. Hannes, I think you should watch Rocky a few times. Thanks for your comment and don’t you dare give up.

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