Yee Shall Not Judge or Should Yee?

Recently I’ve struggled with writing, publishing and the whole caboodle (yes, caboodle is an actual word though it shouldn’t be). I am not complaining, not in the least. No really. I swear

My issue is a matter of self-doubt. Which is my problem and mine alone. Or so I tell myself when caught whining to uninterested family members or friends. Nobody cares about how hard it is to publish or gain new readers. How the deck seems stacked against you. That is, nobody but your fellow tribe members suffering similar self-doubts and annoyances.

I love you guys!

While I am not turning this into a whine-a-thon (yes, again an actual word according to word), I wanted to preface my post with the above.

My post is about judging. Not being judgey (Caught me. Not a real word, but a good one that should be). I’ve long judged contests for various organizations. Every time I’m asked it brings up this issue of self-doubt. Who am I to say if a submission is good? Or more importantly, what it is about said submission that makes it worthy of a high score?

Yes, I’ve gotten books published. People have read them. Some liked them. Some didn’t. But I’m pretty much a hack. It was a fluke. 9 times over. I won’t ever see another word in print…

See how self-doubt derails me? It makes me feel unworthy of making simple contest judgments.

And they are simple. It’s about engaging me as a reader, not as a writer. The writer in me has a list of do’s and do nots. A bunch of reasons for every writerly action, and the consequence of opening a scene with the weather. But the reader in me doesn’t. I like certain styles more than others, sure. But any voice can engage me. Every well crafted scene can make me gasp in surprise.

I might have points to make for the writer, things I’ve experienced in my own publishing journey, but those are asides. If a writer opens with the weather, and makes me a believer in the reason for it, I, as a reader will be just fine.

Do you judge contests? If so, do you feel differently? What about critiquing? Do you read as a writer or reader? And hell, let’s open this up to self-doubt. What’s your greatest downfall when it comes to self-doubt?

J.A. (Julie) Kazimer
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J.A. (Julie) Kazimer is a writer living in Denver, CO. Books include The Junkie Tales, The Body Dwellers, CURSES! A F***ed-Up Fairy Tale, Holy Socks & Dirtier Demons, Dope. Sick. Love. SHANK, Froggy Style, The Assassin's Heart, The Fairyland Murders & The Lady in Pink - Deadly Ever After Mysteries.

7 thoughts on “Yee Shall Not Judge or Should Yee?

  1. My name is Terri, and I am a self-doubter. I’ve been one ever since I first started putting words on paper. There. I’ve confessed. Happy now? My downfall is the writes, rewrites, and then going back to the original several times on sections that were probably the best the first time. But I second guess myself, over and over. Thanks for not letting me feel alone in this big, black and white, wordy world.

  2. I do a lot of critiques with indie-authors. The Gold Contest holds no terrors.

    Publishing my own work? Yes. That’s where the self-doubt surfaces.

    My goal with each new book is to make it better than the last. Figuring out what “better” means is a challenge after eleven novels. As I contemplate the publish button, I always think “Did I succeed?” or “Am I right?”

    Unfortunately only readers can answer. So far, it’s worked out, but the next one … ?

    Yeah.

  3. When I serve as a contest judge, I’m always terrified I’ll increase a writer’s self-doubt instead of encouraging and inspiring. We all, from beginners to veterans, have enough self-doubt of our own without spreading it around. That self-doubt is what makes me keep rewriting each never-ending story before finally throwing in the towel and declaring a novel finished (and then going back and rewriting it again before submitting to an agent or editor). It helps to know other writers suffer from that self-doubt. Misery does love company.

    • I’m always amazed to hear of writers, like you, who I look up to, who’s work I think is fantastic, to declare their own self-doubt. You’re awesome, why would you doubt it? I know I’m a hack, so that’s why I do.

  4. Oh man, do I ever! I’m a grammar Nazi who can apply the 20+ years of studying the craft of writing to another person’s story far better than to my own. I’ve not even tried to publish yet…who am I to judge a contest? Yikes, it scares me to death. So I over compensate by spending hours on each submission, leaving tons of comments, almost critique level for a normal submission. It’s a never ending cycle of self doubt. Worth it? Yes, but it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

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