The Neurosis of the Non-Fiction Writer

The neurotic author is so much of a familiar idea, it’s became a stereotype. The writer self-conscious about sharing their deepest, most innermost thoughts. Despite it not being as much a stereotype, I’m pretty sure the same applies to non-fiction as well – at least it does to me.

I’m getting to the stage where I feel like I’m hitting brick walls, or writing things to no real effect. There is, for whatever reason, a strain of both ‘what do I know?’ and ‘what’s the point?’ invading my thoughts as I sit to write.
Writing non-fiction means writing things that address the real, wider world (by definition) and so there’s a more than decent chance that there’ll be a lot of people out there who both know the subject better than I do, and will be able to point out numerous flaws in my writing.

I write a regular ‘Lower League Week’ feature for, which concentrates on the events surrounding the clubs in League One and League Two.
I think it’s a niche that’s underserviced, but i do feel at times that I’m not doing the subject matter justice, or that this time will be the one that I trip up and say something stupid and plainly false.
And there’s also the feeling that I’m running up against brick walls – no-one has yet seen fit to offer me money for the kind of things I’d write, meaning that, to a certain portion of my mind, the things I produce are valueless.

Of course, there is value beyond money.
And reducing all value to financial value is foolish and quite dangerous.
But it’d be nice to know that the things I create help bring in an audience, who bring in advertising potential, and that my work alone has enough value to justify giving me a few coins in return for what I’ve done.
I suppose it’d be different if I were writing in my day job, developing my skill and seeing it appreciated even if on mundane topics. But as it is, the skill which I think of as being my best, has very rarely been rewarded.
It’s only natural that this gets frustrating after a while.

In addition, a lot of the time, when what I write has been checked over and submitted, I get a sense that it’s ‘over’.
I would love for my writing to have more of a regular audience, to actively feel that my things are being put into the public domain, that they are not just technically out there, but actually inspiring discussion and debate.
Of course, particularly when writing about football, there’s the tendency for people to look at anything even vaguely critical of their club and see it as trolling, biased, or clearly wrong, without justifying why this is the case.
But a well-written article placed in the right place, can become almost a living thing, an embodiment of an idea or ideas, that prompts others to gather round it, take in the ideas, mutate them into something slightly different that the responder believes to more closely resemble the truth…
I’d quite like to be the inspiration for that kind of reaction.

Civilised debaters congratulate an opponent on a point well made

This has sort of happened to me, once – in around January. I wrote a piece for Denofgeek, about the glut of Sherlock Holmeses, about them being different aspects to the classic character.
Unfortunately for whatever reason I wasn’t able to log into my account with the site at the time, so I couldn’t properly respond and join in the discussions below the piece.
(As I remember, what I read was almost entirely good-hearted as well, which makes my inability to join in all the more frustrating.)

But I think, essentially, my problems stem from not producing things on a regular basis.
I need to get to the stage where people can think to themselves, ‘Oh yeah, that’s the site that does the plots of movies, according to Blake Snyder’s thingie’.
I need people to come in, like what they see, and feel confident they can come back later for more of the same.

There will be plenty of writers of non-fiction who feel that they get back more than they put in. The access to creatives and sportsmen, the ability to talk with those ‘on the inside’. Talking with a stranger, whether in real life or online, who read the argument you put together, and have them tell you they thought it was wrong, but thought-provoking, and thank you for writing it.
As it is, right now I’m pretty much nowhere. I intend to get somewhere, to at least reach the point where I feel like I’m getting more back, in terms of the energy I receive as a result of my writing, than I put into it.

So, what am I doing wrong?
It sounds incredibly unromantic, but I think that a great deal of success as a writer depends on being consistent, reliable, giving people some sort of fixed, scheduled, reliable product. I need to do that more – here on the blog in particular. I do intend to return more often to ideas I’ve started to play with in the past.
Of course, as well as being reliable, there’s an incredible amount of room for creativity, wit, invention and subversion inside of that.
But it all starts with showing up.

3 thoughts on “The Neurosis of the Non-Fiction Writer”

  1. I know what you mean, actually. If you aren’t getting at least some kind of regular feedback for the things you write, you naturally start to question your own worth.

    I guess it comes down to nothing more than vanity, but it’s hard not to let it effect you.


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