Why are all writers paranoid?


I HAVE known authors.

I have worked with them.

I have met them at writer’s conferences.

We’ve discussed our books together at meetings, on airplanes, at bars, in libraries, and online.

And I have come to one conclusion

Writers all suffer from the same malady.

It’s universal.

Writers are paranoid.

The great.

The small.

The polished.

The beginners.

It doesn’t matter.

I saw it again last weekend at the Puerto Vallarta’s Writer’s Conference.

Writers are exited when they wake up in the morning.

They are full of energy when they reach the library where the conference is taking place.

They are beaming as they walk from their cars.

Then they enter, and the room appears to be dark and foreboding.

It’s not but they think it is.

They look around them.

And the smile fades.

They are suddenly convinced of one thing for certain.

Everyone in the room has written more books than they have.

No doubt about it.

Everyone in the room is a better writer than they are.

They are convinced of it.

So why, they wonder, did they really come?

They start to turn and leave.

But someone sees them.

Someone waves.

It’s too late.

They’ve been found.

It’s too late to run from the library and find peace in the lonely confines of loneliness, which is where most writers choose to live.

Their bodies stiffen.

They have written a book.

Or was it two?

They have sold a book before?

Maybe they sold two.

Does that make them a writer?

No, they think.

That makes them a nuisance.

That’s a foolish thought to have, I tell them

It borders on being crazy, or at lest stupid.

Never have so many been so wrong.

Writers are blessed with ideas.

Writers have stories.

Writers have taken the time to put those stories on the pages of a book or on the screen of a Kindle.

They wrote.

They published.

They stuck it out.

They didn’t quit when writers block slapped the back of their heads like a piece of wood roughly the size of a writer’s block.

They have a gift.

Whether an author has one book or a hundred books, he or she possess a burning desire to do better, to write better, to tell better stories.

That’s why they’re here.

I do my best to make them feel welcome, feel at home, feel as though they belong.

They truly do belong.

There would be no conference without them.

And then it’s my turn to speak, to give a workshop about writing novels.

I walk to the podium at the front of the room.

I am handed a microphone.

I look at the faces that occupy a room full of writers.

They want to learn.

They are desperate to learn.

They want someone to teach them.

They want a nugget or two of wisdom that will transform them from John Appleseed to John Grisham.

And I only have one thought on my mind.

It’s bouncing around inside my head like a ball full of nerves.

I gaze from face to face.

It’s obvious.

I can’t escape it.

Everyone in the room is a better writer than I am.

So why am I here?

What can I tell them that they don’t already know?

I have no idea.

I only know one thing beyond a shadow of doubt.

I’m a writer.

And all writers are paranoid.

 Most of my characters are paranoid, too.


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  • Caleb Pirtle

    I believe that the paranoia we feel is what drives us to be better writers than we ever expected to be. We may not make it. But we keep trying one word at a time.

  • Roger Summers

    What? Why are you out to get me, Caleb?

    • Caleb Pirtle

      I only want to steal your words, Roger.

  • jack43

    It isn’t paranoia if it’s real

    • Caleb Pirtle

      Others are paranoid, Jack. Those little suckers out to get you.

  • Darlene Jones

    If we really were paranoid, we’d give up, but we don’t so I’m not convinced we’re all paranoid.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      Of course, Darlene, I think paranoia is the reason I don’t give up. Keep working. Keep writing. And someday I’ll be as good as everyone else.

  • You’re in Puerto Vallarta? I’m so envious!

    • Caleb Pirtle

      It was a great place to be, Alicia, especially leaving Dallas with seven inches of snow on the ground.

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