Self-Doubt & the Artist

When did Tommy Tutone know they were a one hit wonder? (My apologies to those who know multiple Tommy Tutone songs and feel this label has been misapplied.) Much of the audience for my books will be too young to remember Tommy Tutone or “Jenny,” but for those who do, you know as I do that a quarter of a century ago, the number 8675309 was the most famous phone number in the world, and woe to anyone unfortunate enough to have it.

Did they sit in their recording studio, champagne in hand, imagining great vistas of success opening up for them in the future. Did they envision a string of hits riding up the charts until they were established as legends of rock and roll? And if they did, at one point did it dawn on them that the pinnacle of their greatness lay not ahead, but behind, receding somewhere in the rearview mirror?

If I’m honest about the last few months, I will admit that for the first time in a while, seeds of self-doubt about my own writing future have begun to creep in and take root in my mind. As these things go, The Binding of the Blade was not nearly as successful in book terms as “Jenny” was in music terms, so the comparison is perhaps, not very apt, but if getting into print is somewhat analogous to a song getting onto the radio, then maybe there’s a shred of sense in the reference. At any rate, the question is similar, do bigger, greater things lie ahead, or have I already reached the peak of my particular mountain, or hill in my case, and am I descending the other side even though I don’t know it?

Now some will say this is silly, after all, All My Holy Mountain just released two months ago. It must be far to early to be wondering if my writing career is over. And yet, I would remind those people that I finished writing All My Holy Mountain two years ago. Since then, I have written a crime novel, started two other novels and one non-fiction project, and none of the four are under contract. So, I find myself more than two years removed from my last submission of a manuscript for publication with part or all of 4 books on hand and at present, nothing to show for it and no imminent prospects either.

At this point, part of me begins to protest that all is not quite this dark. It is true, after all, that when my three year term with my former agent concluded last month, I was able to find a new agent in the industry who is well respected, and surely that suggests it is too early to be contemplating my writing obituary. At the same time, though my new agent was very positive when we first met about some of my ideas and past work, I await the far more important pronouncement of approval for the proposals and writing samples I’ve sent of the actual books. It could well be that upon closer examination, my execution of those ideas isn’t something he finds as encouraging as the concepts themselves. And what then? What if when push comes to shove the works themselves don’t have that certain something that would grab an editor and inspire them to invest in that book and ultimately in me? Will I find myself, like Tommy Tutone, going on with life, answering the occasional email from people who ten, twenty years after the fact have just discovered a dusty copy of Beyond the Summerland and are asking “where is he now?”

Now I implore you, post no comments assuring me of either present or future greatness. If you’re reading this post, you’re probably already a fan of my work – which I appreciate – but continued opportunity to write is not really up to you or to me. We don’t own a publishing house. I’ve written this, not to solicit encouraging comments, as I have received plenty of those already, but as an honest accounting of where I find myself these days. And perhaps also, to suggest to all the would-be-authors out there, you have to hold onto your own dream and believe in your own story. This doesn’t mean that when people who know what they’re talking about, like editors and agents, tell you that you’re not ready or the project isn’t ready, that you ignore them, it means that you’re going to need perseverance as well as talent if you’re going to make it in this world.

You and I have more in common than you might think. While I currently have books in print, you and I have exactly the same number of unpublished books under contract – zero. In fact, for all either of us knows, you may go on to publish far more works and more successful works than me. I may be descending from my zenith while you rise from your nadir. Who can say?

So if you ask me, “Are you resting on a bench during your ascent up the mountain toward publishing success & grandeur, or are you sitting on the chairlift taking a ride back down the other side, waving good-bye to the vistas you have only just come to see and enjoy?” then I’d have to say my answer depends on the day you ask, because honestly, I just don’t know.

7 thoughts on “Self-Doubt & the Artist

  • This may be a rather obvious and cliche followup question, but I think it’s important for established or would-be writers alike to ask themselves from time to time: even if you knew that you weren’t going to sell another book, would you still write?

  • I would definitely continue writing, even if there was no hope of being published, ever. I do it more because it’s fun than because it might be published.


  • Thank you, Mr. Graham, for being honest and sharing this with your readers. Not quite sure what else to say, except…well, I dunno. But thank you anyway, somehow this just means alot coming from an author I already know and respect.

  • I remember a friend of mine once descibing a 5 book series book and how he was going to write it and be the next Tolkien! He wrote those books and they’re published across the world and are influencing many peoples thoughts and actions as the message woven in the texts are absorbed. I have dreams that I don’t reach and trusting the Lord with my future is sometimes harder when I don’t see the results immediately. I will ask the Lord for encourgement and clarity for you and your future. God Bless you B.Y.

  • LB, may the Lord be a Lamp to your feet and a
    light unto your path.

    Remember too that you have lots of BOTB fans
    who are rooting for you!

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