I’ve come to learn writing often becomes an exercise in ‘discovering doubt.’ Yes, many times I write with confidence, although I recognize over the years, much of my confidence fell misplaced. For instance, I considered, once upon a time, critique groups as massively valuable. Now, I downgrade them to marginally helpful as long as you wait until your first draft leaves your mind for paper or digital scripture. Too often, I discovered, critique groups serve only as ego strokes for amateurs.
Lest I digress on my ‘critique group rant,’ I will move forward. Staring at a writing challenge, sometimes I feel intimidated. For instance, there’s a novel that’s been stirring in my mind and heart for decades and I am lining it out for ‘production.’ I’ve written pieces of it so far, but nothing too major. My intimidation comes from nearly thirty years of thinking of this book and building it up as some sort of magnum opus. The book is sci-fi as well, something I’ve always craved to write, but never felt competent enough to do so. I do not wish to let the masters, (in my mind, Bradbury, Assimov, and Heinlein) down.
Not that I am saying I write as well as they, but that I desire to write as well as they. My disappointment would be huge if this book came across poorly. My doubt comes in at the point of confidence. Do I have the chops to write it? Will I pull off the enormity of what I wish to create? Do I have what it takes to bring this novel into the world or will I crumble and fail?
I realize many folk who’ve taken my writing workshop will be saying at this point, “Dude, that’s just the “Judge” moving in and robbing you of your motivation and creativity. You taught us that from day one!
Yes, I realize the Judge is there, ever stern, ever vigilant, ever prepared to condemn my writing to novel hell. As anyone knows who’s been through this numerous times, that stupid internal Judge never truly goes away. He will rise up often in your life, not just your writing, and will almost always pronounce doom on your creative ideas.
I look at my novel, lined out in index cards on my wall, and I know it will morph dramatically from what is up there right now. The monumental task of whipping it into shape alone becomes a daunting picture. I can write the damned thing, but the rewrite and edit will be merciless. Yep, I’m inviting that internal, infernal Critic into the picture.
Crazy how the very things I help other writers overcome, continue to haunt me as a writer. The point of all this? I know if I experience these issues, many other writers suffer the same siege on their work. We do become our worst enemy. I tell you true, study what the “greats” say about the writing process, and you will find the same issues you struggle with. (I do realize I ended that last sentence with a preposition…).
The fact many if not most of the great writers throughout history struggled with the same issues as you and I should lift our hope. Our motivation should increase. Our passion become less restrained. Our inspiration soar. For if they, indeed, suffered the same internal maladies as we do, what stops us? We should forge forward in hope and expectation. We should damn the dangling participles and full speed ahead!
Yes, this will be my answer to all the internal goings on. Step into the writing, get this thing out of me, then take the long, analytical look at what I create and see what may be done with it. In the end, we either never write it…or we do. I always wish to fall on the “do” side of that inevitability. Why not? At least you gave it your best shot, right? At least the book/story/whatever did not go to the grave with you. Even if no one ever reads it, you will be able to say to yourself, “I did it.” This, fortunately, is something most writers may hang their favorite writing pen on. Our badge of courage. Our passion.
Discovering doubt falls out as simply another exercise of writing. Flexing your confidence muscles and overcoming your own private doubts will not happen without effort, recognition, and a willingness to push forward. No one else can write what is in my mind. Even if I struggle to get it out myself, at least I know I have launched that part of me into the world. I can do this. In fact, I will do this. My hope is that whenever you run into these types of struggles, you push through as well. Don’t rob the world of your voice. And please, discover doubt, find it to be just another phantom who attempts to thwart your dream. Overcome the doubt, write your book.