The Familiar Ground of Self-Doubt

boat condoYou don’t have to be a writer to relate to doubt.

It’s one of the reasons I like this photo. Imagine what the guy/gal went through who pushed this project through. You want to build a what? Why would you waste your time on something like that?

Anyone who tries to do anything will come up against resistance. I remember being depressed when I learned it’s a principle of physics that the universe is running down. No wonder it was so hard cleaning the house. And I thought it was just having kids.

And whenever someone tries to accomplish something in the realm of the arts, it seems like this idea gets fed caffeine and goes on the craziest exponential growth curve possible–and beyond. Into infinity. Musicians, visual artists, performing artists, and writers all have no lack of people who are waiting to discourage them.

And to complicate this, children are encouraged in their forays into the arts (or at least they should be). But adults need to get critique to improve. And that can be maddening, because so much of this is a matter of opinion.

I love books that others despise and vice versa. There are certain elements of craft that don’t depend as much on genre or preference, and I’ve tried to blog about them. But after a certain point, what makes a good story is very much a matter of taste.

And yet, if you discard all critique, you won’t grow. So you have to listen to it with an open mind, but don’t let it erase your voice. Retain that which makes your writing unique.

Sifting criticism has got to be one of the single most difficult things, at least for me. The combination of trying to be receptive and yet hold onto my core story and voice is an exhausting piece of mental gymnastics, and I’m never quite certain I’ve pulled it off.

So how do you know when your book is ready to be sent out into the big, bad world? I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s no sage anywhere who will take me by the hand and mentor me, and even if they did, their answers might be wrong.

I spoke with a beta friend, and she asked me how I felt about my story. But my favorite story turned out to be the one that needed the most rewriting. I’m glad I did it because I like it better now, but I’m not sure I can trust my gut. But ultimately, that seems to be the route I’m going to have to go.

I can wait a while yet. That’s the one thing I’m hoping that’s missing from this equation. Time. Time to grow as a writer and decide my novels are as good as I can make them. With feedback and with everything I have to give them.

And not that I’m going to sit on my laurels or anything remotely like that. I work very hard at writing. I’ve got five novels that I’m cycling through, in various stages of revision. I killed over four thousand words today. (My early efforts were excessively detailed and wordy. But I believe in the underlying stories.)

No matter where your writing is now, it’s likely that you’ll find yourself in a similar place. Wondering if your story is worthwhile. Or if it is, if you did it justice. I’m hoping that giving it some time, so I can take a long look, will resolve my doubts.

But even if it doesn’t, I’m going to publish them anyway.

Keep writing and I will, too.

Avid writer and reader, especially of fantasy. Learning about social networking and always interested in honing my writing skills. Contact me at cathleentownsend.com.

Tagged with: , , , ,
Posted in Writing
2 comments on “The Familiar Ground of Self-Doubt
  1. I’m sorry to hear you doubt your gut! I can understand though. Sometimes I worry that what I think are great ideas and a good MS might not be. I’m in the “trying to get published” phase and it’s brutal. I want to keep working on books for this series but writing more of them, just to have them waiting on that first one to get picked up, seems foolish and then motivating myself to write something else entirely is difficult because it almost feels like doubting the possibility of getting the series out there.

    I think doubt grabs onto us at some point in writing, whether it’s in the process itself or the querying or the publishing. It’s good to go over your MS and get it as clean as you can, but there comes a point when you have to stop bouncing on the diving board and just jump– at least, that’s my opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re probably quite right. 🙂 Doubt seems to be part-and-parcel of the whole process. And maybe that’s a good thing, although it’s not always pleasant.

      My manuscripts are pretty clean, and I’m going through editing now. Chase is a fantastic editor, so that’s a lovely thing.

      I think because I’ve decided to self-pub instead of going trade, it’s taken away a mental prop. If I made it through the gatekeepers, I’d think I was good enough. Now I have to make that decision on my own. It’s surprising how much this has thrown me. *shrugs*

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: