Friday, November 08, 2013

Doubt 2.0

“Our doubts are traitors,
and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.”  Shakespeare

“Doubt … is an illness that comes from knowledge and leads to madness.” 
 Gustave Flaubert, Memoirs of a Madman

It is strange that when certain signs come together to exclaim that we are on the right track and so very close to victory, some of us choose the perverse path to self-doubt instead of celebration and momentum. That is all me. Then again, I have been so close to the carrot that I could taste every molecule, and then it still slipped away from me, leaving me hungry and despondent. The novel that I eventually signed with my agent first languished with a "dream" editor for a year before it was rejected, then made a short run of submissions only to be stuck in the drawer as a backup for the next "big thing." I had thought I was on my way, than <> it was gone.

Three years later, here I stand with the SCBWI Work-in-Progress Grant in hand, an incredible Highlights Foundation workshop under my belt, fabulous feedback and support from my Montreat Gals, and I'm terrified I'm just a fraud. Or that I will screw up what I started. Is this a common disease among writers? 

I think the answer is probably "yes." (Either way, I'll take comfort in the possibility that I'm not alone.)

Perhaps my biggest problem isn't doubt, but the insane pursuit of perfection. I tend to have a hard time turning off the internal editor as I write. The upside is that when I decided to send in my WIP for the grant competition, it was already in decent shape (though far from perfect). The down side is that it takes me FOREVER to get the whole draft done and I my bleed a million words for ever ten that end up on the page.  I get stuck in the mire of research and plot and character perfection that sometimes brings the whole process to a halt. 

I'll never stop writing, no matter how many tumbles I take down the rejection hole. There are days, however, when I want to run screaming from the planet and say "I quit!" The pressure to prove myself has always haunted me. Whether that comes my tumultuous childhood or it's in my DNA, I couldn't say. I just know that I learn to let myself off the hook a little. So, here is my pledge:

I solemnly vow to allow myself to thoroughly suck it up, 
  •  That I will bind my internal editor with twine and throw her in a dark corner until I have pounded out a full draft, 
  • That I may delete entire chapters when I'm done and love it, 
  • That I will have faith that I can write a beautiful, creepy, haunting scene and back it up with action,
  • That I will not judge myself (at least until I've done at least 3 major revisions),
  • That I will not think about time or feel pressured to beat the rush (whatever that is),
  • That I will love my suckage and call myself WRITER.

In the spirit of NaNoWriMo, I'm off to crank up the word kind and embrace the craptastic first draft experience as I never have before.


  1. You can beat the self-doubt monster! Seems to me you're already half-way there! =) And thx, I need these kinds of reminders all to often too.

  2. I get this. I've slipped into tweaking and perfecting as I go instead of just moving forward. Here's to a day of pounding the keys and embracing suckage!

  3. Doubt, like guilt, had the potential to make us better persons and better artists. But it often gets out of bounds and becomes the destroyer. I like Nancy Lamb's calling it The Spoiler and talking back to her spoiler just as you are doing here.
    Meanwhile, I'll love your suckage for you until you are ready to give it a full squeezey hug, Writer.

  4. Wow, I write just like you, and I've yet to be able to start writing at anything approaching NaNo speeds. Wishing you all the best!

  5. Congrats on the SCBWI grant! I went out for that too, and didn't get it - and it makes me super happy to know that you did! It's so easy for us to give more weight to doubts and set backs than to our achievements. I do that constantly and it's criminally unfair. It's also very common for writers. I think your vow is basically a pact with your internal editor to just give you a fair shake. Yours, like mine, is probably really unreasonable. So, I use duct tape instead of twine - but whatever works! Good Luck!

  6. I can totally identify with what you're feeling.....except the part about the grant. Obviously SOMEONE has faith in no, you're not a fraud.... just stumbling along on the long journey. Hope you reach your preferred destination really soon!!!


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