Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Living With Doubt

I had a super pompous (and uber-verbose) title for this post. Something that would seem at once both clever and wise with undercurrents of hidden depths.

I deleted it.

Because sometimes simple is best.

I'll be honest, though. Some days I don't know what's best. I look at my writing, and I wonder if maybe I'm delusional. Maybe I drank the Kool Aid at a writer's conference somewhere along the line and became convinced I had a great and shining gift when really all I had was a fleeting piece of inspiration--here one day, gone without so much as a by-your-leave the next. Maybe I'm not the real deal.

Or if I am, maybe I'm not enough of the real deal.

Doubt is a real and present companion to me as a writer. The good news is, I go months without feeling it. Months where I feverishly spill yet another idea onto the page. Months where the cold light of reality has yet to poke its unwelcome nose into my glorious story. Those are grand months.

But then, there are the months when instead of immersing myself into the telling of a new tale, I spend my time picking apart a story I already finished. Finding the flaws. Scouring every paragraph for any sign of weakness.

And I find weaknesses. Every time.

For me, finding the weaknesses isn't a surprise. I'm dedicated to the career I've chosen and that means I'm committed to honing my craft.

The surprise is the stealthy hit of doubt that sucker punches me in the stomach, whispers to me I'll never get it right, and settles onto my shoulder like it's lived there always. I hate doubt. If I'm not careful, I can let it steal my resolve, hijack my imagination, and strand me in a creative wasteland.

But I love doubt, too. Because doubt forces me to take another, deeper look at what I've done. It calls me to push myself harder to see what else I'm capable of doing. And it refuses to let me rest until I'm sure I've done my best.

Living with doubt is part of being a writer. Maybe its part of being human. It can either paralyze us or push us into action. Personally, I've always been a fan of action.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some doubts I need to go prove irrevocably wrong.


  1. I was talking to a friend lately about this in a round about way. Doubt is definitely a killer and a motivator. But I've always found it to be the good angel. It makes me check my ms one more time before I hit send. It becomes the killer when I let it keep me from hitting send when the ms is as ready as it can ever be.

    Anyway, great post. I understand.

  2. Wow, sometimes I really want to start a blog for a little fantasy writing. I bought the domain, signed up with Wordpress, wrote some things, but haven't published yet. Just too much doubt.

    Loved this post.

  3. Even when you're succeeding in publishing, everything takes a long time (giving plenty of opportunity for doubts to slither in). It's damn lucky for writers they're also curious, and can get swept up in the next project.

  4. I've read so many posts like this in the last couple of days. I wonder if there's something in the air (or the water, or the collective unconscious). In fact, I wrote a post like this myself the other day.

    I like yours better.

  5. Awesome CJ. I doubt there's a writer out there who'd read this post without nodding their head to your words.

    I really do strive to let my doubt push me into working harder, but there have been a lot of times when it's crippled me instead. Which is one of the main reasons why I LOVE the online writing community. Everyone is so supportive and when I need it most, the positiveness helps to bolster me back into pushing forward.

  6. Excellent post.. and so very true. It doesn't matter if you're a writer or some other professional, doubt can make you do a double-take when you least expect it - and the proof of character shows when you look those doubts in the face and thumb your nose at them. ..//Grae

  7. I second the "this must be going around" though. Yeesh. :D I was suffering from a case of doubts just yesterday.

    I got over it (or ignored it) by sitting back down and just dragging myself through the scene.

    Doing the same thing again today.


  8. Crystal - thanks. :)

    Melissa - Yes, it's best use it as a motivator and recognize when it starts paralyzing you. Some days it can go either way! :)

    Kelley - Go start that blog, come back here, and give me the link. I'll cheer for you!

    Ann Marie - Isn't that the truth?

    Rebecca - It goes hand in hand with creating intensely personal art and then trotting it out for public consumption, doesn't it?

    Sara - Yes, the online writing community can be an awesome boost when you need it most. :)

    Grae - Exactly.

    Katy - You have one of the strongest writing work ethics I've ever seen. :) And you rock.

  9. I feel that way every day! Good for you for persevering, you can be my inspiration!


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