under the weather

A cloud has settled down over so many of my writer friends these days.

I’m helpless and scared and very concerned about the doubt we writers experience. I’m talking about the doubt of others (“Why is it taking you so long to write your book? Are you still writing it? Have you published anywhere lately?” or worse, “Why would anyone want to be a writer? Why are you writing?”). I’m also talking about the more insidious self-doubt (“What the f*ck am I doing? Am I any good? Am I full of shit?” and um, etcetera, etcetera I doubt (oh a pun!) any writer will have a hard time imagining all the other phrases we shoot at ourselves).

It’s the self-doubt that makes me hit the delete key, the self-doubt that has me paralyzed in front of the screen for thirty minutes before I start typing each day. It never goes away. Sometimes I call on fantasies to deflect the fear and questioning.  I fake it till I make it.  Or more usefully, I say, “F*ck it.”  Man, I have done some amazing things under the auspice and spirit of “f*ck it.”

I’m so scared of self-doubt that I keep one foot out of writing at all times.  I keep a “day job” so that I feel like I have at least one thing in my life where I can invest some of my self esteem–so that all my eggs are not in the writing basket.  (“Hey, I wrote SHIT today, but at least um, my boss said I rocked at that project!”)  Maybe that’s wimping out.  But I’m not that hardcore a person. I’m so scared of self-doubt that I feel like I need to find a “cure” for it: for myself and for my friends.  I want to save all of us from this self-doubt, and create a world where writers are confident and happy and productive and sure.
Why am I so scared of self-doubt?  The vulnerability frightens me.  The power of self-doubt over my production freaks me out.  And maybe self-doubt even erases a bit of my voice in my writing.

Am I right?  No.

Self-doubt keeps us true (well, as my writing mentor said, “Self-doubt paired with a desire to write provides the writer with her best tool: a great bullshit detector.”).  There is a balance implied in that equation: your desire to write must always be present and in equal if not greater amount than your self-doubt.  (ugh, I just did math on my blog).

Now I am doubting this post.

Am I making any sense?  What am I accomplishing?  Am I making anyone feel better?  Am I feeling more enlightened?  Am I full of bullshit?  Is this full of bullshit?  How many grammatical errors have I made?  Bleah.

I guess self-doubt is just part of being a writer.  I can’t fight it.  I must ride with it.  And see it as a poignant, beautiful thing.  It is our heart, isn’t it?  It is all of our vulnerability as a writer and it informs our writing.  I think without it, our writing would not have soul.

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3 Comments

Filed under Abstract Thoughts, Writing

3 responses to “under the weather

  1. I’m afraid that you’re making wayyy too much sense. I totally hear you. I know exactly what you mean about the day job thing; these days I am *clinging* to my day job (which I love) for my identity and self esteem. Because the writer part is just feeling very… not there.

    Last night I was at my freewriting group. Our “leader” gave us a few optional prompts, and I took two and ran with them and wrote 3-4 pages of my newish novel. Everyone in the group said very great things about my words, which I had been feeling were truly sucky but they were like, WOW. I said, well, you told me to write about that stuff! And he said, “Next time I’m going to give you a prompt that says, ‘Finish your novel.'” It was sort of a joke, and sort of a compliment even, but also a hard and terrible truth, and it stung.

  2. I’ve been writing for more than 20 years and still feel crippling doubt sometimes. Maybe I’ve gotten better at dealing with it, but it doesn’t go away. Should we learn to love it?

  3. I suspect my self-doubt outweighs my desire to write – often. I’m afraid I don’t have an orginal thought to express. I worry about what other people think. I look for some type of creative escape in my own blog and now censor it since too many family members and friends read the damn thing. I want to get involved with some type of writing group by I feel like an outsider in this town. Or maybe those are handy doubts I use as excuses to avoid working on my stories. I don’t know and maybe I do know.

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