“I’m running scared today!” Tail tucked between my legs, (pretty picture that is) and whimpering, as I run the other way. Running into an empty place with nothing but my self-doubt intact. Of course THAT would remain intact! Why wouldn’t it? The negative always outweighs the positive, or at least seems to momentarily. I don’t mind telling you, “I’m scared shitless!”
Doubt: Do I have what it takes to be a writer?
Doubt: Do I have the chops to be a writer?
Doubt: Do I have the talent to be a writer?
Doubt: Do I have the stamina to get through an entire novel?
Doubt: Do I have the courage to bulldoze (edit) my story?
Doubt: Can I bring my story together?
Doubt: What if everybody hates it?
Doubt: What if I hate it when it’s finished?
Doubt: What about my characters? Are they real? Lovable? Hate-able? Detestable?
Doubt: Can I tie up all the story lines?
Doubt: Is my plot good enough, thick enough, entertaining enough? (That’s three, isn’t it?)
Doubt: How do I get from a writer to an Author?
Doubt: What if that never happens? Is there a difference?
Doubt, doubt, doubt. Keep looking at that word, doubt. Doesn’t it look weird after a while?
Don’t preach. I know it’s temporary, but I also know this process of writing is a journey; for good or ill, there’s a definite learning curve, and that never ceases to exist. We’re always learning our craft, aren’t we? I hear it all the time. From friends, family, and my own self-doubting (well, at least for a few days) kind of mind! And I’ll tell you this, “It sucks, big time!” I’ve got lots of doubts, and no real answers, and that stinks even more! Would you understand me if I said, I’m fed up with myself? It’s too true. Fed up with myself! Fed up with my doubts. Fed up with my lack of faith. Damn. What’s wrong with me? Is this even normal? My head’s spinning!
I’ve had a busy, BUSY, BUSY last five days! The days and nights running together, and doing a little of this, and a whole lot of that, during the daytime, and then falling into bed with exhaustion in the evenings. I haven’t been able to spare a moment for my debut novel, which in itself, really stink-o’s, but, what stinks even more? After having been away from my book for the last five days, not having had ANY time to write, but instead forming in my mind what I want to put down; instead of looking forward to getting back to my book, and writing down all those things I’ve been thinking about writing for the last five days, self (damn) -doubt has crept in!!!
Are you kidding me? I’ve been thinking about writing, writing, and more writing for five, count em’, one, two, three, four, FIVE days! I knew what it was I wanted to show you in my story. I heard the conversations in my head that my characters were having. Hell, I could even tell you where they were, and what they were wearing! Whether it was cold outside, or snowing, or who had a pimple on their nose, or a cold sore on their lip! All these things ran through my thoughts as I prepared for my Community’s yard sale. As I worked throughout the day of the yard sale. As I packed up afterward, and finally, blessedly, went for something to eat. I heard the voices of my characters talking as I fell into bed, exhausted, on those nights! Constantly having conversations with them about why they reacted the way they did to a certain situation, and so on. (No, I’m not crazy. I’m a writer. Don’t we all do that? Or do we? Hmm, maybe… .) Am I a weirdo for thinking these things? So, whatever.
Anyway, I was with my characters the last five days; in my head at least, then this morning, I wake to a rainy, miserable day, and I say to myself, “Self? This is good! It’s good that’s it’s raining and pathetically dreary outside. I can hunker down, and write the day away!”
“Did that happen to happen?” You’re asking me, a knowing look in your eyes, and a smile just gracing the corner of your mouth.
You shake your head yes.
“No,” I respond miserably. “It didn’t,” and I hang my head in shame.
“Why?” You’re asking me, shaking your head side to side, and biting your lip, one eyebrow slightly raised with your question.
I hang my head further down. “Because I kept getting interrupted, and I couldn’t make the interruptions stop.” I peek ever so timidly at you, hoping for your understanding, then I add, “The real truth of it is,” I admit sheepishly, as my body slumps, “I’m doubting myself, and I can’t make it stop.” My face turning red with shame. “I’m running away from my writing this week, and I don’t know why. I don’t know why I’m doubting myself? I can’t seem to make it stop.”
So there! You have the truth now. I was pondering what in God’s name caused such self-doubt? And, finally, after hitting my writers’ emotional rock-bottom, (whatever the hell that is?), I have the answer.
You see, back on Thursday of last week, I was struggling with a particularly difficult piece of text; and just so you’ll know before you ask, I’m still there, still stuck in that spot. I’m not happy about that, but it is what it is. I knew what I wanted the text to show you in that particular scene, and, I knew how I wanted it to read, but something wasn’t working for me in the body of it. It’s conversation, but also, there’s a very fast-moving scene, and a very slow scene all mixed together in this crazy story of mine, but somehow, it just didn’t sit well with me. So, I did what I always do in those situations. I went to a friend, or two!
Friend One read it as a reader, understood what I wanted to convey, but in the end, was confused at the structure.
Friend Two, who is a Writer, read it as a Writer, and had the exact same results as Friend One, and they both gave very gentle critiques, knowing that I, being a newish Writer, am fragile at this stage.
Well, I agreed with both friends, having known there was something off with the structure, but not really knowing how to correct it. And that’s when it happened. I spiraled into a whirlpool of self-doubt! Down and down I sank, gurgling, and spiraling deeper into the depths of uncertainty, and trying to hold on to something, (some faith in myself) for dear life, holding my breath while waiting for the other shoe (the shoe of despair) to fall. I continued down into the watery abyss of self-doubt, swam around in it, tormenting myself over it, tried to come up for air, and just couldn’t break the surface of my thinking. And so, I did what I always do, and stepped away. Stepped away from everything, all forms of writing. I closed myself off from talking to my characters, and thinking about my story, and making decisions about where I wanted to head next, I just stopped. Ran away like a coward! After all, if I couldn’t muster enough belief in myself, and my talent and ability as a writer while I was creating my characters and their lives, how was anyone ever going to believe that my characters are real? Self-doubt. I didn’t have enough faith in myself, to have enough faith in my talent as a writer, and so, I doubted that anyone else could have faith in me either.
I thought it might have been the critiques from my two friends that caused the spiraling of self-doubt, though I didn’t tell either one about the issue, because I didn’t want either of them assuming the responsibility. In the end, I know it’s MY responsibility to know my craft, so I kept my big bazoo shut, and suffered in silence. Then, last night, I decided to go and pay a visit to my therapists! That would be my FaNtAsTiC Mom, and my equally FaNtAsTiC Auntie! We watched some television, and then they shut it off and wanted to talk. “Uh-oh,” I thought to myself, “what do I talk about? I can’t tell them about what I’m going through!” I didn’t want them to be disappointed in me too. I was feeling enough of that on my own! We sat in silence for a bit, then they started asking me questions about how I’m doing, and this or that, about how my novel’s coming along, and before I knew it happened, I was spilling my guts out to them about what I’ve been going through! It sucked to have to admit to them, that I thought I sucked as a writer, but there you have it, that’s what I thought!
While we were talking, those two family members did what families do, trying to buck me up, be supportive, talk-up my writing skills, and so on. Of course, I didn’t believe them. How could I? I was too busy wallowing, but I wasn’t looking for compliments, I was searching for what sent me down the spiral to begin with!
You want to know what I found out? During our discussion, I was going back through last Thursday, and the events that happened, starting with my two friends’ gentle critiques. But it still didn’t resonate with me that, that’s where the issue started. And then I remembered, I had read someone’s blog post. I don’t remember whose it was, but I can tell you, it was a Christian Writer, who was talking about writing clean stories. No sex, no swearing, no graphic death scenes, and I really enjoyed the article too! But having said that, I now know, THAT’S where I veered off into an oblivion filled with self-doubt! You may be wondering why?
I KNOW without a doubt that I’m a Christian! I haven’t any doubts, or regrets about that! I KNOW where my personal beliefs lie, but this isn’t an issue about my personal belief system, it’s about why that article rocked my world! And, not in a good way. You see, even though I AM a Christian, well, a Catholic Christian, to be succinct, I’ve had a very hard go at life when I was a child and young adult, and I can hear you now. “Who hasn’t?” True. But, I would ask you to read my earliest blog posts if you’re curious, and maybe you’ll understand what I’m about to tell you. “I’m a bit, rough around the edges.” What I mean by that is, I don’t exactly behave like I thought a Christian should behave. DO NOT take that the wrong way either! I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that, but usually when someone tells you they’re a Christian, don’t you expect a certain kind of behavior? Like no drinking, or swearing, or vulgarity, and clean books with no raucous sex, or graphic death scenes in it? I’m not excusing myself from responsibility because of my past, but I’m VERY rough around the edges! Very. Don’t get me wrong, I can certainly act like a lady, and I’m a very decent person, but my books are gritty. I’m gritty in certain circumstances. My stories have vulgarity, sex and other traits many human beings exude in them. Period. I’m not saying my debut novel is laced with the ‘F’ bomb, but it IS in there along with other stuff too! I didn’t slather my book with sexual situations, but the ones that are in there are graphic. And that, my Dear Reader, was my issue to the root! If I’m Christian, how can I write those things?
Here’s what I’m trying to say. I did the, go to Church every Sunday routine. I quit swearing, and drinking, and going out dancing, and I dressed like I thought a Christian woman should dress. (Stop screaming in your head! I’m not bashing here!) You know what I found out through all of that? It was just not the real deal, the real me. For me, it was a ‘facade.’ I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that, I just knew it wasn’t me! So, while I love God with all my heart, and accept my Savior, I can only be who He made me to be! I know that God made me to be who I am, with all of my flaws, and when I’m pretending to be what I thought a good Christian woman should be like, God knew and knows, I’m really swearing in my head, and He knows that I’m writing horror novels and supernatural novels, and guess what? If you’re a believer, you know you can’t hide from that; from Him. He, God, I’m convinced to the core of my being, gave me this gift! Get that? Gave me this gift I have! Do I write Christian Fiction? Um, no. Why? Because my books come from the nightmares I have, and I’m not dreaming Christian Fiction. I suppose we could debate where those nightmares come from, but, let’s not okay? I’m okay that I’m having them, so they shouldn’t bother you either, because regardless of your thoughts on that, I’m glad I have those nightmares! It creates great, in your face, KAPOW novels, so I say, keep ’em coming!
Anyway, I guess this post is about the age-old conflict between good vs. evil. The only shading being that I was thinking if I’m a good Christian, why do I write such off-putting (in a good way) books? How can I put my readers through the disturbing scenes that I do? And it all boiled down to, I know that I am a believer, I just don’t write Christian Fiction, I write horror, and the supernatural, and then there is the humorous too! Nothing more. Just because I’m writing a novel about a Witch’s Coven, does not in any way mean that I want to be a Witch! I’m creating, and that’s all it is.
Since last Thursday when I read that article, every time I remotely tried to work in my book, and finish that particular chapter, I realized that I was monitoring my speech in the text, which only frustrated me more, and sent me into a deeper spiral of self-doubt. Last night, my therapists, my Mom and my Aunt, with the latter being an Artist, and who spoke to me in terms of Artistry, said that I was painting inside the lines when, who I really am, and how I really write, is outside of the box, in CAPITALS! And, for me, THAT’S the bottom line! My thinking was narrowed to the however many stinking corners of a box, and I cannot, in no way, ever, create within the confines of a box, or as I prefer to call it, a mental cell! So, no more painting within the lines, and thanks to those two wonderful ladies, I’m exploding with bursts of brilliant colors, or to put it in Writers’ terms, I’m gonna splatter my colorful words all over the damn page, cause I’m Just Me…