Doubt

It’s hard for me to think of something to write about today — beyond what is looming directly in front of me. Self doubt.

Generally I don’t give in to much of this. In my life I’ve been pretty lucky. I’ve gotten most of what I want in life — but I know that while luck has played some role, I’ve been responsible for creating the situations in which I came out on top. I think that my motto for life has always been “Things Work Out” — mostly because I make them work out or make myself find a way to accept the way that they have worked out on their own. I’m not sitting in a corner office on Madison Avenue, as I thought I might be one day, and I’m glad for it. I am not the world’s best mom…and in some ways I’m glad for that, too.

But as I edit the second draft of my first “real” attempt at a novel, I’m not sure where I stand. When you spend so much time alone with your words, it’s hard to see anymore if they’re any good. The first draft was easy because I didn’t expect much of myself. And now I’ve got this thing — this story on paper, and I have to ask myself, “is it compelling? how’s the pacing? are the characters believable, likeable, relatable?” “will anyone care about this?” “is it actually any GOOD?” The only thing I know for sure is that most of the quotation marks and periods will be in the right place since I have spent my life editing the work of others.

And then I meet other writers on Twitter who I want to see as colleagues or at least as other travelers on the same path — just maybe a bit farther along… I want to see myself as being in the same category as them. I want to think that I’m a great writer, I just haven’t put myself out there quite yet to be judged so. And I find that I’m afraid. I’m afraid that maybe I’m just pretending, maybe I think I can be a writer like Adrian Walker or E.M. Tippetts (new authors I’ve discovered recently who are kicking ass), but when I really try, the world will snort arrogantly because it sees clearly what I cannot. That I’m a dilettante (which, by the way, is the worst insult I could think to give someone like me).

I’m not looking for anyone to say, “hey, buck up little buckaroo!” I can say that to myself. I’m not looking for an established writer to say “we all have those thoughts sometimes” (though that would be nice — but I know that it’s true.) I guess I just wanted to say it. Maybe someone in the same place with their work will find some comfort in knowing that they are not alone.

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Writing the Fear…

I’ve often read that if a writer is searching for a topic or subject to inspire her, she should reach toward her deepest fears, give voice to the unspeakable. I’ve thought about that a lot. And I wonder if it’s wise.

Most of my deepest fears revolve around my children. I am not a superstitious person, but even I feel that writing down the deepest fear I feel might in some way jinx me, make it come true. And even if that is impossible, this idea so frightens me, pushes me so close to deep, high-pitched irrationality that I won’t risk it. But you probably know what I’m getting at, especially if you are a parent. I’ve got some others, too… things that are just little flitting thoughts or passing feelings that I grasp on to that make me think, “what if I really felt that way all the time? What if I acted on it?”

I have no doubt that building a fiction around the ideas that most frighten me would probably draw out some passion, maybe charge the words with a bit more than my usual wattage. But would it be worth giving voice to the fear?

I also worry about the long term repercussions… “Mom, why did you write that? Was it about me?” There is always an element of truth in every fiction, isn’t there? Some spark of reality that sends the story unraveling in its own fanciful direction. Would it be right to do that to my children? To use them as fodder for fiction? Especially fiction that I fear would be dark and gritty?

What do you think? Have you written from fear? Can you name any well known works that might have come from such a place?