Clawing out of the darkness – writerly self-doubt

I’m excited to show you all the cover for A Rare Vintage in just five short days… And to release the book at the end of this month. I really like this book. It was fun. It kind of birthed itself and just happened.

And it doesn’t always go that way.

I’ve been struggling on the other project I’m working on. The publication date got pushed back indefinitely due to the struggle. And now that the ball is back in my court and a new publication date has been very tentatively set and I have a sort of firm deadline for getting my revision to my editor… I am feeling powerless at the time when I should be feeling most powerful. It’s all up to me now, right? Here’s my chance to fix it all.

I feel like I’ve been run over by a truck carrying a whole load of self-loathing, fear and doubt in one of those big cement mixer things. I feel like it pulled up in front of my house and set up that little ramp that they pour the cement through so that it ran right through the front window and into the room where I write. And I got stuck. And even though I’m out walking around and living my life, I’m actually stuck there, mired in the foul-smelling crap that got dumped all over me.

I don’t know if I can write what they want. I don’t know if it will be what I want. I know this is a business. And I love the business of writing as much as I love the art and craft of it. But I’ve been reading a lot and thinking about the things that I’m reading differently than I used to. I’ve been thinking things like, “how did he/she do that?” “how do they keep all those plot lines distinct and marching forward with just the perfect amount of tension?” “how did they show that perfect character journey without me even noticing?” “how did they build that suspense?” And to answer the questions, I read craft books. And they only serve to remind me how very difficult it is to actually DO all of those things. And do them well. And who the hell am I to think that I can do that?

Maybe this type of thinking doesn’t have a place on this blog… I’m building an author platform, right? Speaking to potential readers, right?

But maybe it’s okay — in case I ever do succeed — to tell them (you?) that it’s hard. And that it’s scary.

And so I will continue getting up early and battling with the keyboard. And maybe when I turn this draft in, they’ll shake their heads and say, “never mind. we didn’t think you could do it. it’s okay.”

Or maybe it will be okay.

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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.