Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.
- Napoleon

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Dealing with Self-Doubt

Self-doubt (SD) can be a killer. It stops us from asking that cute guy or girl to dance. It keeps us from applying for jobs. If it hits us at the wrong moment, we could make a horrible decision that could effect us for the rest of our lives. (Like the time my best friend pulled out of an intersection in front of my brother and hit the brake instead of the gas. They both made it out okay, but it could've been so much worse.)

In writing, SD isn't so drastic, but it can be the one thing that keeps a person from finishing a book. Or it could be the thing that makes a book so-so instead of amazing. I know it's a factor in whether we get the words out, or we spend our writing time editing and re-editing.

Should I move the story down this path or that one? Is this premise really working, or do I need to re-write the whole damn thing? Should the MC be gutsy and a little butch - which could turn some people off - or should she be sweetness and light, and as such unable to do the things the story requires?

Every decision we make both on the page and off can be turned in another direction by SD. So how does one deal with it?

Personally, I try to shove it into a box and push the box into the back of my head where it won't bother me. It doesn't always work, and sometimes SD leaks out to poison my ability to write, but most of the time I'm safe with it back there.

Of course, on occasion SD can be your subconscious telling you something. Perhaps the scene really doesn't work in it's current incarnation. Maybe your heroine is too butch, or your hero is too wimpy. Take note of the things it's telling you and move on. Do not let the hint of suspicion rule your writing. Make actual physical notes of its concerns for later editing. If the problem is bad enough, go back and fix it, but don't let it stop you from reaching your goals.

I used to let SD run the show. (With my writing anyway, and it used to play way too big a part in the rest of my life, too.) That's part of the reason Spectacle took me so damn long to write. On the other hand, when I wrote Blink I knew something was wrong with the middle the whole time I was writing it. And after I finished the book, I went back and rewrote like 6 chapters. If I had waited until I knew what the problem was with the middle, Blink probably still wouldn't be finished. If I let SD take the reins, I wouldn't have finished the book, and got the flash of insight on how to fix the middle. I needed to see the end to know where the problem lay.

If you're a plotter, you probably don't experience this problem so much. You have the whole story laid out before you start, and presumably have confidence in the plot lines you've crafted. I guess SD could still come up and slap you while you're plotting. I wouldn't know. (If you're a plotter and SD has caught you mid-plot, tell me about it in the comments.)

I guess what I'm trying to say is this: If you really want to succeed at this writing thing (and by succeed, I mean complete a book you can be proud of), then you need to stop doubting your abilities. You need to grab some measure of self-confidence and kick your old nemesis to the curb. In the end, that's the only way to really deal with it. At least, that's how I managed to get out from under the clutches of SD.

Does SD factor into your life? What do you do when it's got you? Share some tips and tricks for dealing with SD in the comments.

*Don't worry. I'm not currently in the grips of SD. Yes, I think the majority of my WIP stinks on ice, but I also know it can be fixed, so I'm not letting it stop me.

1 comment:

Kristen Painter said...

I don't doubt my abilities to write. I know I'm a good writer. What I doubt is the industry's ability to see my genius. ;o)