Tag Archives: self doubt

I Should Probably Just Quit

Every now and then I get to thinking (as many writers do, maybe?) …

Man, I dunno if I’m cut out for this.

It’s just so hard… to find the time in the day, to make the words come, to face the editing monster, to spend time thinking on all these ideas…

Life would be a lot easier if I just gave it up. Just quit worrying about writing, stop stressing about my stories, give up grinding over grammar (okay, that one was a stretch. I’m a former English teacher, grammar is in my blood.)

And that’s not Writer’s Block talking, or laziness, or any other cop out. That’s 100% true. I have a full-time job, I like getting up early in the morning to run, I like having weekends to hang with the fam, and oh yeah, there’s my whole extracurricular program at the school, too…. life would be easier if I weren’t trying to write stories too.

I entertain these thoughts.

But then I think of the stories I’m in the middle of, of leaving them unfinished. (Not even unread by an audience’s eyes, but just “unfinished by me”.) And I’m appalled. To not polish them up and get them ready to leave the nest (whether they ever do or not)? Seems like a crime against humanity … a crime against all the time and work and strife I’ve put into them.

And I think of the ideas I’ve had for stories I haven’t told yet…. stories that may come to nothing, that may never have their first word written, that may start with tons of gusto and then never go anywhere. And I can’t handle that thought either, the thought of never bringing these stories into the world, half-formed and imperfect as they no doubt would be.

In short, I can’t picture a life when I’m not writing or creating something, no matter how hard it is and no matter how much I might rather live that way.

Writing has become as natural and necessary as sustenance, as exercise.

So even though I don’t do it as much as I should, and even though my projects take forever to finish … I’m gonna keep writing.

I just don’t see any other way.

The Neverending Edit

A couple of good (read: productive) days of editing the novel have got me feeling, well, productive about my time off from work thus far, but they also have me mired in doubt. I feel kind of like the horse… was it Artex? … from The Neverending Story, who wandered into the swamp of sadness or whatever and finally got so depressed and full of doubt that he was unable to move and just sank into the depths with hardly a whimper. (By the way, what the hell? Who puts something like that in a movie ostensibly for children? Let’s just have this horse — beloved by one of the main characters of the film — just fargoing give up on life. That won’t scar the children in the audience forever. Come to think of it, that movie as a whole is actually pretty bleak. The entire story world gets sucked up into The Nothing? This vast, invisible, intractable force? Okay, let me un-digress…)

Yeah. Mired. I feel like the leg of the edit I’m working on is a solid one, one that does good things for the story, but I’m afraid that I’m doing it all wrong, and as a result, I’m afraid to take much further action. Fearful of breaking the thing further. Fearful that I’ve sunk in dozens of hours working in the wrong direction. Which is probably why I’ve been hiding from the novel behind all those excuses for the past couple weeks.

But we all know that the only thing hiding accomplishes is wasted time, and running from the inevitable means you only die tired. No, the thing to do is to lean into the skid, embrace the suck, power through the rest of this edit, and brace myself for the feedback to come. Because I’m pretty sure that, after I can get all the sprockets and gizmos stuffed back into the chest cavity and do one more polishing pass, I’m going to send it out to some readers and solicit some feedback from a mind that isn’t mine.

And, boy, oh, boy. That was an idea I had pretty much already decided upon in my head, but actually giving voice to it and putting it in writing fills me with an entirely new sense of dread. For all that I think I’m telling a good story, that I think it works and will resonate with audiences, I simply can’t know.

A metaphor that gets tossed around in my life as a teacher is that “we jump out of the plane and build our parachute on the way down,” which always gets a few laughs but is really a horrible way to approach education. The metaphor is apt, though, for the writing world, I think. I just have to trust that this parachute I’m building won’t be shredded like my confidence when I finally unfurl the thing.

Trying for a short story by the end of the week, but outside of that, I may give myself a few days off from the blarg. All the cool kids are doing it, and there is a lot of action for our family (families) at Christmas. So, you know. This might be my last entry for a few days. Unless it isn’t.

Late-night indecision is fun!

Also, look at the lame-o who calls 10:30 late-night! What a sap!

That Kind of Morning

I usually don’t use the blarg to vent about little things; it’s not my jam to get overly worked up over the ticky tacky stuff that happens to everybody all the time.  Then again, sometimes things happen that just throw you so far off your stride it’s impossible to get past it.  Douglas Adams made a fantastic comparison once (and I’m paraphrasing heavily): It’s as if you’re going along happily in third gear, and feeling how wonderfully powerful you are and how smoothly everything is going, and then as you shift into fourth gear you miss the shift and throw the vehicle into reverse, and your vehicle vomits its engine out onto the highway.  I feel like that was in The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul, but I can’t be certain.

There are just some things you take for granted in your day.  Some simple things that are so very simple they cannot fail.  The sky, for example, will hover merrily above your head.  Gravity will tug gently downward at you.  People will generally be decent, if a bit self-absorbed.  Doors will operate by the simple use of their handle.

But you can’t take all of those things for granted.


That’s my driver’s side door, moments after I attempted to open it to go to work this morning.  I took hold of the handle and pulled it toward me in the proscribed manner, and then with a comically loud snap, it broke off in my hand, sending me windmilling wildly backward in my driveway.  (I wish I could have said windmilling wildly westward, but I don’t know if that’s true and it’s a bit aggrandized.)  I can still get it open, but I have to slide a finger behind that tab of remaining handle to lift up the metal bit which lies flush against the back of the handle well, and then get my other fingers under that to open the door.  So it’s about five times as much work as opening a door should be, plus it looks like absolute ass.  And okay, yes, first world problems and all that, but ugh.  Of all the things that can go wrong with a car, you don’t expect the door handle to be anywhere near that list, or in fact on the list at all, or even adjacent to the list.

I’m not one to ascribe significance where there is none.  The breaking of a door handle has no bearing on the rest of my day except for leaving me a little bit in doubt as to whether other taken-for-granted elements in the world will also cease to function as advertised.  Still, this strikes me as pretty odd.  I mean, I didn’t know this could happen through what I can only assume is normal use of the product.

Am I wrong?  Does this happen?  Are we all just in some long invisible queue waiting for the automatic certainties of the universe to decay on us?  Or is all my working out paying off, so much that I now need to be really careful when I handle delicate objects?

Ahem.  So this is Tuesday.

My Writing is Awful and I’m Awful

Seriously, what the hell made me think this is something I could do in the first place?

What started as an exciting adventure, a fun foray into a sunlight- and flower-filled valley where things are hunky and dory and smell like candy and everything feels like soft velvet for some reason is turning to ash.  The beautiful butterflies are turning into bloodsucking bats.  The fragrant flowers are a thicket of thorny thistles.  The brilliant, redeeming sun is covered over with clouds the color of sick and despair.

This, on the day after I had a really quite lovely session of writing.  Words came easy, metaphors bloomed like so many daisies, the story was clear, and now the path is filled with bear traps.  And bears.  Who are surprisingly good at avoiding traps.

Do all writers suffer these vicious mood swings?  These vertigo-inducing changes in perspective and confidence and certainty?  I am trying hard to remember that it’s okay if the first draft sucks, that anything and everything can be changed in the edit — lead can be turned to gold, nonsensical plot turns into natural progressions, sharknado into sandwiches — but damned if the howler monkey of doubt isn’t getting the better of me today.

I’m trying to find ways to downplay this sense of dread and inadequacy.  Trying to find parallels so that I can convince myself that it’s not so bad, that tomorrow is another day and that Future Me is a capable chap who can right all the wrongs I’m putting on the page.  Like…

This might be like stage fright, where I’ve spent weeks learning lines and blocking and running scenes with my fellow actors and now on the eve of performance I look out past the footlights into the sea of waiting faces like so many piranhas with their gleaming teeth and I freeze up and forget my lines.  Except this is not stage fright.  There is no pivotal performance, no impending moment at which I must either demonstrate everything I’ve worked for or be revealed as a fraud and a charlatan (bonus points, self, for using the word “charlatan”).  No, I have as much time as it takes to get this story right before I put it out there into the world.  Hmm.  That feels better.

No, rather this is like I’m a chef who’s studied for years and years and souffle’d lots of things that get baked into souffles and fricasee’d lots of things that get fricasee’d, whatever the hell a fricasee is.  So then I make this monstrously big fricasee souffle except it’s actually made of dogsharknado because I ran out of other ingredients and this big food critic is coming into the restaurant tonight and he’s going to review my dogsharknado fricasee souffle and it’s going to be awful, really the worst thing ever, but I had to serve him SOMETHING, didn’t I?  Except, no, there is no food critic except myself, and I have time to go to the grocery store and get more ingredients instead of serving up hot fricaseed dogsharknado on a plate.  Okay, yeah, that’s better, too.

Even here, on the blarg, where there are virtually — no, scratch that — LITERALLY no requirements or standards except that I remain more or less honest and attempt to amuse myself, I am feeling overwhelmed by feelings of inadequacy and self-deprecation.  That last post was boring, I didn’t use enough colorful descriptions, I’m just describing things as they are, nobody’s going to care to read it, I’m even boring myself to tears.  I didn’t even post 1000 words — THIS POST ISN’T EVEN 1000 WORDS — WHERE HAVE ALL MY WORDS GONE?  Except, wait a minute, the blarg is for me and me alone, to help me deal with these roadblocks: if people who are not me read it and enjoy it, that’s just a bonus.  If I’m being truthful and letting the writer-flag fly, as it were, then the blarg is serving its purpose.  Okay, yeah, I’m actually feeling much better.

All this will be better in the morning.  It will.  The draft will be finished in two weeks.  I can do anything for two weeks.  Even, perhaps, steer this storm-shattered ship to safety (alliteration x5, bonus points whee!)

Yeah, it’s feeling much better now.

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