Saturday, May 2, 2009

Doubt

Who out there in the writing-sphere, at some time or other, perhaps constantly, doesn't doubt their ability to write? Who, rejection after rejection - this just isn't right for me, blah, blah, blah -doesn't begin to doubt their talent?

Writing, as my best friend tells me from time to time, is a talent. We (writers) are talented. There's just so dang many of us out there.

Lady Glamis, as usual, had an excellent post about the love affair writers have with their work. I agree with her 100%. As usual, her post inspired me. Go figure. In fact, the following is what triggered the thought process for this post: "I hate to tell you this, but you are as good as you think you are." Those are the greatest words - okay, an agent calling and offering representation are probably the greatest words, well, maybe the fact that a publisher . . . - a writer can hear. Why? Because we all doubt our abilities.

I never planned on being a writer. It just happened. One day, I started to write, and I haven't stopped since. The years have flown by. The unfinished projects sit on a shelf in my semi-messy office closet. Why? Doubt!

Doubt is such a subtle entity, slipping in when we least expect it, and sabotaging all our grand imaginings about our brilliant writing.

It is NORMAL to doubt. Just don't let your DOUBT paralyze you and stop you from what you do best: writing.

"I hate to tell you this, but you are as good as you think you are."

Those are simply magical words that erase the doubt that rests within every writer, every artist, every person. Every now and then, every writer needs to hear those words . . . or something similar. I remember the first time an English professor told me that my writing (on an essay, for that matter) was wicked cool. I'm sorry, that was probably the greatest compliment ever. Another professor, again, after reading a writing project for class, told me I was gifted. WOW! Talk about a doubt eraser. These were people that knew writing, and saw the good, the bad, and the very ugly on a daily basis. My writing was wicked cool and I was gifted.

I hate to say it, but those were turning points with my writing. Why? Because the doubt I harbored, cradled within me, began to lose its power. No matter how much I had written, no matter how much I might write, I still didn't fully believe in my writing . . . or myself. I doubted . . . ME! It took the words of professors to make me realize I could actually write, and it wasn't the piles of crap I thought it was. Time and again, as I grew with my writing (even with the dreaded essays required in college) my professors would comment (good for the most part, though there were the requisite grammatical errors of college writing) about my writing, and in a good way.

We, as writers, as humans, need the affirmation of our ability. We (English teachers worldwide gasping at such blatant generalizations) need to know that the love affair we have - thanks Lady Glamis - is worthwhile.

We are, as humans, conditioned to doubt. We are - it's a hard knock life - taught, time and again, that no matter how good we think we are, there's someone better out there. The doubt becomes a part of our life. The critiques of our work wound us to the core. The negative comments eat away at our belief in our selves and - again, as Lady Glamis so aptly put it - we stop listening to our own instincts.

Any time I doubt myself, I pull out the old essays with the wicked cool and you're gifted comments, and I scroll through my old emails and look for the ones from my best friend, for his words, his awe, and his belief in . . . ME.

We cannot, sadly, exist in this life without belief in ourselves. We cannot exist if we wallow in the doubt. Not everybody who reads the brilliance we write, will like that brilliance. Reading is subjective. Subjectiveness does not make you (another major generalization - I think a few English teachers just passed out) a bad writer.

So, what's the point of this Saturday morning ramble . . . believe in yourself, click your ruby slippers together three times, tell yourself there's no place like home, there's no place like home, there's no place like home, and keep writing, keep plugging along, and remember the compliments you receive, even if they are few and far between.

Doubt exists. Talent exists. I believe (finally - well, that came many years ago, but still . . . ) in me, and what I do. I believe that my writing is worthwhile and all the frustration and angst are worthwhile as well. I write, because I love to write. Every single day that I write, I hone my talent more and more. I love my writing. I love the blogsphere that allows me to connect with other writers. I love the knowledge offered by every writer in the blogsphere. I love the fact that I can - when necessary - cut the chapters that must be cut and sacrifice the characters that shined brilliantly in the beginning, but faded over time and became, well, unnecessary.

I will doubt again. I will not wallow in my doubt, however. Why? Well, you see, there's a mantra I live by, an anthem of sorts: I, because Gloria Gaynor tells me it's so, will survive!

S

8 comments:

Davin Malasarn said...

:) I'm a serious doubter. As I said in Lady Glamis' post, I almost always find more wrong with my writing than any reviewer I've had. At the same time I see how much I've improved as well. So, while I think I suck, I also think I'm better than I was, and that gives me a certain level of confidence.

Lady Glamis said...

Scott, I have to thank you for this post. It made me cry. Seriously, it did. It is EXACTLY what I needed to hear right at this moment.

I just received a rather harsh critique from a good blogging friend. She was honest and it hurt. Stung. Throbbed.

It still does.

But I have to follow my own advice and keep the doubt at bay. I KNOW I'm good. I KNOW I can make my work soar. It just takes passion and a belief in myself and my talents. That instinct thing is what I rely on the most.

Once again, THANK YOU. Without you and all those in the blogosphere that have helped lift me up, I don't know what I would do.

Scott said...

Davin - we all doubt our own work, and no critic is harsher, than the Critic of Self.

Lady Glamis - just go with your instinct and know that all your followers, myself included, is rooting for you. : )

S

Marty said...

This is a great article about a great article. I am surprised to see Lady Glam professing her own doubt in the comment section... she really should know by now that she is brilliant!

Marty said...

By the way, the quote...
"I hate to tell you this, but you are as good as you think you are."...was written from one writer to another. When I read this, it brought to mind an incident at a writing group I once attend. When a writer finally shared a chapter from a story, the rest of the group said these same words, it made me realize writers can be a jealous bunch too.

Scott said...

Marty - jealousy exists in every profession and, sadly, in probably every friendship as well. I seriously didn't think the comment even hinted of jealousy. I saw it more from the perspective of the writer knowing, deep inside, that she was good, only too afraid to admit 'that' fact to herself. Who isn't afraid to accept their own talent . . . thus the whole point of this post. I saw the comment more as a doctor giving a patient bad news, but in this case, it was really good news.

As for Lady Glamis - why wouldn't she doubt? Why wouldn't we all doubt our own ability? Yes, she is brilliant. Still . . .doubt, centers us. It is a necessary part of life. Arrogance, on the proverbial other hand, does more harm than good. I might make jokes about the 'brilliance' of my writing on this blog, but I still have doubts . . . no matter the comments to the contrary.

The blogsphere exist for us to share our doubts and to step forward (sometimes at exactly the right moment) and express those doubts in a blog post that might help someone else.

In the end, we are only as good as we think we are, and sometimes, we are not even that good. Writing is a process that will continue every day. We'll hone our talents, shine up our brilliance, but the doubt (at least in my opinion) won't ever go away. Hopefully, when the doubt settles upon us, we can find something in the blogsphere to help us know that we are not alone, and that doubt - irritating as it is - is only a brief moment in our writing lives.

S

Lady Glamis said...

Marty, knowing who this writer is that told my friend Lois that, he was not jealous in any way. :)

Both Dave and Marty, thanks for thinking I'm brilliant. Unfortunately nobody ever sees their own brilliance. If they do, they usually aren't brilliant, just proud, LOL. I doubt myself every day, suffer from Isuckitis weekly, and deal with depression every moment. I'm thankful for modern-day drugs, blogging, and dear friends who help lift me up. You are both in that category. :)

Charlie said...

Hey Scott,

I've only recently discovered my love of writing and as a novice, I'm constantly doubting myself. However, I'm lucky enough to love the creative process - all of it.