There’s not a lot I’ll call myself an expert on, but doubt… right up my wheelhouse. There’s words for this particular affliction depending on who you ask: skeptic, over-thinker, faithless, jerk, on and on and on.
It’s all in the eyebrows. You can tell a doubter by how far they go up or how they furrow down or turn askew when something new comes their way. Could be anything. Something on the news, a rumor about another person, a promise made, a threat. It’s a real problem. Wrinkles and the like.
But today I mean to boil it down to the writing process. I don’t go and hang out with tons of other novelists so I don’t know for sure, but I imagine doubt is something that weighs heavy on them as well as they trod along the peaks and valleys from start to finish. I know a lot of folks that have started writing a book. Far fewer actually finish.
Why? Could be they just don’t have the time, run out of ideas, get interested in something else.
Bollocks. Doubt wedged its way in. Now there’s all types of doubt when writing a story. Here’s a short list of what I go through on a daily basis. And I’ve finished four books, working on two more.
I doubt that I’m any good. I doubt that there’s another human being on the planet that will ever want to read anything I put down. I doubt the sanity of a person that concocts an imaginary world out of nothing when there’s plenty of real things in the real world to deal with. I doubt that I’ll ever get distributed or promoted in the correct way. I doubt that my dialogue reads authentic. I doubt my character motivations. I doubt my own motivations.
And that’s just before breakfast. Can you see the allure?
So all that being said, why go on with it? Imagine I could say that about anything that isn’t technically a matter of life and death. In the end it’s all chasing after the wind. I’d get into the wisdom of Solomon but frankly I’ve read Ecclesiastes enough times to make my head spin and I still can’t make heads or tails.
Doubt is like most things. It can be a tool or a burden. I try to use it to make myself better, make the plot tighter, fix that one scene where the dynamics aren’t quite clicking. Of course, there’s the other times. The times when I want to pull my hair out and curse myself for wasting the days and having dreams and putting myself through a mental gauntlet for nothing.
But that passes. I make it pass. If you’re compelled to write or do anything at all, you have to walk away from the gauntlet and get on with it. Here’s what I don’t doubt: You will fail, you will suck, and somebody won’t like you… sometimes. Part of the deal. Another thing I don’t doubt: If you never finish it and let people have it, you’ll effect nothing. Pretty boring. Don’t be boring.
Writing a novel is Columbus crossing the ocean. Sure, he had his mind made up that the world was round, but every sideways look he got from the crew probably made him check his own beliefs. Tossed all over the place, hoping to God that he didn’t get himself in over his head. Then he gets there and it’s not even the place he planned on going.
Hey. That metaphor actually kind of worked. For a minute there I was starting to doubt whether or not I could pull it off. See there. Later knuckleheads. I’ll see you after.