WTF FRIDAY: Self Doubt Can be a GOOD THING. Until It’s Not
This is not a new topic. Writers have been spewing about it since… well, the invention of writing. And before that, bards probably cried over their ale in a corner of the Chief’s hall for the same reason. It is in most artists to doubt. Hell, it’s in most people to doubt. If you have complete faith in yourself all the time, you’re… I don’t know. Hal Jordan. And, as the need for Oliver Queen proved, Hal Jordan was a shithead.
Self-doubt can be a very, very negative thing. Worse than that; it can be utterly paralyzing. How many works of genius have remained unfinished or shoved into a box or buried in a safe in the cellar of an abandoned house? Deleted from hard drives? Consigned to Cloud purgatory (which is even worse than Cloud City vibing a bad feeling).
Without any ego at all, a writer can’t write, even if it’s just for herself because she believes her words aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on, the screen upon which they shine, the time stolen to create them. And forget showing it to anyone else. That can never ever happen. Right?
No. Wrong. Very wrong. Stories are meant to be shared. The writer creates for herself, of course, but stories aren’t intended for the vacuum any more than their makers. Stories, like their makers, come from the long, social, oral tradition of people gathered around a bonfire or huddled against an enemy onslaught. Stories can bring us together and they can start wars. Our morality our culture, or strength, all the things we hold important and dear. Our dreams. They all come from, and continue to be woven into, our stories.
If you doubt too much, fear adding your voice to the maelstrom, then your story never gets added to that collective. And your voice, your story? They are important. Your story, your voice; they may not be my thing, but I guarantee you, they’re someone’s. They will touch someone, make a person feel connected to a world she might otherwise be drifting though untethered. They may save someone from the void. What you have to say is important. It is a world of important. If self-doubt forces you into submission, into silence, it’s a world destroyed or, worse yet, never born.
There is, of course, a flip side, a positive aspect to self doubt. Because the slush pile that ends up on agents’ desks every December? That’s ego and it makes all of us look bad. You can’t write an un-edited draft and call it done. No one can; I don’t care how famous, how talented, how creative. You need to doubt, just a smidge, maybe more. The voice in your head must be loud enough for you to hear its demand: DO BETTER! ALWAYS. DO. BETTER. Reach, strive, all those other verbs so fucking irritating when you’re in the moment and you think you’re trying as hard as you can but someone, maybe you and maybe someone else, is demanding more, more, more. You can always find one mistake, always work a little harder, create a more cohesive world, a more compelling character. A better book, a better story. The counter weight to the negative, that still, small voice telling you you’re creating something worth time and attention and, at the same time, keeps you from letting it go before it’s ready.
Okay, fine, it will never be totally ready, but it will, someday, be ready enough. For time. For attention. For claiming its place in the collective.
More serious than my usual posts. Sorry about that, just sort of happened. My self doubt is telling me people will either wonder who the fuck I think I am to spout off. But I’m posting it anyway. Because, self doubters, I am with you. I am you. And we’re way, way stronger together than we are alone.