Sunday, March 11, 2012

On Writing and Self-Doubt

"And by the way, everything in life is writable
about if you have the outgoing guts to do it,
and imagination to improvise.
The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt."
Sylvia Plath

I think this is the 4th year I've been meeting with my Black Cat writing buds. You'd think I would have a lot to show for it, but my list of written stories is not very long. Since I was writing in between chores with Dad, I did a lot of my storytelling here on this blog.

Wanting to spur us into action and have us stretch our writing muscles our facilitator, Carol O'Dell, has been urging us to submit our work for publication. A couple weeks ago some of us spent most of one whole day searching the Internet for places to send our work. Since them I've been trying to match up my stories with e-zine, magazine, and anthology publishers that are looking for creative non-fiction pieces. What Carol made look pretty easy, I found frustrating. One piece had too many words. Another had too few. Dagnabbit! Eventually I managed to fire off three submissions.

When I've submitted before I didn't get rejected, in fact I got nothing. But within a week I had my first rejection letter. I admit one of the reasons I'm shy about submitting is I don't handle rejection very well. Does anyone? Fortunately this one didn't sting too bad:

"Thank you for a most interesting article ... and this is more of an essay."
At least I know my article was interesting. That's worth a 45 cent stamp.

Fast forward a week. I'm back at Panera's sitting with the Chat ladies. I'd turned in a story for critique. As nervous as I get about people reading my work, I've learned to trust this group of friends with my stories. It's kind of like leaving your children with a beloved sitter. You know they will be well cared for. All of a sudden all eyes were on me. The critique turned into a pep talk, a you've-got-a-book-here kind of pep talk.

What? A book? Me? Ha!!!
But wait a minute, didn't I just say I trust these ladies? Is it possible they're on to something?
A book? Me?

I hurried home to share this bit of information with my Sweetie. He took his nose out of the book he was reading, looked me in the eye and agreed with everything that had been said. Get up in the morning, he told me, and start writing. Which, of course, is all it took to stop all creative ideas. Sort of. I may not have been putting words on paper, but in the hours between 2 and 4 a.m., my brain was awhir with ideas. Ideas and self-doubt. Two days later I felt paralyzed. Writing anything was out of the question. My writing career was fizzling before it even got started. And I could almost watch as it happened. My scaredy cat inner child said "yeh but" to every possibility.

So where did the fear come from? What old tapes were playing? Is my self-doubt just a bad habit? I'm not too sure of the answers to these questions but I know I've got to feel the fear and do it anyway. Keep writing that is.

A book? Me? Maybe so? Who knows? Guess we'll have to wait and see.

What do you do when self-doubt keeps you from reaching for your dreams?
Merry ME


Anonymous said...

You can do, I have no doubt. It doesn't need to be done now or in a month or this year. My hope is for you to believe that you have the words and to trust that they will be well received. ld

Molly said...

Self doubt is apparently a widespread weakness judging from the proliferation of encouragement websites and webinars and newsletters I see these days. Personally, it is the limiting factor in everything I do these days. It's easier to believe failure than ability for some reason.

"Whether you believe you can or can't, you probably will", not sure who said this but boy did he nail it (I know it was a male, so they aren't immune).

Do you follow Anne LaMott? She wrote a book about writing...Bird by Bird. That's the advice her father gave her brother about writing some report he had to turn in.

I think you can do it. Rather than thinking of the end, perhaps think of the stories that go together? I just know that with everything, you have to do it every day, even when it isn't clicking.

Go girl Go.

Anonymous said...

I second these sentiments and offer a quote from Roger Ebert, "The Muse visits during the act of creation, not before. Don't wait for her. Start alone." You just need to get up and start writing. Even if if the exercise means getting up and writing about how you don't feel like you have anything to write about. This works itself out if you just keep the pen to paper or hands on your keyboard. It's true. Roger Ebert knows things. And he wouldn't lie. You can do it, Mamacita. Squash that negative voice. She's a turd and deserves no attention. ~w

Fire Byrd said...

Don't yet try to write a book. rather brain storm on a large piece of paper things you want to put in.
Then on another piece of paper put them into some vague order to be used as a guide line.
Then start writing an unconscious stream of words with no effort to correct grammar or punctuation just to get the words down.
And then when it's all out of your head, start editing and re-editing till you are satisfied.
Write every day, even if only a paragraph, cause once you start you'll be amazed how much you write before you realise how much you've written!

Anonymous said...

I tell my doubts and nay saying voices to HUSH!
and then I do it, even shaking in my shoes scared out of my mind.
As long as one person thinks I can do it, thats enough for me...
I know you can!

AkasaWolfSong said...

I totally agree with Illuminary...just do it...put pen to paper and write whatever pops into your head...I mean you keep us all reading! Ahem!
I love your postings, your stories, your sharings Mary and I believe in YOU! :)