This is yet another blog post requested by my Twitter followers, and, as it turns out, I have briefly touched on the subject before, using pink pony horror as a metaphor. This post will go much deeper, to the very root of this writerly self-doubt we writers seem to have so much of and seem to never be able to shake off completely, staring at the blank screen for hours, paralyzed, petrified, mortified to the point of wanting to give up and get a job like normal people do. And yet something is holding us back, something is making us stare at the screen or at the blank piece of paper, and that something is the thing that keeps us going, keeps us writing. But it's elusive, perhaps this is why it's called a muse, a capricious fleeting being that would visit us whenever it wanted, not when we wanted it to. How is it then possible to overcome this constant writerly self-doubt, this numbing force that makes us declare our writing as complete shit, throw hands in the air, punch a wall, or burst into tears? Here is what I think on the subject, having battled with it full time for the past year.
Writers were those extremely emotional kids who didn't fit in. Dig deep. Think back to when you were little. Did you like to space out? Did you read books when other kids chased ball or cats or whatever else was worth chasing? Did you perhaps chase it with them, but simultaneously in your head you constructed a whole fantastic world to surround reality in, just so that a simple chase could become a dazzling adventure? What kid didn't, right? But have you ever tried articulating it to your friends and seen them roll their eyes? Have you ever felt your heart race at a mere sign of a stone on the road because you thought it might have been dropped by an evil magician and if you touched it, you'd turn into dust? Yet, as opposed to other kids, you took it a notch further and really believed in it, didn't you? Have you gotten used to people glazing over you talking about your stories and daydreaming and other wonders? Yeah, I thought so. Welcome to the club. I grew up like this too, except on top of it I was abused, so my head was my only escape, the ultimate escape. Can you see where the root to all this doubt has taken place? Bingo. Those uncomprehending stares, laughing mouths, misunderstanding adults, and taunting kids. You learned to keep your stuff to yourself. When you grew up, you realized you could tell your diary everything, or your journal, or whatever was the first piece you wrote. But you were afraid to show it to anyone, because they wouldn't understand, would they? It's time to let go. Turns out, we're all scared like this, all of us, but we will read, and we will understand.
Learning to write is like learning to talk, only harder. At one point you were a happy babbling baby, learning your first words. Back then you knew no fear, you just wanted to copy your mom or dad or anyone else being warm and loving to you. You learned how to talk, didn't you? But you couldn't say words correctly at first, and there are probably stories in your family about you saying this or that word in a funny way? Well, it's the same with writing, only harder. It's harder because you're not a baby anymore and you have acquired this fear of rejection, of failure, of imperfection. On top of it, if you're a beginning writer, you read published books, compare your own writing to it, and think, you can't possibly ever write like this, so why even try? Let me ask you this, why did you learn how to talk? You had to, to communicate, right? And why do you write? You want to communicate your feelings, all those bottled up things that go back to your childhood, everything that happened to you, you want to share and yet are terrified that people will take it wrong, that they won't be interested, that they won't care. You know why? Because you're used to it. It's as simple as that. Know how to win over it? By sheer volume. You have to be willing to write shit every day, for weeks, months, years, without stopping, until it becomes a habit. Only then it will flow. So it's okay that you think your writing is awful, write a lot of awful stories, please, but don't stop!
Write what feels right, not what sounds right. We are all emotional creatures, after all, and we connect via our feelings. If you are true to yourself, true to what you feel, even if your story is horribly written, there will always be that someone who will feel the same and understand. It might take you a long time to find that someone who feels the same, but, trust me, you will. Although, you will only be able to find this connection if you dare to look deep inside your soul. What tortures you? What doesn't let you sleep? What makes your heart beat faster? Why? That is what you have to write, not the next hot genre because it sells like hot cakes left and right. In fact, I would steer clear of genre all together and simply describe how you feel, spoken through your characters. Imagine that this is for nobody's eyes but yours, imagine that this is therapeutic for you, this will help you feel lighter, happier, help you heal old wounds. Imagine that you will never sell a single copy of your book and it will perish into nothing. Feel better now? Have nothing to lose now, don't you? Great. Write it for yourself, for the sheer happiness of writing and diving into the magic of your inner realm. Who cares what happens to it when it's written? While you were writing it, you grew wings and learned how to fly. That is priceless.
I realize I could keep going and perhaps crank out a whole book on the subject, because I battle self-doubt every single day and at times it drives me up the wall and I wish I didn't have it, but then I realize that it's good that I do. It keeps me humble. It makes me want to improve and to grow. What about you? Got any tricks or ideas up your sleeves? Can't wait to hear.