Writer's Self-Doubt, or THE PINK PONY HORROR

by Ksenia Anske

Photo by Laura Thompson

I've been contemplating for several days now what to blog about next, and at the same time have been battling bouts of uncertainty and doubt after posting an excerpt from Draft 5 of my 1st novel. Bingo! Since this has been bugging me all week, I'll write about it. Turns out, all of us writers at one point or another doubted ourselves to the point of experiencing physical pain. And, let me tell you, it's bizarre and stupefying and debilitating in its ridiculous horror, kind of like THE PINK PONY HORROR, because there is no other way to describe it. Are you with me? Let's take a ride.

THE PINK. Pink as "girl color" perhaps pertains more to American culture. I grew up in Russia, but still Russian girl babies were swaddled in pink blankets and boy babies in blue ones. Pink in this context signifies gender certainty or display or whatever you want to call it. Something like declaring, here, look, I'm a girl, because I wear pink. I'm only using this as an analogy, so bear with me for now. If there was a certain color for a writer, say, black (because writers love to wear black), and it would've been as easy to declare yourself a writer as wearing black, everyone would do it. The problem is, most of us are scared to admit that we are writers. Most of us battle daily uncertainty about our own identities as writers, and we have no clue what our proper color is, what color we should wear, where we belong. We're like colorless newborn creatures that need a mother to point them in the right direction, except there is none, and we keep bumping into walls and corners and many of us give up trying. DON'T. Never give up. Keep writing, and you will find your color, your style, your everything. Come to think of it, I think my color is black. Yeah, I'll go with that for now.

THE PONY. "Pony" is a curious word, it comes from French poulenet, which is sort of like a young immature horse. Hence writer's self-doubt. We think ourselves as ponies, not fully grown, forever short, underdeveloped, you get the picture. We don't think ourselves good enough to race with the big guys, no, we think we belong in traveling street circus carrying kids on our backs for an occasional treat of an apple or a cookie. I think this too, all the time. It goes like this: "Who the fuck do I think I am to dare to write? Why would anyone read my stuff, it's total horseshit! How dare I write anything at all, English it not my first language, I should just go and get a job like normal people do and never stick out my head!" The list goes on and on, you can substitute your own examples. I'm sure there are plenty. Well, you know what, to hell with it. Why do we keep doing this to ourselves? Why, say, an accountant never doubts his or her accounting abilities? I think I'm done being a pony, I'm a total RACING HORSE! Care to join?

THE HORROR. This one is easy. When in throes of self-doubt, I tend to dive deep into a dark dark place of my subconscious that does all sorts of things to me. Cuts my soul into pieces, twists my gut for hours, even makes me come close to throwing up. The horror is overwhelming and paralyzing, something akin to deathly fear. It's all about not being good enough, people hating my writing, people not getting it, etc, etc. What kills me is the unknown. You know, like in a good horror movie, the scariest monster is not the one you see, it's the one you don't see. It's the one you imagine. Come to think of it, we writers have crazy imaginations. Maybe that's why we suffer so much anxiety? Because the scenarios of people hating our stuff are so otherworldly that they make us nearly faint with its intensity? Perhaps that's it. Wow, I think I just answered my own question. To hell with horror, I want to write. And if it wants to bug me (the horror), fine, next time it does it, I'll turn it into a story.

There, I spilled my writer's self-doubt into this blog post. I actually feel better. What's your story? How do you overcome this nagging doubt every day? Or maybe you have no doubt at all and sail smoothly though your own writing process? If you do, care to share your secret? I'm dying to know here. Dying from THE PINK PONY HORROR, you see.

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