Thursday, May 9, 2013

Doubt

There are moments of self-doubt that creep in throughout the writing process. Am I unique enough? Observant enough? Talented enough? These moments, at least for me, tend to occur most often during the re-writing process, which, by the way, I'm in the thick of.

Yep. I'm revising the first novel. Again. It's a good thing, mostly. I think I've figured out how to make the reader connect better with the main character -- an issue that several editors have flagged.

It was going great for the first few weeks, smooth sailing. I cut 20,000 words and didn't think twice about it. And then the doubt. It didn't so much creep in as run me over. I was sitting in Starbucks typing away and then -- SLAM. "WTF do you know?" it growled. "You're a f&*%ing princess."

It had the voice of a trucker, this doubt, deep, gravelly and southern. Mississippi, maybe? Hard to tell because I move in Canadian circles. But I could smell the cigarettes and BBQ on its breath.

I was re-working a highly-charged emotional scene -- the breakdown of a relationship that's been holding my main character together -- and I didn't know how to write it. Instead of the usual doubts, I wondered "Am I deep enough? Complex enough? Have I experienced enough?"

It felt like I was pulling from clichés and shit I've seen on TV, putting that scene together, like all of my words were coming from an artificial place. I thought that no matter how much imagination and empathy I poured into that page that the emotions would never ring true. The trucker was right, I realized. WTF did I know about this kind of gut-wrenching pain? I AM a f&*%ing princess.

Maybe I'm jinxing myself here, but despite a few bumps along the road, I've lived a pretty charmed life. I've had relationships break down, sure, but I've never been in crisis over it like my main character, and I've never really struggled like she's struggling, or rather, like I want to make her.

Do I have the emotional depth required? The raw resources to draw from? Right now, it sure doesn't feel like it.

I know this too shall pass; I've been doing this long enough, after all. But I am feeling the doubt particularly intensely during this revision.

I suppose I should feel grateful for the doubt. At least it's a feeling. Without it I think the emptiness, the numbness of revising what I've already revised 50 times before would take over and there I'd be, wading through a pool of room-temperature water, my princess gown floating in the waves.


4 comments:

  1. This is beautiful. I say, have faith in your voice + in your characters. Revision is such a brutal process because you begin forcing each word to justify its existence, which usually leads us to cutting more words than we need to. But for a debut novel, I think your instinct is right. The answer to all your questions is definitely yes, but being emotionally deep, stylistically and artistically talented enough, those things won't push you past the finish line, they're just the energy in your run, the power grid in your invented city. Many talented writers have failed (and will fail) because they don't have the constitution to keep going, because they accept failure. Likewise, many writers who don't have half the talent of the MFA aristocracy, have succeeded with a lot less promise + a lot more discipline, stubbornness + insistence. So, what I'm saying is, the simple fact that you're revising your novel again, even when it hurts, proves that you already have the complete package.

    Besides, while your self-doubt is completely understandable (+ also complete normal for all of us), it won't help you write the best novel you can write. Actually, it will sabotage your project. So, keep going + have faith in your process because it's more important + less common than just raw talent, which you already have.

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to write that, Jackson. It's hard out there among the agents and editors and publishers, sure, but it's even harder in. (In the brain and the heart of a writer, is what I was referring to there. Sigh. That line just didn't pan out like I wanted it to.)

      I've written three books to make one. And I can't believe it. Every time I say I can't possibly do it again, I manage to. It's been a tough learning curve, the novel writing thing, but totally necessary.

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  2. Hey stranger! Trying to catch back up on here. :)

    This post explains so wonderfully feelings I have very often. What on earth makes ME so qualified to write about anything at all?? I'm a princess, too. But Doubt is an effing pig, and they can go back to the mud because we are Fairy Princesses, which means we have magical powers to make up whatever we want AND do it right.

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    1. Elly! Long time no read! (Except on Twitter, of course, where you make me laugh as often as you make me think.) We really are fairy princesses, aren't we? Living in magical made up lands like we do. Ooh! Can we also wear those super cool skirts made with thick chiffon like the Disney fairies do? Those are so rad.

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