It’s a black virus wending its way through your veins or a vicious storm on the sea’s horizon threatening the small, wooden boat you just finished building. Silly metaphors for a very real issue that I find myself grappling with on an almost daily basis. Do other writers experience this on a daily basis? Do other humans?
Yesterday was a banner day for me. For the past few weeks, I’ve had an idea bouncing around my skull meat. An idea big enough to turn into a novel, a world with potentiality and characters that I want to get to know more. I have yet to find the one sentence to describe the story but what I do know is that I could spend a hundred thousand words with these people living in their world.
I spent the morning writing, exploring the world inside my head and trying to suss out the rules and history of this particular place and time. In the previous days, I had written a few character sketches, watching for their personalities and how they interact with each other (I can already feel that a kiss on the forehead has electricity between my protagonist and another main character). I like my protagonist’s name, I like how ballsy she is, I like how she wants more than where she’s at.
Characters come to me fully formed. All of a sudden, POP! and there they are. Demanding or quiet or sweet or bitchy or complex as every other human, they are complete. I still don't know some things about them and writing character sketches helps me get to know them. It's like sitting down with a new friend over a glass of Tempranillo on a Friday night. I've never been able to fill out a character sheet with any real detail until I've sat with my characters for quite some time.
Here I am, yesterday, feeling good about the story taking shape. It’s the beginning of a new project, a new world to explore and feelings to feel. Hooray! And then, this morning, I wake up thinking, What’s the point? Doubt, my old friend, you have found me again. How lovely to see you!
Doubt is a killer. She’s a mean mistress, an angry father, a scared child. Doubt makes me think about not writing because nothing will come of it. People will not read my words and, if they did, I will be seen as the shitty writer I truly am. Maybe I should just stick with writing software. And then, Doubt tells me I’m not a real programmer because I work on the web. Doubt screams at me that I don’t have a clue when it comes to managing people; the company would be better off without me. Doubt turns the fear into a snowball of insecurities and ridiculousness. Fuck Doubt.
Every person feels doubt. Is it not human nature? Second guessing comes naturally to me and I’m no unique snowflake. This must be a trait of at least a handful of writers, right? Please tell me that is true! I suspect it is.
What to do with doubt? Write through it. Or dance through it. Or cry through it. Get on with whatever you were pursuing beforehand. Fuck the impish fears and those tiny, diseased creatures that make you want to pull the covers over your face and shake in your disquietude. Make friends with your doubt. Change the narrative of his purpose. Turn him into your ally or the reason why you continue to write. Sit him on the corner of your desk and each time you finish a sentence, spit in his face, stab him in the chest, wreak the kind of havoc on him that he has so long inflicted on you.
This morning, instead of opening up my code editor to get back to doing something I do somewhat well, I started a new blog post and decided to expose Doubt for all the shittiness that he is. I’m writing through Doubt, cutting his body in half, blood and guts and entrails littered on my desk. This morning, a massacre of Doubt. My new novel will not succumb to Doubt’s siren song.
Writing through the doubt, which can also be called insecurity or fear, is easier now that I have the habit of writing 750 words a day. Doubt can’t keep back the wall of habit and more than forty thousand words written this year. It is a force just as strong, if not more so, than doubt. So, I’ll keep writing, no matter how many or varied the vicissitudes that asshole throws my way.
As Sarah so elegantly said, “[Doubt], you have no power over me.”
Although, truth be told, if Doubt looked anything like David Bowie, I’m not sure I’d put up too much of a fight…