August MacGregor

Celebrating Sensuality. Intended for mature audiences, 18 and over

Writing and Creating and Self-Doubt and Support

23 Comments

doubts, by Rémy SAGLIER (Flickr, Creative Commons)

“Quay of the doubts #4” by Rémy SAGLIER (Flickr, Creative Commons)

I recently read a couple of blog posts and a NaNoWriMo pep talk that came together for me, so I want to share my thoughts on these. If I had reblogged the posts, they would’ve been kept separate — but it’s the intertwining of them that carries a beautiful impact for me.

Here are the posts and pep talk, and I highly recommend reading all three:

Here’s how they came together for me…

I completely agree with Tamsin Flowers about having self-doubt in writing. Doubt has crept in with my writing. And not just crept in, slammed in at times.

But it turns out that she and I are not alone in this. In an illuminating NaNoWriMo pep talk from Neil Gaiman (an imaginative author I admire), he talked about the arc of writing a book. The brilliant spark in the beginning with your mind on fire with ideas, and then the slow slog in the the middle, before the head-long rush to the ending. Doubt arrives at the door, plunking its baggage down on the floor, planning on staying a while.

I’ll step aside while Mr. Gaiman describes this feeling along the process of writing his novel:

The last novel I wrote (it was ANANSI BOYS, in case you were wondering) when I got three-quarters of the way through I called my agent. I told her how stupid I felt writing something no-one would ever want to read, how thin the characters were, how pointless the plot. I strongly suggested that I was ready to abandon this book and write something else instead, or perhaps I could abandon the book and take up a new life as a landscape gardener, bank-robber, short-order cook or marine biologist. And instead of sympathising or agreeing with me, or blasting me forward with a wave of enthusiasm—or even arguing with me—she simply said, suspiciously cheerfully, “Oh, you’re at that part of the book, are you?”

I was shocked. “You mean I’ve done this before?”

“You don’t remember?”

“Not really.”

“Oh yes,” she said. “You do this every time you write a novel. But so do all my other clients.”

I didn’t even get to feel unique in my despair.

His agent drops two gems in her last line. Mr. Gaiman had that doubt with each of his novels. And that’s the same with all of her other clients.

Book by book, author by author. Every project, every writer.

I would imagine that doubt visits artists, and not just writers. Those who create something and having concerns along the way if that something will work out successfully, or if they will even finish it. And if they do finish that something, will anyone out there care? Will they read the story, listen to the music, see the painting, view the movie? And if they do witness that something, will they like it? Will they connect with it? Or will they walk away from it and think that the experience was a complete waste of time, that they could’ve instead drank a beer or played a video game or watched another episode of Modern Family (or done all three simultaneously)?

Consider the flip side, of not having doubts. Would that be thinking your story, music, painting, etc., was perfection itself? And if you felt that, wouldn’t that lead to cockiness? And would cockiness lead to complacency?

Of course, there’s the level below cockiness: confidence. Of trusting your ability to finish that work of art. Of pushing through the slog and doubts and finishing the sucker. And looking at it not as perfect, but as the best something you could do at this point in your life. If you had created it five years before or five years later, it would’ve been different. But now, in this person you are at this point in your life, that’s how the something came out.

To me, that’s the reward for pushing through the worry, fears, doubts, the nagging-ass voice that wonders “Am I good enough?”

Because once the story has been written and edited, and then I sit back, it’s a seriously good feeling to have finished it. It’s not perfect. Far from it. But it’s a piece of me at this time in my life, with all the weirdness inside me.

It’s an idea made concrete. It’s done.

And once that special something is out in the public, you can’t control how your work is perceived. Inevitably, some will think it’s a waste of time. Some will ignore it. Some will click the “like” button without ever reading it in a blog post, maybe because they want you to reciprocate “like” something they’ve done.

But your creation will make a connection with some people. It will move them in some way. That doesn’t have to be a holy smokes you changed my life! kind of way. It could be a you were a bright spot in my day kind of way.

In Alan Wilson Watts’s tremendous quote about writing, he eloquent states “… and please, for God’s sake, tell us something that will save us from ourselves. Take a deep breath and tell us your deepest, darkest secret, so we can wipe our brow and know that we’re not alone.”

That’s some seriously powerful shit.

Speaking of some seriously powerful shit: support. This is where we get into the third item in the bulleted list above. As passionately described in Every Little Hit Counts, Drew Chial talks about the importance of feedback and sharing. The hits, likes, re-tweets, pinning. The sharing on the thousand social media sites out there. These are wonderful forms of giving feedback to someone and spreading the word about them. Doesn’t have to be about an author, of course. This is liking a poem, an illustration, an essay that someone wrote on their feelings about something.

To Mr. Chial’s mix of ways of support, I would add reviews on Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, etc — especially for indie authors. Yes, I’m biased as hell about this, since I’m a self-published author. These go beyond that “like” button (which is nice indeed — who doesn’t want to be liked?). And if a writer made you feel anything close to what Mr. Watts said about feeling less alone, then it’s a beautiful step to tell that writer about it. Doesn’t have to be an essay in the review — I get that everyone’s busy. It could be a short, simple note of appreciation.

Speaking of appreciation (yes, I repeat my transitions), I want to say a big thanks to those who follow my blog… but not those out there who clicked follow and hoped I would go to your blog about Yes, You CAN Make $5,000 A Month From Your House! Because I did go to your blog, and that’s ten seconds of my life I’ll never get back.

So forget those folks. I want to say how much I appreciate you genuine readers, and your hits, likes, and comments. Indeed, Thanksgiving is next week (for those of us in the U.S.), and I have much to be thankful for — those who read my posts and give me feedback through likes and comments. So, a big THANK YOU! Your comments help me deal with those self-doubts that come up.

Both photos are from Flickr, used under the non-commercial Creative Commons license. Click on the images to launch the photographers’ Flickr pages.

sunlight warmth, by Jack Skipworth (Flickr, Creative Commons)

Jack Skipworth (Flickr, Creative Commons)

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Author: augustmacgregor

I'm a writer of erotica and romantic fiction.

23 thoughts on “Writing and Creating and Self-Doubt and Support

  1. Social media has changed the world of writing. We aren’t so alone now, are we? It makes it easier in some ways and harder in others. All in all, I prefer this new world to the old, though.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi August, this is a wonderful post, reminding us all that we’re not the only ones to hit that wall of doubt – and also reminding us to support each other by responding to what other people put out there. Thank you for linking to my article – so many people have responded to it and it feels good to be part of discussion which I think a lot of people are finding helpful.
    Thanks!
    Tamsin

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree with @erickeys,
    I do prefer the new world with all its possibilities and the open community of writers.
    I am still mostly alone with my writing craft, but on the web… I enjoy learning so much and meet so many great writers, that otherwise I wouldn’t meet.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The inspired you is glowing through, August. You have a lot to be excited about and I’ve enjoyed cheering you along. I think it’s great how you’ve found a great support system through other writers. 50,000 words is a lot and I know you’ll make your goal. Finding like minded people is like finding gold in my book.

    Like

    • Thank you Audrey. I definitely agree that it’s like gold to find like-minded people, and those who not only take the time to check out what you’ve done, but share their thoughts on it. I really appreciate you reading my work and giving me your thoughts on these posts. Thank you for that. 🙂

      Like

  5. That is a lot of topics for one post. The good part is, I can’t get too serious about any one issue then. Otherwise, self-doubt–now there’s a killer.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There’s a lot going on in the post, but the topics wove together for me, so I wanted to describe them in a single post. Self-doubt can really drag down days of trying to be creative. But I think some of it can help keep us sharp, of not getting cocky and complacent. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment 🙂

      Like

  6. That doubt is always there, but pushing through it is part of the art. Great post. 🙂

    Like

  7. I’ve written a lot of novels, last time in 2004 before I really gave up on it. When I started being published at 17 it ruined me in some ways because I got into the terrible awful habit of starting at the beginning and going through to the end.

    To really get the work done, especially to a commercial or self imposed deadline you HAVE to get into the practice of writing the story out of order. Whatever part of it hits you and sets you on fire, WRITE IT. Don’t just make notes or worse still think you’ve filed it away in your amazing brain for later. Your brain is not amazing. It is a lazy horse that does not want to do high energy work. WRITE IT.

    Out of order, jotting, a bon mot or key phrase, a name, a map or a sex scene- especially things like sex scenes where you need some raw engaging vivid imagery and the sexual emotion that goes with it- write it when you think it. If you can’t, scribble it down in a notebook.

    I got into the habit long ago of making art style sketchbook / journal binders for each project- pictures, inspiration, notes, phrases, scenes I thought up or images from nature I saw- things I thought on my walk home. Be a magpie.

    Now I “just” write comics, having given up on both novels, and scripts, let alone nonfiction. But the principle remains.

    It adds an unnecessary and very draining level of stress to try and be virtuous and start at the start and go until you finish the last page. Don’t sabotage yourself. Just write the FUCK out of the book and get it done.

    And any weak chapters or padding- cut it right out of the book. Edit like a blood crazed Hun and slash slash slash. Then add back with better stuff.

    And the most bitter but true advice I can give: ALWAYS FINISH.

    Even if the result is looking like a shower of shit, finish it and close the task. By finishing a work and then publishing it- self publishing it preferably in this day and age, but professionally- you are infinitely ahead of the gasbagging wannabe types who take ten years over one book. No book is worth ten years and unless you skipped ten years of school research doesn’t take that long either. It’s fear making excuses.

    I admit, as a predominantly pulp author it’s “easier” for us (how?) because our work is “easy” to crank out (why?). The guys who wrote The Shadow or Doc Savage were prodigious typists. That’s why they got paid.

    I don’t want to sound aggressive; it’s meant to be passionate. I love my craft, I am good at it, and I want every single writer to finish their book. It is a win for all of us when anyone gets published in the dying system or better, publishes themselves. We all win.

    Liked by 1 person

    • AWESOME comment! Writing a novel during NaNoWriMo taught me that lesson of writing out of order. In the beginning, the words flew from my fingers onto my laptop. But then I slowed down a great deal as the scenes didn’t come at a rush. I still worked through it, but because I did jump around. Ideas came for the story out of order. I wrote notes on some of them, and wrote out scenes for others. I think you’re very right: when inspiration hits, go with it–and that won’t always be in “order” of the story. Hell, your story can jump around. As long as readers are able to follow it.

      Because the important part is finishing the story. I have some projects that I left half-done because an idea for another story lit me on fire. But I’ve grown more disciplined in going back and finishing those half-done stories. And it feels amazing to get to the end, to wrap up the story and then self publish it.

      Thanks for taking the time to write your comment. You give rock star advice here. It’s definitely passionate advice to encourage writers to do what it takes to finish their story. And when they publish that story, it’s another voice for us to listen to, another voice in the community, another voice that has the chance to connect with us. Yes, we all definitely win.

      Like

  8. Reblogged this on Flying Tiger Comics and commented:
    If you are a writer, be a closer! ALWAYS finish your work! Accept nothing less! ONWARD!

    Liked by 1 person

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