Wrestling Doubt: An Intervention

Some days I think that I shouldn’t post anything about potential new WIPs on this blog until I can be certain I’ll stick with them. Some days I think talking about new story ideas is the way to get myself to stick with them. Sometimes I’m certain that my new MS is going to be the best thing I’ve done to date, and other times I know that it’s the worst.

Most of the writers I know (myself included) doubt themselves more than anyone else doubts them. And though doubt and criticism are totally different monsters, they’re equally insidious and equally damaging. Doubt is the voice in your head that whispers, “Why bother? Nobody’s going to read this. Nobody gives a damn. You’re talentless. Why are you wasting your time? Find a different pursuit. You’ll be so much better off.” Everyone has this voice in their head. Everyone struggles with whether to listen to doubt, or give doubt a good kick in the pants and get back to work.

For most of the last month that’s where I’ve been. Going around and around in circles over whether I’m doing the right thing for my self, or my sanity, or my writing. Maybe I should take a break. Try harder. Go back to this one story. Start a new one. The inability to trust your own decisions-making process is the most obvious of doubt’s side effects–and the one that seems to go most often unsaid.

Right now I’m doing as thorough an edit on “Facing the Music” as I can manage by myself. Then, when it’s mostly ready, I’ll start sending it to my CPs and getting their feedback. Those are all good things. But even though I’m still making progress on that MS, my writing itself has suffered. And that’s because I’ve changed my mind about what my next story should be about three times now.

First I was working on Amnesia Conspiracy: version 1. Then I realized that version 1 had no plot and moved on to version 2. Version 2 had no compelling characters. I shelved the story temporarily because I recognized that I was trying to do to much with it. Okay. For the last two months I’ve been vigorously brainstorming and outlining a new MS with the working title The Mystery Musician. I was super excited about this story and super thrilled to write it. But now that I’ve started writing it, I’m mired down by concerns that The Mystery Musician and “Facing the Music” have too much in common. That they’re too similar at their heart for me to work on so close together.

Just when I’d been debating whether to set that MS aside and work on something entirely different, what starts writing itself in my head after months of dragging its heels? If you guessed Amnesia Conspiracy: version 3, you’d be correct.

It’s a vicious cycle, and not breaking it cripples your confidence and your desire to produce. I don’t want that. I don’t want to be putting off sitting down at my computer or coming up with not-so-great reasons to abandon my writing. I don’t want to listen to doubt when I should be listening to the characters whose story I’m trying to tell.

This is my promise to myself. I’m going to quit making excuses. I’m going to make the time. I’m going to pick a MS and stick with it until I’ve finished or moved onto something else for better reasons than my own paralyzing insecurity.

I might not ever win the battle against doubt. But I am going to win the upper hand.


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