You should know, before you start reading the words that come after this, that before I started writing them I sat here staring at the blinking cursor on the pristine screen for far too long. I often approach Mad Genius like this. ‘Who am I,’ I ask myself silently, ‘to offer any advice whatsoever on writing? I still don’t know what I’m doing, much less how well I’m doing it.’ But here I am, and I am determined to honor the privilege of my position because… Because I was given so much help when I first started. And now I’m here, a little way in on the journey, able to reach behind me to give some encouragement to those still staring at their blank screens.
I posted a poll in the wee little facebook group I run for eclectic artists. It’s mostly writers, but also artists in diverse mediums, because I’m also scattered in my goals. And craving chocolate, so bear with me a moment. I’ll get there. What I asked in the poll was, in general ‘How many of us are always happy with what we wrote, especially while writing? Do you find yourself doubting your work?’
The majority of the respondents chose ‘often’ and commented that whether it was in words, or art, they found themselves uncertain while creating. The second most selected option was one I put in ‘there’s a reason I have trouble finishing things.’ Because that’s me. I get an idea, it seems like a great idea. I love it! I really want to write it. I carve out the time to sit down and start work on it. This is a great idea. Words on the page, plotting begins… and suddenly I have doubts.Wait. Is this derivative? Too cliche? Too tropey? Too silly? Too…
And I get stuck. I hang up on the rocks and shoals of my doubts, and when I manage to push myself off the rocks and get a little further, I grind up on a sandbank. And then I have to portage the Falls of Despair, and eventually I wind up huddled in my chair thinking I can’t write. I suck at this. I’m the Worst.
Now, I have learned to (mostly) push through this. Grit my teeth, and just keep plugging away until I get through the rapids and into calmer water as the end draws near. I can usually write fast and confident as I near the end (or what I think is the end. It’s not, usually, but that’s a different post). And then I really really doubt what I’ve done, in that moment after I pound out those three little letters. Convinced it’s utter dreck, I sit on it for a few days.
This is not, of course, the way all writers approach creation (or other artists). Some of them are absolutely sure their, ahem, droppings possess no foul odor. They sail confidently ahead, full steam, damn the torpedoes of reader reviews. I can only look at that with an impressed face, because for me creation is an uncertain place. It’s risky. I take chances. What I create might not be for everyone, and I am acutely aware of this.
Then, I try to remember that I am not writing for those people. I’m writing for me, and for people who like the things I like. This idea got my juices flowing in the moment it arrived in my brain. If I develop it to the fullest I can, giving it my own creative touch, then I will at least make myself happy. That’s enough. For now, at least. And so I get to the end of the beginning. That’s the trick. Persist past your doubts. Ignore the gibbering daemons in the dark corners of your brain, and write your heart out on the page. Trust me on it. Give me your hand, and just keep on in spite of your uncertainty. You can do this, and it will be better than you think.