I was asked how I dealt with doubt. How I dealt with writing something and then thinking it’s pants and wanting to abandon it. What should you do?
Great question from Daniel.
How do we deal with doubt?
Well, self-doubt is another part of process, trust me — and before we start having regular acceptances and even when we do, we all doubt in our ability. We might have friends, writing groups etc.saying this is great but nothing we do finds the work the validation we seek and it’s tough. So there is doubt in a general sense and since rejection is part of process all you can do on that one is to keep writing and keep getting advice — and keep writing. Oh and keep writing. Work through the doubt much as you work through the pain of exercising on top of aches and pains from yesterday’s exercise! It does get easier as you shape up the muscle!
But how about when you are in a project, something like a novel that seems to be going well and then you think — this isn’t working. Start over?
It’s a hard one. I don’t tend to abandon short stories or novels, but I do leave them to rest if they really don’t feel as if they’re working, right now at this time. And often something happens that makes me go back and then usually the distance from it enables me to see what direction it wants to take. But there are a couple of older short stories I probably won’t go back to. Sometimes you really do have to let go. But if that inner part of you says this is a great premise, worth fighting for, go back and you might be amazed what happens.
The trick is being discerning enough to know something won’t work and time to say bye-bye and knowing when it has that extra something that will get it noticed but either you are not ready to write it or it needs time to settle. And again I truly believe that writer’s instinct will develop the more you write and you will just know. I know I Am Wolf, my feral child novel, has something. I sense it. But I also knew it wasn’t holding together as it should, so when my agent told me what I knew, it proved my instincts were correct. I won’t abandon it, I will allow it to sit and I know when I do come back to it I will find a way to fix it.I just know it is a story that needs to be told. I just need a way to make the reader connect to Amy. She needs time in rehab and then I will go back to her.
Self-doubt has crept in recently with Isle of Pelicans as I still fear the plot isn’t quite there and has challenged me the whole way. So I want to get this draft down (that is always a good feeling) so I can rest it and work on something new now and then come back to it. But I will come back to this one.
What helped me last week deal with doubt was writing a completely new short story that refueled by obsession with writing and it worked. If you haven’t written a short for a while you have this crazy notion you have forgotten how. I know it sounds insane. So now I feel better and the story has been subbed.
Allow stories time to rest and reexamine, but if in doubt write something new. And if it really isn’t working, know when to let go. Nothing is wasted because it’s all part of a long but rewarding process and patience is essential for a writer.
But don’t keep starting one thing and then abandoning it for another or you won’t finish anything. If you get to that stage, take a complete break and don’t write anything for a short time. I don’t tend to do that, but I do know there are times when the words come and the stories work and other times when they don’t. IT’S NORMAL!
Well as normal as life can be for those of us who live inside our own heads!
This is very apt.
Whatever you do — don’t give up!
HAPPY THURSDAY ALL!