My secret writing weapon has always been my writing group, who are really just my childhood friends who I have largely coerced into adopting writing as their art. It’s okay. You can judge freely.
Lately I have been relying on them more than usual as motivators and support. Cya over at 2WriterNot2Write has been doing her damndest to get me back into my previous schedule of a chapter per week. She has even offered HUGE, INCREDIBLE suggestions that tie up some loose ends I have been trying to fix for SIX MONTHS (or more. Very probably more.), which makes me feel occasionally inadequate, if always, always grateful.
In any case, I have been told be be UPBEAT (to be referred to in all caps from here on out like some sad reminder).
So here is my half-assed GUIDE TO BEING UPBEAT. Actually, this is not even a guide. It is an attempt. Update: I have been sitting here for a good twenty minutes trying to decide how to follow up the previous sentence. This is not a great attempt.
I have always viewed doubt as an inevitable — if not necessarily essential — part of writing, or at least my writing. It can be and currently is crippling, but most other times it allows me to go back over drafts without getting bored or becoming too stubborn to cut large chunks of text. I have also never known how to react to confident writers. I respect their courage and craft but often find myself doubting the veracity of their statements — which is deeply unkind, but there you go. In any case, their confidence has little to do with my doubt.
So where is the UPBEAT silver lining?
I am confident in my craft and technical writing. There has been some wavering in light of some as-yet unresolved plot holes. BUT I have gotten validation and positive feedback for my general writing time and time again. The constructive criticism has never been malicious and, for the most part, has given me much to consider and continue to work on with each new piece. Why is this not an adequate safeguard against the ever-present doubt?
Mainly because the doubt has nothing to do with the actual writing, either the technique or story. I doubt the overall product and its reception. I doubt my ability to be validated as a published author. I know these are things we are told never to think about while we write. Obviously I and this blog stand as living proof of how these thoughts will only hinder stories. Short stories have always felt like breathing out; everything is expelled for my benefit and I have always been satisfied with the product, before, during and after editing. This longer novel-length work is draining in terms of producing all this work for myself.
Will all this time and effort expended still be worth it if it never gets published?
This is still not UPBEAT. The only UPBEAT thing I have left is to say that this is the story I want to write. I WANT TO WRITE THIS. And it drives me to frustration and madness, elation and deep depression. But at least I still have that, the drive to keep going. That’s something. And I am clinging to it even as I drag my feet with starting new chapters and obsess over old drafts and all the loose ends to tie up or change.
I know I would regret leaving this puzzle unsolved and all this work unfinished more than completing the project and never getting it published. Logically, I do know this. It is the doubt itself that is illogical. In reality, it’s just easier to succumb to it than to struggle and break through.
But I think it’s time to start struggling again.
“It’s hell writing and it’s hell not writing. The only tolerable state is having just written.” – Robert Hass