And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt. ~Sylvia Plath
Today I turned over the manuscript for my latest story, PURLY GATES (under my Vastine Bondurant pen name) to be formatted for publication.
I finally had to relinquish it, let it go, let it be done. A fellow author told me---and I loved her way of putting this---that the painter just has to know when the work is done, and she has to lay down the paint brush and say, It is finished.
So I did just that. Laid down the paint brush.
After sending the manuscript off to the formatter, I had to stifle the urge to shout, Wait! One more thing! I'm sure something's missing! Don't work on it yet! Let me take just...one...more...look! It's going go be self-published, after all. Surely subject to much more scrutiny than if I'd submitted to a traditional publisher. Get it back! It's not ready! That internal doubt screamed again. But, no. I just let it go and resolved that I'd done the best I could. Two full edits, numerous betas. Let it go.
Most of you know how long a second book was in the works for me. Forever, or so it seemed. My first novella, CANDY G, was released March 2, 2011.
I've always chalked this tortoise pace up to just...slow writing. Hey, I'm slow as molasses! It' just my pace, and that's all there is to it!
But during the process of getting Purly Gates ready for publication, it hit me---I mean like a piano falling from a building---what my biggest writing obstacle is. Why I sit and stare at the computer screen---the starting words for sentences, scenes, paragraphs, poised just out of reach of my brain. Scenes as clear as day, as vivid as any scene in any movie. But stalled somewhere between the brain and the fingers.
Doubt. No confidence in my own ability to transport the words from my head to the screen.
I realized I'm one of those authors who panics and freezes---simply CANNOT grasp the old proverbial trapeze bar---without a partner, without the safety of a net.
What I mean by that is: I realized I need constant reinforcement. Constant. Approval from others for every word, every thought. Sounds quite silly, but it's the truth. Yes, I need that other partner on the trapeze in order to perform. If there is no other swing, no hand to grab---someone to assure me this word is correct, that this thought is logical---then I can't...swing.
One little word of disagreement during a critique and I immediately cave. I instantly doubt my own ability to create. I freeze. As silly as it seems, I often even want to just rely on that other person to tell me what to say. I am that unsure.
And that slows my writing down to a near non-existent pace. It paralyzes me, this indecisiveness. It is crippling.
I wonder---and desire it with all my heart---to know how other authors manage to swing on their own trapeze, to walk the tightrope without that safety net? How do they just...know...when their own voice is right-on? When perhaps the other voice is wrong?
Where does this confidence come from? With time? Experience? When do you learn to trust yourself, to know when to disagree with certain feedback and stick with it?
I remember once during the writing of a story, I'd painted a scene: a garage apartment on a residential piece of property. A long gravel driveway led to the detached garage and the dwelling above it. Someone reading this scene corrected me, told me a subdivision in a barrio district such as I'd written would not have a long drive. The yards in these areas were too small, they insisted.
True to my usual insecurity, I almost made the correction, almost changed to property to fit the other person's vision.
But...but...NO! What was I thinking? I was painting this scene straight from life. The very description of a garage apartment in a low-rent district in my home town, a lot I passed daily on my way to work. Wait just a minute! See what I'm saying?
Even for something I wrote from experience, right out of real life, I almost changed this image, almost altered the very nuance of the scene I was creating. Almost. I refused to change it. I'd say I was proud of myself for relying on my own instinct and vision, but...hey...I nearly succumbed to my doubt. I actually halted, froze, and got discouraged. Actually sat there thinking I just can't do this. I can't rely on the images in my head, I can't depend on my own choice of words. I suck at this.
I'd love to say I'm writing this blog because I've overcome this crippling condition. But I haven't. I merely realized, for the first time ever, that it IS a problem, that it is THE problem in my writing.
George Canning said, Indecision and delays are the parents of failure. And that is true. Painfully so for me.
I don't know if time will be my savior, if simply writing, writing, writing will build my confidence. And by the way. How the hell did I ever GET so insecure about my writing in the first place? Is it a matter of putting too much weight on the input of others? IS their word gospel? How do you know when it is and when it ISN'T the gospel according to someone else?
Just when do you learn to swing without the net? No, I don't mean without feedback at all. No way. It is crucial for me. But when will I reach the point I just...know...I'm right?
I think, when I reach this point, I'll write faster, I'll be more sure of what I DO write.
But, until then, I'll just think of the of the words of Oscar Levant and smile. Once I make up my mind, I'm full of indecision.