Monday, 23 April 2012

I Used to Be Indecisive...Now I'm Not Sure...

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! 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. 



Tali Spencer said...

Experience helps. It helps a lot. You have to be the ultimate judge of your work, the Three Fates of your work's life: you weave it, you measure it, you cut the thread--and there it is. Done.

The best thing that ever happened to me as a writer was early success. It was also the worst thing. I lacked a compass, didn't trust my success; I hadn't yet learned to trust my craft. Every critical comment destroyed me. I obsessed about being "better" or "worthy." Then I realized I was the one letting people do that to me, and to my writing.

It's easy to say don't care what other people might think (because unless they tell you, you don't really know), but hard to do. But you will get there. As you build your stories and receive feedback on them, you learn to trust they are well-constructed, that they can weather storms, reach port safely. Just keep weaving your stories, building your ships. :D

Dorien Grey said...

I don't know if this would work for you, Carol, but it is sometimes very nice to split yourself into two people as I have done. Roger sits at the computer, and lets Dorien write the stories. (I suppose I am, therefore, in essence, both the trapeze artist and the catcher.) I also avoid much of the indecision you suffer by just letting Dorien do his thing with only an occasional nudge or suggestion from Roger.

I don't know of a writer who doesn't have some occasional doubt or indecsion. But writing is a game, nothing more, and the rules are not set in stone. Your head and heart know what to say. Just let them.

Karenna Colcroft said...

I'm glad you recognized the problem, Carol. That's the first step in figuring out how to address it.

For most of my life, I lived with constant correction from others. "You're wrong, you're lying, you don't know what you're talking about. You're stupid. You're making me look bad. You're making me feel bad. It's all your fault." And on and on. I doubted--and often still doubt--everything I said, everything I did. I'm constantly worried that people are angry with me or that someone's going to be angry with me because I'm too incompetent in life not to say or do the wrong thing.

Strangely, that never carried over into my writing. My stories are the one part of my life that I've always done and stood up for what I believed was right, even when people told me I was wrong. Sometimes I think it would be easier if I could live the rest of my life the way I live my writing life...

You're an amazing writer, Carol. I hope you know that, and I hope that as you continue writing and growing, it will become easier for you to follow your instincts. And good for you for sticking to your description of the garage apartment!

C. Zampa said...

Thank you, Talismania. I'd never thought about it from the other perspective...the instant success and then having to face your doubt. Thank you for sharing that!
And I'm counting on your words being true...that time and practice will build confidence.

C. Zampa said...

Dorien, thank you for your thoughts. I like your approach..both the swinger and the catcher. That takes confidence to trust your other self. I hope to get just that secure one day.

Again, thank you.

C. Zampa said...

Karenna, I hate that you've had that experience. But, I am SO glad it has not affected your writing confidence. Indeed, your writing has been the strength for you to face the insecurity, and in time will hopefully weave its way into your daily life as well. Isnt' it beautiful how writing can do that?

I, myself, can't say I ever had reasons to doubt myself in real life. I've met with some discouragement from others, sure...we all do. But, for the most part, I've always had support around me, in all areas of my life.

So where this writing insecurity comes from, I haven't a clue. But I'm bound and determined it's not going to be around forever. LOL...

Thank you, my friend.

Sue Brown said...

I cannot write without constant reassurance that, in Lisa Worrall's terminology, it doesn't suck donkey balls.

However the feeling of inadequacy is something I always live with, so it isn't that odd that it carries over in my writing.

You had a hell of a year, love. No wonder everything slowed down.

Molly Daniels said...

In some strange way, I echo Karenna's view. I grew up thinking nothing i did or said was ever 'right', so in my stories, it was the one area I WAS in control, and what I wrote was 'right', even when others criticized it (mainly my descriptive parts and the 'wandering', lol!)

But after a few years, I latched onto something I was good at, and when I began letting others read my stories, I realized 'normal people' like the basic storylines; it was the 'other stuff' (POV, description) which needed work. And so I kept trying.

Keep writing; get it down on paper/word doc first, and then let your internal editor take over. The best advice I ever saw/heard was 'don't get it RIGHT, get it WRITTEN'.

And like you, some of my description/dialogue has been taken right out of LIFE. And when people have said 'That conversation would never take place'...umm....yes it did! So go with your gut. This is the one time we get to play God:)


Harlie Williams said...

Sometimes the hardest part of life is letting go of something. I'm going through some really tough times right now and I'm having to learn that not everything is in my control. Its hard, I know but its the unknown for me. I can be a natural worrier and that's not good, either.

Great blog and congratulations on getting your new book out.


by Sarah Lee said...

I'm right there with you, sweet sis. I've had so many drawbacks to my writing, and the same contradictions affect me. I've never been a confident person, not in any aspect. You and I are so much alike it's scary. LOL!

I think that, like the first person to comment said, experience helps, but there are always doubts, no matter how experienced. Somebody will say 'that's not the way things are in real life', and you doubt your own judgment, even if you've lived through the exact scene.

In my experience, I once wrote a scene that came from real life, and an editor told me 'this never happens. It's too unrealistic and needs to be taken out'. LOL! Fiction seems to work much better for most people.

I'm so happy Purly Gates is on its way to getting published! Now I'm anxious for you to get back to Honor! ((((Hugs!))))

C. Zampa said...

Sue, then you do know the feeling, don't you?

But that kind of makes me feel better. Because if a writer of your calibre can feel the insecurites, then it's maybe just normal.

Thanks, sweetie.

C. Zampa said...

Yep, Molly, it is so frustrating when someone argues something that is REAL. LOL...

I had a friend who wrote her cat into a book. He had a most unsual name (can't mention it here in front of polite

A reader argued...'No one would ever name their cat such a name.'

My friend argue, 'But that IS his name! That WAS my cat's real name! In real life!'

And the reader refused to accept it. So...well...sometimes they just are not right, eh? LOL...

I'm glad you found strength and confidence through your writing!

C. Zampa said...

No, Harlie, so many things are not in our control. And sometimes, even though it is hard, letting go really is the best answer. Doesn't seem so at the time, but somehow turns out to be the best thing in the long run.

Thank you for sharing!

C. Zampa said...

Hey, Sweet Sis, Sarah! Yes, we are a lot alike, girl!

Ad we both need more confidence, and I think we will get it in time.

Thanks for being there for me in those times when I WAS feeling so unsure.

Love you.

Cassie Exline said...

Sorry to be so late, but had to comment. I found early on that I had to stick to my gut, to what my instincts told me or my writing suffered.

Hope this makes sense, but when I stuck to "my" way, the story came together like pieces to a puzzle, when I listened to someone else or swayed off course, the story feel apart.

You're an awesome writer and will find your way. As someone else said, experience will help, the more you submit, the easier it will become. Hugs

C. Zampa said...

Hey, Cassie!
You know what, I never thought of it like that! Puzzle pieces. And when you DO try to put a piece that doesn't belong, it just doesn't fit and it stops the puzzle from flowing and ever being finished.

That is a very good way to think of it. I like that. Thank you!


Joylene Nowell Butler said...

I want to we the new generation and being full of doubt is our destiny. But that ain't the case. Fitzgerald worked as a report in either Montreal or Toronto, and centuries later one of his co-workers said the kid was a pain in the butt because he needed constant reassurance. When I read that it made me laugh. You are in good company, Carol.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Honestly, the net ate some of my words. Really! Words like "say" and "are". Nasty net!

C. Zampa said...

Joylene, that is SO interesting and inspiring about Fitzgerald! Not inspiring because he was insecure...but inspiring because one would never have known it without having been told. So there IS hope after all. LOL..
And damn computers for eating letters! LOL...


Erik Orrantia said...

Dearest C!

Thanks for sharing. I do hate it when people criticize unbelievable parts of my stories...especially when they're things that really happened! Or when an editor insists on changing something only to have another change it back! In the end, so much is simply opinion, isn't it? Best luck with your self-publishing venture. Can't wait to hear how it goes!