Friday, February 8, 2013

A Writer's Doubts

Self-doubt is one of the most debilitating of traits, and yet, we writers constantly denigrate our best efforts in spite of the evidence around us.


My guest is suspense author, Jo Robertson. Jo shares two novellas for your enjoyment. Her topic is one writers everywhere can identify withself doubt.

Anne Bradstreet, the Colonial American poet, wrote a poem titled “Author to Her Book,” in which she uses a lovely metaphor.  She compares her book to a child being sent out into the world as parents might send an unprepared child from their home – dirty-faced, tattered-dressed – not ready for the world to see it, judge it, or evaluate it. 

She indicates her book of poetry (her child) was sent out into the world by well-meaning friends, “friends, less wise than true . . .," who knew she needed the money. 

As a writer I identify with Bradstreet's sentiments.  Most writers never feel their works are finished, complete, or polished enough for the world to read and judge.  Every time I peruse an older manuscript of mine, I think of dozens of ways I could alter it, make it better, or just fiddle around with the damned thing! 

Extending her metaphor, Bradstreet insists that the book’s “visage was . . . irksome in [her] sight,” but because it was hers, she believed that affection would amend its blemishes.  However, the more she scrubbed its “face,” the “more defects [she] saw” till at last, her poverty “caused her to thus send [it] out of door.”

Oh, don't we fall in love with our words!  How difficult it is to eliminate a single one.

It’s a given that we writers have a lot of angst in our profession.  If we’re unpublished, we doubt our worth as writers; if published, we believe someone made a monumental mistake in acquiring the book and we’ll never sell another one because it was a fluke in the first place.  If we're indie published, as I am, we wonder how we became successful, or alternately, why we didn't.

Self-doubt is one of the most debilitating of traits, and yet, we writers constantly denigrate our best efforts in spite of the evidence around us.

I think artists of all kinds are the greatest self-doubters, but writers are particularly vulnerable.  After having published twelve titles with moderate success, I finally learned to trust my gut, to rely on my best judgment of my work.  Authors have always struggled to make a living from their writing.  Isn't it wonderful that in this electronic age we have so many options open to us?
 
When I'm selling well, especially in this quixotic and undependable market, I count my blessings!  I remind myself, when sales are low, that many of the greatest writers of our generation and previous ones, were not popular during their lifetimes.
                                                                                       
What do you readers think?  

Are you one of those who doubts yourself?  Do you always second guess your decisions?  Are you too hard on yourself?  Do we writers fail to admire our strengths and dwell instead on our weaknesses?  Why do you think we do this?  

If you're not a writer, what do you have self-doubts about in your life?

                                                                                                    


BUY: AMAZON
THE HITMAN'S HOLIDAY
Jo Robertson

Logan is a professional hit man. He finds the Christmas Season the dreariest and most boring of the year, but this particular year he gets caught up in a holiday jingle that lodges in his mind.

When he gets an unusual December contract, he follows a sassy twelve-year-old and her odd companions through the Bronx ... and serious trouble.

This assignment brings Logan face to face with the concept of how far he can go on this dark path before there's no turning back. 


Is it already too late for redemption?


                                                                                                                                           



THE PERFECT GIFT

When her husband dies unexpectedly Jane Stark is left with four young boys and a mother-in-law who hates her. When she finds herself pregnant with the longed-for baby girl her husband wanted and ex-detective Rick --- moves in next door, Jane doesn't know whether to be happy or overwhelmed with the changes life has handed her.

BUY: AMAZON
                                                                                          

35 comments:

Cheryl Carvajal said...

This is me. I doubt every word I've ever written. I doubt my ability to write something truly worth reading or sharing (certainly not worth publishing!) and the negative thoughts keep me from writing except when I'm overwhelmed with free time.

But how do I battle back? I've managed to overcome so many other outside doubts, where people didn't think I could do something, and I proved them wrong. Why can't I prove myself wrong?

I can feel a blog entry coming on...

Anne Gallagher said...

I constantly second guess myself. Ask my critique partners. But when the going gets tough, I trust my gut. Come failure or success the decision was mine and I have to live with it. Usually though, my gut is always right.

L.G. Smith said...

Yep, self doubt is a killer. I do think I've gained some confidence in my writing from having my blog. It's helped me see what works with readers and what doesn't, even though sometimes it is still inexplicable to me why one post is popular and one goes unnoticed. But it has taught me to trust my ability a little more. :)

~Sia McKye~ said...

Personal doubts are always harder to fight because they're our inner demons, if you will. They're insidious. But they do have a shut off button. We just have to find it.

I've worked on something or written an entire story and put it away because I thought it was crap. A year goes by and I reread it and think, wow, I wrote this. It's good. So think part of it is the creative struggle with getting it on paper.We're so aware of what we see in our heads and how we're getting it down. As with any creative endeavor, the building and revising is the hard part.

jo robertson said...

Hi, Sia, thanks for having me here today. It's a crisp, clear day in northern California, so I'll just sit back, sip on my hot chocolate, and visit with you folks!

jo robertson said...

Hi, Cheryl, good for you! Persistence is the one thing you CAN control in this crazy business. Some days I just write real "crap," but I keep on going until it turns into something quite nice.

jo robertson said...

Great comment, Anne. Sometimes I don't think we give enough credit to relying on our "gut" or intuition. I've made some serious mistakes by taking others' advice instead of relying on my own instincts.

jo robertson said...

Hi, L.G. Good for you! I find writing exposition (as opposed to the narration in fiction) a good tool for making me a better writing. Having a blog is an excellent exercise in self-discipline, I think.

jo robertson said...

You're so right, Sia! And our inner demons often are tied to other issues of confidence and self-worth.

Anna Sugden said...

Such a timely post, Jo - having just gone through revisions for my first book, I went through a huge bout of self-doubt. If there was so much wrong with it, why did my editor buy it? What if I didn't get the revisions right, would she change her mind and withdraw the offer? LOL Thank goodness my good buddies talked me off that cliff-edge!

Grace Burrowes said...

I don't have doubts about my writing, I have weaknesses as a writer that I work on, hard. I consider that different from the anxieties I have about "wherefore shall I eat, and how shall I be clothed." I have those as a lawyer, a mom, a mediator, whatever. Writing is worse in that regard because financial success is elusive. I try not to vultch my sales stats, and to protect my work from anybody and anything whose reaction to it is not simply critical, but destructive.

And it's mighty hard, but I will write, so it behooves me to learn how to make what goes with the writing as bearable as possible.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I wonder how many 'flukes' I have left in me.

James Rafferty said...

I think all writers have doubts from time to time, especially when a piece has been criticized by editors or agents. As Sia said, it sometimes helps to put the work aside and read it with fresh eyes to re-validate its quality.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Grace! Great to see you.

Writing Weaknesses. Yep. We all have them and that's a good way to focus on the issue. No matter what career we have we have to be able to assess our weakness so we can make them stronger. It sure does take hard work. You're challenging yourself. Helps to put it into perspective, doesn't it?

I love the flow and worldbuilding in your books. You make it look effortless and I know it isn't!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Anna, thanks for sharing that. Our writing buddies are worth their weight in gold. Course the sharp pointy toes on those, kicking you into the right mindset, boots help as well, lol!

Alex, the first one may have been a fluke. Three no longer qualifies as a fluke, m'dear. Just sayin'

Suzanne Ferrell said...

Jo, you and I have been traveling the same path this year and while it's thrilling, there's always the niggling sense of...is this the one they LOVE or is it going to disappoint the readers who have glommed on to my work and begged for more? Will this one be as compelling as the last one? Sigh.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Thank you Jo for the gift!

Anna Campbell said...

Hi Sia! Hi Jo! It's breakfast time here so I'll have a nice crusty croissant and a cafe au lait. Ooh la la!

Jo, congratulations on all your success! I'm so thrilled that your wonderful stories are finding a wide audience all over the world. The two novellas sound great.

Self-doubt is sadly the plague of the author. I think it's got its pluses - trying to make our work as good as we can get it is a GOOD thing. But all that second-guessing is really hard on the psyche. I also find we're prone to rollercoaster rides of emotion. One minute I'll think what I'm writing is great, the next hour (sadly, the hours outweigh the minutes!, I'll think it's be biggest heap of steaming manure ever set in type. Oh, well, it's all part of life's rich tapestry, isn't it? ;-)

Christina Brooke said...

Jo, it's such a difficult thing to switch off, all that self-doubt, isn't it? I'm constantly trying to quell the various and myriad doubts I have about my ability as a writer, mother, friend, daughter, wife, you name it!

One thing someone said once that resonated with me was ask yourself if you would talk to your friend the way you talk to yourself. The answer is NEVER! It's a good reality check for when I beat myself up about something. We all need to treat ourselves a little more kindly, don't we?

Carol Kilgore said...

I fight this all the time. It creeps up and takes a while to go away. Then when I think it's finally gone, it's back.

Jo said...

Best I can do is wonder if anyone will read or even enjoy my blog. Basically once you get into my age group, self doubt melts away, unless you are a writer of course, I guess that doesn't stop however old you are and the self doubt would ride along with it. Lack of sales can come at any time whether you are published or not and that too will shake your confidence.

JO ON FOOD, MY TRAVELS AND A SCENT OF CHOCOLATE

jo robertson said...

Hi, Anna, so glad you stopped by. I thought that my blog today was very similar to your guest blog on Romance University. Self-doubt can be such a big stumbling block. So glad you got your contract from Harlequin!

jo robertson said...

Wow, Grace, you wear so many hats. Good for you! It's an excellent quality to recognize your weaknesses, writing or otherwise, and to focus on them. And discard those criticisms that do you no good. Kudos!

jo robertson said...

"Flukes," Alex? I'm missing the subtext there.

jo robertson said...

True, James, fresh eyes on your work can make all the difference. When I taught writing, I used to keep my students papers for a long time (like 6 weeks or more) and then have them "revisit" their work. It's amazing how much more objective they could be about their writing.

jo robertson said...

Right, Suzanne. You can't always account for reader tastes. I know some of my books that I think are the best aren't popular ones, but the ones I consider the better ones don't sell as well. A funny business!

jo robertson said...

I hope you enjoy the novellas, Sia. Like I said, "The Perfect Gift" is the most popular one -- very sweet and tender family romance -- but "The Hitman's Holiday" is my favorite.

jo robertson said...

Writing is like parenting, Anna, I think. You try your best, but you're never really sure you've done a good job LOL.

jo robertson said...

What a wonderful suggestion, Christina! We're definitely kinder to our friends than to ourselves.

jo robertson said...

Thanks again for hosting me today, Sia! Your site is always so relaxing and comfortable.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Jo, nice to hear you say that about my site. :-) I always enjoy having you visit.

Oh, and regarding Alex and his flukes. He claims his first book was a fluke and something he wanted to tell. Now he has two more books. So he's wondering about what's left in Alex to tell. One story may be a fluke but three? No. I think it dovetails quite nicely into your topic. :-D

As for The Hitman's holiday, I just love the premise of it and it was the one I was most drawn to.

I love your stories--nice blend of edge of your seat suspense, nice touch of romance, great action when it's called for, and all around involving stories.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Man oh man, do I ever relate to this post. It's strangely reassuring that I'm not the only one who nitpicks my poor writing to death, always trying to make it "better" and "better"... and secretly afraid to launch it into the world because it still might not be ready... still might not be good enough yet. And when people praise it? I think they're just being nice because they like me, and don't want to hurt my feelings. I know. Ridiculous. And I'm not like this about anything else... just my writing. Nice to know I'm not alone.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Susan, you most definitely aren't alone with that. There are several commenters here who have multiple books out and a couple of the commenters are bestsellers.

Handling doubts and recognizing personal weaknesses are works in progress for most, regardless of their vocation but especially for writers.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

We'll always doubt, because what we write is our creation and so personal to us.

Sia, Alex said that you'd volunteered to be a minion for the A to Z Challenge, and since he had plenty of helpers those of us in need could select someone. Would you please be my minion???

jo robertson said...

Thanks for the generous compliments, Sia.

Ha, ha, I agree with you about Alex. Three books -- no way, that's a fluke!