Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Doubt

Am I a writer? Do I want to be a writer? I’ve invested all of my worldly savings into my Masters course. A brave move? Or a stupid one? Am I buying the time to write? Or am I using it to justify myself as a writer? In which case, surely I’m not really one.

The thought of having to sit down and write isn’t pleasant to me. It seems like a chore. I’m crippled with self-doubt before I even start. It’s only once I’ve written something, I feel good. It’s only once I have a chunk of text down, and edited it, I’m sometimes quite pleased with what I’ve written. I feel like a writer.

And then if I don’t write, I feel guilty. I feel terrible.

Last night I had a strange experience. I was getting ready to have my bath. I usually read in the bath, and I was looking round my bedroom for a book to take with me. I had an urge to read a certain story, to find out what happens, and then I realised after a few seconds that the story I was thinking of was my work-in-progress. I guess that’s quite a good sign (for my writing – a bad sign for my sanity).

I’ve written nearly 10,000 words of my novel. My most sustained project yet. But it’s taken me over two months to write it. About an average of 150 words a day. Terrible, since I’ve quit my full time job to do this.

Why do I write? I don’t know. I yearn to see my writing in print, to hold my novel in my hands, printed by a respectable publisher. But that thought also fills me with fear. I have thin skin. I see premonitions of my novel being rated ‘one out of five stars’ on Amazon. Of scathing reviews. Worst, of being accused of ripping off others’ ideas. That my work is horribly unoriginal.

And if I find writing so hard, and it takes me so long, how on earth could I write more than one book? How awfully un-author-like that is. I should be biting at the bit to get to my keyboard, to furiously exorcise the stories in my head. And yet I’m not. I’m lounging around in my dressing gown, watching day-time telly, refreshing Facebook.

Would I be damning myself if I publish this post? Would I be admitting something terrible? Or am I just going through a phase? A phase that’s hard to shake. I’m hoping things will get easier.

5 comments:

  1. Writing is something that's always come and gone for me. I don't often miss it, but when I am writing it's a wonderful feeling.

    I think the knowledge that very few authors make a decent living from writing keeps me on the lookout for a satisfying day job. But I always want to be able to find the time to write, should inspiration strike. Even if I only scribble haiku in my breaks. Or if I write when I'm on holidays and long weekends. I've never wanted to make a career out of writing, because the minute things depend on it, I'd be worried that all the joy would be sapped out of it. I couldn't give that feeling up.

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  2. I get this from time to time as well. I think as I get older, I become more aware that my ambition in life is to make up stories. That's all fine and dandy so long as you can make a living from it...which I can't. Hence the dilemma.

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  3. You're fortunate to have discovered artistic insecurity so early. Self-doubt ensures constant questioning of what one believes, which ensures the potential for wisdom and accomplishment through the search for meaning and truth. The ultimate dawning realisation that there is neither just provides a satisfying smile at the beauty of the Great Cosmic Joke, providing you live that long. Oh, and whiskey helps...

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  4. I think Sylvia Plath famously said self-doubt was the biggest obstacle to writers so you're not alone. In my experience the most creative people have the lowest self-esteem. Maybe your story isn't setting you alight. Are you telling the story you really want to tell?

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  5. Thanks for your comments, everyone. I think they all ring true in some way, to me. The money, the joy, the cosmic joke!

    I reflected yesterday that during my doubt, the medium I automatically turned to was my blog, through writing. Hopefully that says more about my urge to write than anything.

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