So in my non-existent free time, I read a little on the internet. I wish didn’t have to read a thing on the internet other than IMDB. I adore IMDB; it’s God’s covenant with humankind fulfilled.
Anyway, while I was perusing websites, squandering my precious moments, I came across an interview with Dani Shapiro on Salon.com entitled “Self-doubt is a Writer’s Best Friend”. Now, Ms. Shapiro is a real professional, an accomplished writer, and in the big leagues. I have no business arguing with her.
Except that I can. And this, my friends, is the joy of being human—the freedom to do things we have no business doing. Like when Eve baked her apple crisp in the Garden of Eden. Like Joaquin Phoenix’s rap career. Like me writing books.
Who do I think I am that I believe I can actually write an entire novel, tens of thousands of words, that other people will want to read? The short answer is that I suck, I should give up and do something else. Like watch more movies. Did I mention how much I like IMDB?
That, right there, is the demon of self-doubt. And it kills books, kills authors, kills people. What if I’m no good? What if other people are lying about liking my books? What if I’m just fooling myself?
Let’s look at that word, self-doubt. Doubt is good. Doubt makes us question and makes us pause for a minute. Should I eat the last six donuts? Probably not. Should I trust the guy in the alleyway offering me a deal on a Rolex? No, don’t. When the literary agent I’ve never heard of offers me a great deal if I give her a thousand dollars as “seed” money, should I take it? No. Trust the creep with the Rolex more.
I think that’s what Ms. Shapiro was aiming at, the doubt part. We should look at our work with an analytical eye and revise, revise, revise.
The problem is the self part. Self, as in self-centered, selfish, self-absorbed, me, me, me. Enough about me, what’s your opinion of me? I’m an egomaniac with an inferiority complex. I’m not much, but I’m all I think about.
When it’s all about me, that’s when I go into fingernails-in-palm terror. What if I’m no good?
And you know what? It’s all lies. In the end, with my writing, I don’t matter. Really, I shouldn’t have much of an opinion at all, because I’m not objective, and I will lie to myself. My work is terrible. My work is sublime. I should quit writing forever. I should stop sleeping and write five books at a time because THE WORLD NEEDS MY GENIUS!
Even when I’m revising and I need that keen, doubting mind, it’s not about me. It’s about what works. But how do we know? Most of the time, I don’t know with my conscious mind. I listen with my artist ears, the deep part inside me, because I trust that voice and that voice is not me. It’s something different, deeper. Call it God, soul, heart, my subconscious mind, or the grand collective consciousness—call it what you will, but that’s what I listen to. Sometimes it screams! Sometimes it whispers. Sometimes other people can’t hear it like I can, but it’s there.
Creating art is a heroic act because the only real credentials one needs is the desire. You don’t need a degree, you don’t need years of research, you don’t need anything except the will and desire and the ability to overcome the voices of self-doubt. And the ability to ignore the self-doubt of others. Some people spread it about like a literary Typhoid Mary. Don’t listen to them.
So since I have the desire to create, I will create. I will trust my intuition and I will enjoy the process. No, I will revel in the process. It’s mad fun. Hard, impossible, but still, how lucky I am to be a writer who writes despite all the many voices telling me to stop.
About the Writer: YA Paranormal author Aaron Michael Ritchey has penned a dozen manuscripts in his 20 years as a writer. When he isn’t slapping around his muse, Aaron cycles to look fabulous, works in medical technologies, and keeps his family in silks and furs. His first novel, The Never Prayer, is available now from Crescent Moon Press. Most recently, his work appears in the steampunk anthology The Penny Dread Tales Volume III and in the May 31, 2013 issue of Electric Spec. His next novel, Long Live the Suicide King, is due to drop, April of 2014 from Courtney Literary.