This past weekend marked a milestone for me. Not the sort that will get written up in magazines or marked with a company award or even celebrated at the next family gathering.
It is a quiet milestone, one only you and I will share.
Between Friday and Sunday nights, I wrote without doubt.
This may seem like a small feat. “So what?” you might be thinking. But for someone as imprisoned by writer’s doubt as I have been the past six years . . . it’s like saying you just got out on parole.
Of course, I’ve known for awhile that I had such doubts. I’ve spent the last two years learning to write and create in spite of them, too.
Still, I never thought I’d be left entirely in peace, even for a day. Let alone two.
Awhile back, I began to suspect that achieving happiness as a writer (or creative person in general) likely was not going to come from the traditional means. The more opportunities I had to write for large audiences or for pay (two things every writer dreams of, right?) the more I struggled with the doubts about my abilities or my right to write anything at all.
The more I doubted, the more I hung my self-worth on getting my work “accepted” by someone else. The more I wrote to get published, the worse I wrote.
The worse I wrote, the more I hated writing . . . and myself.
Being tasked with teaching writing to others made it even worse. I could explain the tantalizing treasure to others and even saw them grow as writers because of it. Still, I could not achieve the growth myself.
Then a curious thing happened. Because I could no longer handle writing “on stage,” as it were, I began writing “back stage”—for myself and whoever would read my personal blog. I rediscovered what it was like to say my words, not the words I thought other people wanted me to say.
I also quit seeking the approval of other writers, editors and publishing “professionals” and started connecting with audiences. (Let’s face it: writers are creators, not consumers. While you may get helpful feedback on the technical aspects of your writing, other creators do not read like consumers and may even criticize your story out of their own self-doubt, whereas the target audience may love it.)
In addition, I put manuscript requests from publishers (yes, I had them) on the back burner and decided I would publish my own work: in my way, in my time, how I wanted to, wherever I discovered it would best connect with readers.
Finally, I sought out two writing partner who are sharp, gifted, and also full of grace. Our personal genre interests, styles and sensibilities meshed. We began working together and sharpening each other.
The last year has been a process of implementing these changes. It has also been the sanest, most productive year of my writing life.
I don’t say a lot about these things publicly, partly because there are plenty of great writing self-help blogs, a genre which I am not primarily aiming to write. And partly because my views—especially the one about the best writing happening in spite of or outside the “writing community”—are controversial.
There’s too much goodness in Writer’s Doubt to unpack in one post. Look for several future posts to explore the wealth of this book. In the meantime, I highly recommend you grab a copy for your personal library and follow along. But in the mean time . . .
Back to this past weekend.
For 48 wonderful hours, I shut myself in my writing room and wrote. I touched four separate projects, some near to completion, some only just begun. It was an unusually productive weekend and an unusually restful one. At the end, I asked myself why it was different.
That’s when I realized: it was a weekend without doubt.
I had written whatever I wanted to. I did not worry if it were good, or if people would like it, or (conversely) if it were absolute trash. I did not second-guess whether this were the right time to be working on this project, or whether I should wait six weeks until I had refined the idea (which is only ever a stall tactic of my perfectionism, I’ve learned).
I wrote what I wanted to, when I wanted to, in the way I wanted to. And it’s always surprising how much happier I am to have written than to have put writing off for a “better” moment that never comes.
All of this, though wonderful, is not a claim of total freedom from Writer’s Doubt. Tomorrow, I may feel Doubt try to push me back into my cell. (Heck, I heard the key scraping the lock this morning!)
But now, I know what to do with Doubt. Which, as it happens, means totally and utterly ignoring it.
Thank you, Bryan, for Writer’s Doubt. As we unpack the counterintuitive concepts, which have given voice to viewpoints I once held in silence, I trust you will find yourself on some future weekend, writing with the joy I believe we were meant to write by the Creator of Words Himself.
Happy (fearless) writing.