James Scott Bell
“Don’t look back. Something may be gaining on you.” – Satchel Paige
You want to be a writer? You are a writer? Welcome to the world of doubt.
Dick Simon (of Simon & Schuster) once said, “All writers are scared to death. Some simply hide it better than others.”
Why should that be? Even after one has reached the hallowed halls of publication? Even while in the midst of what might termed a career?
Because there is always lurking the idea that the rug may be snatched away. That some little dog will pull aside the curtain and reveal you there, a fraud after all. Even the top writers in the game get this feeling. No less a luminary than Stephen King cops to it.
Another reason excellent writers experience doubt is, ironically, excellence itself. Because these authors keep setting their standards higher, book after book, and know more about what they do each time out. That has them wondering if they can make it over the bar they have set. Many famous writers, unable to deal with this pressure, have gone into the bar itself, and stayed late.
Jack Bickham, a novelist who was even better known for his books on the craft, put it this way:
“All of us are scared: of looking dumb, of running out of ideas, of never selling our copy, of not getting noticed. We fiction writers make a business of being scared, and not just of looking dumb. Some of these fears may never go away, and we may just have to learn to live with them.”
Yes, you learn to live with them, but how? The most important way is simply to pound away at the keyboard.
As Dennis Palumbo, author of Writing from the Inside Out, put it, “Every hour you spend writing is an hour not spent fretting about your writing.”
If a writer were to tell me he never has doubts, that he’s just cocksure he’s the Cheez-Wiz of literature, I know I will not want to read his work. That’s why I think doubts are a good sign. They show that you care about your writing and that you’re not trying to skate along with an overinflated view of yourself.
The trick is not to let them keep you from producing the words.
Don’t ever let the waves of doubt stop you. Body surf them back to shore, let the energy of them flow through your fingertips. That’s the only real “secret” to this game.
What about you? Ever feel doubts? What’s your preferred method of handling it?