Doubt in this writer’s life: #doubt #writing

notebookWhenever I write about doubt in my writing life, many people say things like:

Don’t worry dude! Just keep writing!

You’re awesome! Be strong!

All writers face rejection! Just keep on keeping on!

But I’m not really looking for encouragement. This blog started as a way for me to report back to the community of New Hampshire (after the State Council on the Arts awarded me a fellowship) about the writing life and process that one particular writer went through. Well, in the spirit of honest reflection, I have to write about doubt. I don’t doubt because of rejection. I don’t doubt because of acceptance. I doubt because when I open the notebook to write, I’m almost immediately confronted with the negative voice that tries to keep me from writing. For instance, here is how it played out yesterday, slightly paraphrased from the journal entry in which I argued with myself:

I’ve failed to find a passage through the gate.

Self-publishing means mean selling, marketing, editing on my own. I am not a good editor, publisher, marketer.

I can’t imagine how to sell copies of a self published book.

I’ve missed the opportunity to do creative work on the web.

I’m old. Too old to realistically do the shit required of a self published writer.

I am afraid.

What am I afraid of? I do not think I am afraid of success. Am I afraid of RISK?

Don’t you stand in front of classes all the time and preach the necessity of RISK in artistic endeavors? What does that mean in your own life? What would Walt Whitman do?

Or perhaps the fear isn’t about traditional vs. self-publishing. Perhaps its about discovering that I’m simply not good enough, or haven’t worked hard enough, or that my creative impulse is half-baked.

Maybe.

Fear of not being good enough. Of having material not worth marketing? Maybe I don’t really believe in my work. Maybe it’s not good?

I could go on. The back and forth went for several pages more. But you get the picture. Still, this is not a call for help, or encouragement. It’s just the way that my writing life unfolds. And do you know what happened after I let Old Man Doubt into my head for a couple of hours? I got tired of listening to him. I closed the notebook in which I argue with myself, and opened the notebook in which I’m writing a new novel, and I wrote my pages.

I. WROTE. MY. PAGES.

Just like I always do.

So when I go back to teaching in the fall after a summer of writing, I can tell my students that yes, I struggled to write all summer. Every day. But I wrote.

Because that’s what writers do.

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