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Monday, November 03, 2014

ON DOUBT, VOICE, AND BEING TRUE TO YOUR WRITING AND YOURSELF

IT'S BEEN SOME TIME SINCE MY LAST POST. There are a few reasons for this; mostly because there are times when I just need to shut down. I don't know about other writers, but for me, it's about focus. I'm not going to complain about first drafts; for me, they are work, the minor points involve a fair amount of second-guessing, and there's lots of worry about whether an audience will 'buy' what I'm writing - not in the literal sense (although that's nice when they do), but in the acceptance/believability sense. Ah, Doubt. You whiny demon that clings to my shoulder and gets snot all over my shirt. Fly away, you crappy thing.

This post is all about doubt.

I have a sneaking suspicion many writers have had a problem with doubt at some time or another. It's bound to show up when a writer steps into unknown territory, when he or she is writing what they know is not necessarily popular, or not popular yet. There's always the hope. Doubt stems from individuality and the courage to allow yourself as an artist to be who you are, and to reflect that uniqueness in your work. Yes, we are all different, but some of us are much more different than others. It's never fun to realize you're not just part of a minority (writers are in a minority), but that within that minority, you're in an even smaller one, maybe even a minority of one.

Two of the doubt demons I've had to struggle with reflect my ideas about spirituality and love. In speculative fiction, both themes tend to be looked down upon, at least by those who loudly proclaim that they shouldn't be allowed to smear the genre, so I occasionally worry that because I mix them into my writing, my work and by reflection - me, are also dismissed. Because of my personal beliefs, I've been accused of having imaginary 'friends', a slur if there ever was one. Yes, I believe that there is more to this world than what we physically experience in this life, what can I say? I believe we go 'on' after we die. My books reflect that. But - if I'm not writing who I am and what I believe - what is the point? If I am going to write and be true to myself while I do it, then it's not up to me to snuff my voice or to silence what I know, even if others don't agree with me or haven't experienced what I have. And maybe it shouldn't even be a concern of mine to worry about it. On the plus side of things, a reader recently commented that 'she had never read books like mine, before. They were unique.' She meant that as a compliment.

I'm not alone in feeling different. A writer friend of mine mentioned on a Facebook post a few days ago, that she felt like an outsider. She adored Vincent Van Gogh and held him up as an artist to emulate. She mentioned in all of the 2,100 works that he created, he only sold one painting during his lifetime. (I have since learned this isn't quite true; Vincent did sell his paintings, often to pawnshops for rent money. He also had some shows, but his primary focus remained on defining and refining his work.) Vincent remained true to his vision.

Perhaps, it was also no coincidence that this essay by John Steinbeck on the creative spirit and individuality also crossed my path yesterday, as it talks about the same thing: remaining true to your voice and to yourself. So if you, like me, occasionally struggle with doubt, or if a lot of the world doesn't 'get you', read this and take heart. In the last two paragraphs, John says it wonderfully (although I must also add, I don't necessarily agree with him about collaborations). http://www.brainpickings.org/2014/02/27/steinbeck-east-of-eden-meaning-of-life/


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