Self-belief

My useless writing genius knows no bounds

Oh this tightrope between delusion and despair, between confidence and crisis! It’s something that is familiar to every writer especially those who are endeavouring, really endeavouring to create something that they hope ultimately might be enjoyed by someone other than themselves.

I’ve written a collection of stories called Random Acts of Optimism and that’s what writing is, every time, an act of optimism that we can do something with an idea and get it any way close to what we intended. And when we complete something and submit it to a mag or book publisher, when we enter a competition, we are saying YES, I’VE DONE MY BEST, I THINK THIS IS GOOD. GOD SPEED.’

When we sit down writing, sometimes it all flows, we love it, the words are just right, or perhaps we’ve worked on something for a while and know that yes, the shape is coming out of the stone and it’s really,  quite….brilliant. Or maybe not, is it? Is it really a load of baloney, clichéd, face palmingly so. Not at all what I was trying to do and yes, of course that story wasn’t accepted for the mag or placed in the competition at any level and it’s no wonder the publisher didn’t even acknowledge receipt of my manuscript it’s, oh, it’s absolutely useless, I am absolutely useless, however did I think I was ever going to get anywhere and you know the odds are against us, even more so now with the state of publishing and I shouldn’t have sent it out at all, I should have stuck it under the bed.

But… that phrase there, it’s quite alright, actually and well, that character feels authentic, pretty funny dialogue, and that plot isn’t at all obvious and I’ve read it back several times now and the writer’s group said it was basically all there and a couple of them said send it out now. Actually it’s brilliant, a touch of genius there. And I got some great feedback on that other thing last week and well, yes, I was shortlisted in that competition, not too long ago and well yes, this IS good, I really like it. I should keep going. But I don’t know how to solve that chronological problem with the twins, this is really going nowhere, oh why do I even bother.

Stops.

Starts typing again.

Deletes whole line.

Starts typing again.

Keeps typing.

Laughs.

Stops.

Puts head in hands.

Starts typing again.

My useless writing genius knows no bounds

The shape is emerging from the stone.

I’ve nicked my finger with the chisel.

How can we maintain confidence (rather than delusion?). How can we curb despair and start again?

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The Evangelical Writer: Why you need to believe in yourself

Be your own crusader

Be your own champion

Evangelism. It can be scary. It can put you off a nice walk in the park. It can make you squirm uncomfortably at the front door. Or it can be fascinating and illuminating to see how the power of belief can make someone turn their life around, dedicate themselves absolutely to what they believe in. At its worst it can become fanaticism, extremism, terrorism. At its best it can be selfless dedication to a philanthropic cause.

Evangelism is like being possessed by a virus of belief. You want to spread the word to everybody, you want them to feel as you do. I felt that way recently when I joined twitter and after the first self-conscious new kid on the block feeling, (tagging onto people and hoping they would be nice about it) I began to discover what a wonderful place it was. As a writers forum it is invaluable on a practical, social, mental and emotional level. There is the opportunity to meet so many diverse but helpful, co-operative and compassionate people. I began to tell other people about twitter and what I had gained from it, how it had changed my writing life but I could tell from their glazed expressions that my fervour was making them a little bemused. I couldn’t get them to buy into it. Recently a writing friend Sally Clements began expounding on NaNoWriMo (for the uninitiated it’s where you sign up to write a 50,000 novel in the month of November). She explained super-exhuberantly why she thought it was so great, what it meant to her, and why I should try it. (See her great NaNoWriMo post. At first I backed slowly away, but her enthusiasm was infectious and I began to think that I could, quite possibly give it a go. (I’m still lurking in the doorway on that one, but I might dash in at the last minute, you never know!)

Evangelism is defined as crusading zeal in support of a cause. As a writer you need to be an evangelist. You need to believe in your writing, in your story, in your characters. You need to be utterly convinced and convincing. You need make others suspend their disbelief and travel with you. You need them to buy into your reality and make it their own for a time.

To write requires self-belief. But in the creeping forward towards an obscure point that is the story or novels end all writers must encounter doubt. The way is not clear, the walls and floor are not solid, and until you reach the endpoint you can’t be sure that the story you have made is coherent, has integrity, says what you want it to say. And even then, you cannot be sure if your message will resonate with others or even reach them.

And when your book is written, you have to go one step further. Now you have to spread the word. You may need to convince an agent or publisher that your story is one they want to share. You need to travel virtually or physically to meet people, to let the world know about your book, to talk and blog and tweet about it, to be its champion. All this in the face of your own doubts and insecurities. A crusade is often a battle, it isn’t easy, it flies in the face of obstacles and resistance. You need to Feel the Fear and do it anyway. If you really want to be a writer and to be read, you have to be the evangelist of your own unique story. Go to it.

Related

Dan Holloway (Blogging at:The Man Who Painted Agnieszka’s Shoes) has an excellent post on the relationship of doubt and creativity and Jemi Fraiser (Just Jemi) asks us to consider our writing fears.