February 23, 2012
Slay Your Doubt Dragon
Doubt is something that I struggle with BIG time. I doubt that my story idea is relevant or marketable enough. I doubt that what I've written once I sit down and start isn't fresh or exciting enough. I doubt that I am up to telling a story the way it's meant to be told. I doubt my prose and the rhythm of my sentences. In other words, I doubt everything that I do just about all the time. I even doubt that this post will resonate with anyone other than myself...see where I'm going with this? I'm a neurotic mess! And I'm going to hazard a guess that there are others out there just like me. So how do we slay our doubt dragon so that we can get on with the business of writing and fulfilling out dreams of one day getting published?
We keep moving forward.
It's that simple...and that hard.
A dragon is a pretty substantial creature-full of flaming hot breath and snappy sharp teeth. It is bigger than us, stronger than us, and most times unwilling to move once it's gotten good and comfortable. So in order for us to slay it, we have to figure out it's vulnerablility and exploit it.
I think doubt's vulnerability is steady movement. I think if as a writer we take a step forward everyday--no matter how tiny the step, we diminish our dragons, shrink them small enough so that we can crush them underfoot. But it isn't easy to do.
I sit down to my computer or my legal pad everyday with my dragon curled up on my feet, willing me to stay put and not write. Today for example, I have officially completed the research for my next book. A book I'm excited about. An idea that I really love. I should be jumping up and down eager to get pen to paper, right? Except I'm not. My dragon has sunk it's teeth into my toes and is holding on for dear life. See this time this story needs to be written in third person...a point of view that I don't usually use in my longer stuff. And it's an ensemble type piece...lots of characters and world building and back story. In order to tell it the way it should be told, I'll have to follow all of my characters and somehow tie their journeys together so that the story flows and the reader is invested. I've never tried this before...not in a novel. And so the paper is as wide and empty as a vast desert. My pen is poised, but my head is not in it. It's too concerned with the fiery fellow at my feet saying that this project is too big for me, beyond my skill set. I may have lucked out and got an agent with my last story, but it was a fluke, plain and simple.
So how do I keep the dragon from eating me alive feet first? I pick up the pen and start writing anyway...whatever comes to mind about the story. Even if it doesn't make sense right now or doesn't end up in the final novel. I put one word down after another, toss them out into that enormous desert like an offering and hope that at least some of them will stick...have faith that more than a few will be good. I ignore the nagging pain in my feet and the hot dragon breath on my skin and I keep putting down words. And pretty soon I will have a page, then another and another. And by the time that I reach several thousand words, I will have felt that dragon shrink, first his body and then his head until his teeth are no more than a tickle on my skin, his breath so slight as to be undetectable. And then I will be able to laugh at how comical he really is now that he's small enough to place in a pocket. I will pick my foot up and squish him like a bug then get on with the business of finishing what I've started. Sometime during this project, he'll reanimate and grow to his original size--dragons are tenacious and magically immortal like that, but no matter how large he gets, I will move forward.
In my own personal story I am the heroine...and no heroine wins the day without first confronting her doubts.