Show me a writer and I’ll show you doubt. Writers all over the world harbour all kinds of misgivings about their voice, the number of adverbs in their stories, the Flesch-Kincaid level of their writing and many other such seemingly trivial issues.
My writer’s doubt was a little different.
Around this time last year, I’d taken a stab at revamping my first novel. Revamping is a polite word – what I really mean is ‘rewriting’. A contest lurked on the horizon, which required 3 chapters and a synopsis. Of course, I didn’t have time to rewrite the whole manuscript but surely I could slap together the first few chapters and a summary, couldn’t I?
Indeed, I could. I still didn’t have a lot of time, but I kept my nose to the grindstone and churned them out. I grabbed my critique partners by their virtual collars and dashed the partial off to them, demanding snappy reviews be sent back ASAP. They obliged, and minutes before the deadline, I sneaked in my entry.
Of course, I didn’t win. I didn’t even place.
That’s when doubt, in all its might and glory, struck me. Now, my hesitation wasn’t the usual – “is my writing good enough” variety.
It was the mega-jumbo-super-mammoth version. The exact words in my mind were:
Do I even have the ability to tell a story?
At this point, I’d had around 4 published pieces in journals spread out over a few years. So when I asked myself this question, I assumed that the previous ones were flukes, and that now I needed to get down and prove that I can tell a story – coherently, succinctly, and for the reader’s general entertainment.
But how to do it? It’s easier said than done. It had taken me 2-3 years to complete each of my novels, by wresting the few free hours leftover after finishing my day job. If I set out to prove my writing chops via novels, I’d be around 80 by the time I had anything to show for my efforts.
So I had a brainwave, and opted for the shorter route. I decided to try my hand, once again, at polishing and publishing my stories.
This time, I pulled up my sleeves and stepped into the murky waters of plot and characterization and that bane of writers existence – literary writing. I read story collections, I collected them like fridge magnets and pored over stories that online journals were publishing, to get a feel of what works and what can be done better.
Then I did the only other thing left to do – write.
I wrote the stories. Then I polished them. I wrote some more, and polished some more.
Since making my ground-breaking decision, I have had 5 stories published in a span of 6 months.
I’m part of the Short Story Challenge, which means I’m sharpening my knives and polishing more stories. Literary journals online are, at this very moment, snowed down under mountains of submissions with my name on them.
I guess there’s only one conclusion to be drawn – I can tell a story! That, and even if I couldn’t, I’d die trying.
That’s how I overcame writer’s doubt and saved the world (from another frustrated suicidal writer). How about you? Do you have a story to share about overcoming doubt in any form?