Tag Archives: Doubt

Defeating the Brain

So, writing and your brain. Your brain is, arguably, the biggest asset to assist telling and crafting your stories. It also, not surprisingly, is your biggest enemy. One that I’ve been battling–and losing to–for the past six, seven months. There are three main areas, I think, where my brain has created mindsets and thoughts detrimental to my writing game, to the point where I easily went weeks without writing at all.

I’m writing this post to remind myself how to fight back.

Mindset One: Writing is Work

I mean, yes. I know there is a stigma that writing is easy or maybe even a waste of time, but both of those are absolute lies. Writing takes a lot of work. Sure, it could be defined as simple: put words together until they form coherent sentences that tell a story. But there is a lot of finessing involved. There are a lot of drafts, returning to and reworking what was previously written. And, personally, I think the fact that you have to constantly battle your own head–and that battle usually doesn’t stop even after you’re published and doing well–makes it one of the hardest jobs of all. So, yeah, writing is work. Writing takes work. But what I’ve been struggling with is treating writing like work.

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Hold a moment, lemme explain.

I recently started editing ARTEMIS again. Last week, I opened up my latest draft, scrolled down to the chapter I last left off on with every intention of working on it again. But then I realized that chapter needed a lot of work. It was filled with repetition of ideas and information that needed to be resorted, cut and most likely reworded. There wasn’t enough detail to truly put the reader in-scene and I needed to figure out what the point of that chapter was, really. Knowing all of that needed to happen after reading just the opening line of the scene, I actually closed the draft and decided to work on it the next day. I just wasn’t in the mood to try and figure that shit out. In that moment, I was viewing writing as work.

Let’s look at that scenario from a different angle, for a moment.

Those issues still exist in that chapter. But instead of looking at it as, “Shit, I need to ground readers in-scene and add in all of this description,” how about: “Alright, let’s see how interesting I can describe this room layout. What do I see? What do readers need to see? How is it important? What does it tell? Let’s put all that into words as beautifully as I know how.” Okay, let’s try again. “Wow, this chapter just told me X three different ways in three different paragraphs over five pages. This chapter is everywhere, without any focus. I’m going to have to rewrite the entire thing.” Instead: “How about I make an outline of what this chapter needs to convey and then figure out how Artemis would logically tell it. Let’s make some beats and rework the info that way. Oh, and don’t forget to incorporate his humor. It’s one of your favorite aspects of his character.”

The work hasn’t vanished. The work still definitely needs to be done. But when I think of it as work, I’m definitely not as eager to complete it, sometimes to the point that I choose not to do it at all (a luxury I have considering my writing doesn’t pay the bills yet). Yet when I think of it as an opportunity, as a challenge, to improve my writing to another degree, to push myself that much further, to give this story everything it deserves and more; I’m not only more eager to work on it (most of the time), but I also enjoy it.

Last night, I finally returned to that chapter. At first, I reread that opening line and I just wanted to pull up another tab and start browsing through social media. I didn’t want to put in that work. But I just forced myself to keep reading, thinking in the back of my head, How can you make this better? And how can you have fun while doing it? I ended up not only “finishing” editing that entire chapter, but I also wrote for almost two hours–a lot longer than the planned 30 minutes I wanted to edit.

It’s a simple change in mindset, a simple change in how I view the work I’m doing. But it’s a trick that actually helps overcome this pesky brain of mine.

Mindset Two: Editing Doesn’t Count

This is stupid.

So I’ve had a writing drought recently. And though the past two weeks, I’ve slowly been getting back into the swing of things by editing ARTEMIS, my brain will sometimes whisper that I’m still fully stuck in my rut, because I’m not writing anything new. Editing something I’ve already written doesn’t count.

Again: stupid.

Of course editing counts. Hell, I often find myself working harder when I’m on draft two or three of something than when I was just spitting out nonsense the first time. I don’t have any tricks to crush this idea (it’s been rather persistent, of late), except to remind myself that it’s ridiculous. I’m putting words to paper. I’m strengthening the foundation I laid months ago. I’m rewriting, adding new scenes, cutting, re-envisioning…yeah, it bloody counts as writing.

Mindset Three: Fear and Doubt

This one is as infuriating as it is constant and confusing. I’ve always had fears when it comes to my writing: wondering if it’s good enough, if my stories are worthy to tell, if they are unique, if they’d ever sell. I fear getting publishing and reading reviews claiming my writing is shit, my characters are boring or my plot is trash. I fear offending/misrepresenting people/ideas unintentionally with what I write or what my characters do/believe. I fear never getting published.

And then there are the doubts.

I doubt the quality of my work. I doubt my ability to tell stories. I doubt that any of my ideas are original. I doubt my ability, my craft, my execution, my effort, my drive, my heart, my characters, my plots, my worlds, my voice…myself.

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Pair fear and doubt together and that equates to a lot of time doing anything but writing. Ironically, it’s easy for me to bury my biggest fear underneath all aforementioned: giving up and never writing again.

Honestly, I think I need to focus on that fear a bit more. Because it is real and it is fierce, even if I hide it underneath all of these other fears and doubts that plague me more often they should. Yet how can I ignore that fear and risk it coming true just because I doubt myself sometimes? Just because I am afraid I won’t live up to my own standards of storytelling, my own expectations of myself; afraid of a negative review (which will always happen, no matter how fantastic a story I write), afraid of rejection or hell, afraid I won’t ever be published at all?

Here’s the thing about writing and being a writer. I’ll always have stories to tell. If I run out, I’ll always find things to draw inspiration from. If I mess up one book, I will always have another chance to do better. If I perfect a book, I’ll still have a chance–and an expectation–to improve. Failure and hiccups are inevitable. Yet how many characters have I read, let alone written, who have been faced with impossible odds and make a dozen mistakes–sometimes even failed drastically–only to come out victorious in the end? No matter how many times their brains told them it was impossible, they pushed forward.

So that’s what I’m going to do. Push forward and write stories, no matter how many times or how many ways my brain tries to convince me to do to otherwise.

Cheers.


Breaking the Chains

I am pumped.

Couldn’t tell with the use of that period, could you? Considering that I overuse the exclamation point in every day life (thankfully, I don’t in my actual writing), the use of the period here is actually quite poignant of how pumped I am right now. Why am I so stoked? Because I am breaking the chains that I’ve enslaved myself with and I am excited. I am eager.

I am back.

You see, ever since November, when I started a new book called BLOOD PRICE, what started out as a strong attempt to write book number six turned into a drought lasting almost three months; a drought inspired by fear, doubt, confusion and laziness. Fear in what was (is) happening in the world and fear of how that impacts not only myself, but those I love and those who undeservedly are being targeted and affected the most. Doubt in myself, in the stories I’m telling, in my ability to tell stories. Confusion in where BLOOD PRICE was going and where it was meant to go–and fear that I was telling the wrong version of the story or, even sometimes, a fear that I was writing too true of a version, and the response to either option. The natural laziness that happens during the holidays and the winter season paired with the laziness used as an excuse to not confront those doubts, fears and confusion. These emotions have dragged on and, though I’ve written two short stories and jotted down a handful of notes pertaining to book ideas, I’ve written nothing. I haven’t worked towards anything.

It got to the point where I was considering tabling BLOOD PRICE altogether, to work on something else. The excitement for the story had obviously passed and I was running into more roadblocks than I was solutions. I have other stories I want to tell. I could work on one of those, get back into the groove of things, and return to BLOOD PRICE when I got my mojo back.

That’s not a bad plan. That’s not a bad thing, at all. Tabling, though I’ve always unjustly paired it with a bad taste in my mouth, can be very beneficial and very needed. Yet when I thought about the stories I wanted to tell, the ones that I am currently excited and jazzed to write about, the same emotions still lingered and no words were getting written on the page. Suddenly, hopelessness was creeping in; hopelessness that I would never break out of these chains I’ve placed upon myself.

And then I had an idea.

I didn’t want to table BLOOD PRICE. Not really. Yet the idea of trying to pick back up on page 70, where I’d left off, and come up with where to go next is exactly the thing that has kept me from even opening up the Word document and attempting it in the first place.

So why couldn’t I start over?

And here’s where the excitement comes in.

I know what you’re thinking: starting over? How could that prospect possibly ignite so much excitement? You’re moving backwards. Usually, I’d be right there with you, but as soon as the idea took hold and I felt the excitement building, I knew I figured out a solution, a way back into my craft. I’d make an outline. A proper outline that I skipped making before NaNoWriMo. I’d figure out what was going on, where the story was heading, what happens at the end. And then, once I had my headway, I’d pull up my current draft of BLOOD PRICE. I’m not deleting what I’ve already written. Instead, I’m going back in, editing to fit the new outline and then, once I get to page 70, I’ll be so tired of fixing that and changing this that I’ll be dying to write down something new.

And so the story will continue.

Perhaps this seems like a silly method or an impossible solution for overcoming my demons and escaping my fears. Yet I just spent the last 20 minutes finishing the outline and, in doing so, I fell in love with the story again. I fell in love with the characters that answered, this time, when I spoke to them and asked them what happened next. I got excited about how much I’m playing with the environment, how different this is structurally from anything else I’ve written and how powerful Natanni is–my first female protagonist (how it took me six books to get to a female protag, I have no bloody clue). Though it is going to be a lot of work and deleting to fix what I’ve already written to include the necessary scenes and aspects now required to make this story what it needs to be, it’s work I’m willing to do; work I’m excited to do. When you’re coming from a place where you felt suffocated because you couldn’t remember how to breathe and suddenly, you not only inhale, but exhale as well?

Yeah, I think pumped is actually an understatement.

Cheers.


The Demons of Doubt

You know you’re a writer when Doubt plagues you so often, you’re reaching a point that you just want to punch Doubt in the jugular and also find some way to use it in a future story. At least, that’s how I’m feeling at the moment, which, in an odd way, proves that despite how often Doubt invades, I can take comfort in the fact that I’ll never stop writing (because only a very stubborn and true writer would decide to turn the very thing that stops her from writing as a form of inspiration in future works).

But even knowing that doesn’t ease the times when Doubt is really raging hard, especially when it comes at you in multiple angles of your life and you succumb, feeling powerless against it all.

I wrote a blog post recently about my life as a Catch-22, which has only gotten more complicated since. Basically, I’ve learned that my part-time job, due to the budget cuts, not only limits my hours, but also changes the hours over the summer, moving them during the day instead of the evenings, while also not scheduling me during breaks when the university is closed, to ensure I don’t go over my 1,000 hour limit cap. So while getting three weeks off in the summer and getting Fall, Spring and part of Winter Break off sounds really lovely, my current financial situation is paycheck-to-paycheck living. I can’t afford those breaks.

Of course, I still plan on getting a second job, but when the hours of my current job fluctuate between evenings during the school year and during the day over half the summer, that really complicates the types of jobs I can apply for. For example, I thought about applying to be a bank teller from 8-5 before my night-shift job, but I couldn’t switch to an evening shift at the bank that closed at five during that odd month in the summer where I work during the day at my part-time job. Yet I’d need to be able to work the most hours at both jobs to make ends meet. So that makes me lean towards retail, but I’m not confident that I could make enough working a retail job to meet the minimum bills I’d obtain after moving out on my own.

Me being me–a stressed-riddled-over-thinker–I didn’t stop there. I stressed about how if I got a 8-5 job on top of my part-time job, I’m looking at a 5:30am wake up call when I’m not a morning person. A day where I started working at 8 and didn’t get off of work until 10, at a different job. Not to mention trying to figure out how to make three portable meals a day to eat, especially once I move out on my own and don’t have my Mom’s leftovers to rely on. Or what about scheduling in workout time, especially because my self-esteem has plummeted in recent months due to my curves and growing tummy?

Realizing all of this got me not only flustering, but doubting myself on an immense scale.

Then, my car broke down while I was on my way to a rare overtime shift.

She’s fixed now, but if I wasn’t down in the dumps then…Let me tell you, sitting in your car that won’t start on the side of the road, bawling your eyes out because that’s your natural reaction to everything, for an hour and a half during five o’clock traffic isn’t exactly the way you want spend your Friday afternoon. Especially because you’re not bawling because you’re stuck on the side of the road. You’re bawling because you desperately wanted that money from that overtime shift. You’re bawling because your slowly building up your savings account from the last time your car needed unexpected–and very costly–repairs, only to have her betray you again, simply because she’s 15 years old and that’s the best you could afford two years ago when you got her; and you’re not in a better spot now to upgrade, either, without tightening your wallet even more suffocatingly. You’re bawling because you have to commute to work and you seriously can’t handle the stress of trying to find, let alone afford, another car at the moment. You’re bawling because things are hard right now and you’re doubting everything.

Normally, when I’m down, I try to escape by leaving reality for a bit, whether it is through gaming or reading or writing. I “leave” and deal with other people’s problems, which are always so much greater than mine, yet easier to solve. While gaming, I just kill things and relieve stress; while reading, they have to figure it out, not me; and while writing, my characters have to figure it out (though sometimes, that actually does fall on me). Regardless, it is refreshing and relaxing and oddly empowering. So, naturally, when this was all going down, I turned to writing as an escape and tried to work on my current project, only to be even further discouraged. Doubt had found me there, too, even though I started a new project with fresh ideas, different characters and new twists from my previous trilogy.

Your story doesn’t have enough meat to it. It’s going to be too short. Nothing even happens in it. There isn’t enough action. You’re not smart enough to write science fiction. Sure, it’s expanding to now include an unplanned-sequel, but that doesn’t matter, because no one is going to read the first one. Look how well your first series worked out.  

I mean, damn, Doubt can be a bitch.

I’ve always had these thoughts concerning my writing, though I usually fight through it and keep writing, regardless of what the voices say. I’ve doubted my precious trilogy numerous times, yet that didn’t make completing it taste any less sweet. Perhaps the exact opposite, actually. I hoped, trying a new vein and starting a new story, set in a dying world with some political commentary and technology I’m not familiar with–but excited to learn about–that Doubt wouldn’t be so quick to invade. Especially as I’ve been dealing with so much doubt regarding my career, my finances and my independence in my real life (not to mention the constant doubt surrounding my body image and unyielding single status). Writing is where I am meant to escape doubt, not be plagued by it so deeply that it took days for me to get a single scene written, my mood never elevating like it usually does after a writing session.

Here’s the thing. Here’s the hard truth: this is life. I’m a 23 year old young “professional” who just graduated college and is still trying to figure out how to adult. Finances are going to be hard to figure out. Adjusting to the adult life is going to be hard; stressful; tear-inducing. Doubt is a demon that has always plagued me. Yet, in that same vein, doubt is the demon I’ve always slain. It’s a part of life. It’s part of growing, a part of learning and a part of prevailing. Even with writing–my sacred, sacred craft and passion–doubt is not banned there. But neither is it eternal.

Amidst this past weekend where I’ve felt like everything is falling apart and I can’t keep myself together long enough to survive it, I worked 10 hours of overtime. My car got fixed. My parents were supportive, both financially and emotionally. The weather was beautiful. I came out with a new workout motivator that I will hopefully start using (soon). I got past that scene I dragged through and am in the middle of writing a new scene that makes it easy to push out the Doubt that nags at me; a scene that, instead, makes me want to point a certain bird at Doubt and claim, “This shit is gold.” I’m in the middle of a book–it nears closer and closer to the end and I am not ready–that constantly makes my own problems seem pale and increases the risk of me being late to work each day as I try to slip in another chapter. Life is good.

Life is also stressful. Life is hard. The demons of doubt surround, engulf, suffocate. Yet they need to be there. They need to be experienced. Because then that same doubt can be learned from and, eventually, overcome, in one form or another. Don’t give into doubt but don’t ignore it, either. Instead, stay positive, focus on what makes you happy in life and strive to find more things to increase that happiness. Fight your battles and know when you need a break. But never give up. I got this. You got this. Lets slay some demons.

Cheers.

 


You Can’t Edit a Blank Page

Hello, amigos! So, in my last post, I talked about the art of taking rejection in stride. And I must admit, I believe I will master this art before this journey is over, for two more rejections have flooded my inbox. And I am still keeping a positive mind about it, though as each one comes in, my heart sinks a little bit more, I cannot deny. But that is okay, because this is part of the process of getting published. (And, let’s be real, I want someone to partner up with who is as enthusiastic, enthralled and eager as I am about this story so close to my heart. So if a person is only half-interested or on the fence, why would I want them to represent me ((and more importantly, this story)) anyway? Just something to consider.) 

What isn’t okay, however, is something that is happening on a deeper level as a reaction to these less-than-desirable responses; crazier still, I didn’t even realize it was happening (until very recently): the fact that I am scared to write. You see, while I am trying to gain representation for the debut, I haven’t been sitting idly by. I am ten chapters strong into the sequel, one that I love ten times more than the first (surprising, since I am obsessed with the first story and spend over six months writing it). Yet it has easily been almost three weeks since I have returned to that project; three weeks since I have opened the blank Word document with the words “Chapter Eleven” written across the top; three weeks since I have given these characters the attention and respect they deserve.

I’ve blamed the lack of writing creativity (because trust me, I’ve done enough academic writing for a lifetime) on being too busy, having too much homework, et cetera, et cetera. And trust me, that is all true. Between working two jobs and trying to complete all the final projects before finals actually come to haunt us (and actually getting ready *for* finals), staying active in two organizations and trying to not be a ghost to my friends, PLUS trying to work out, shower, eat and sleep on a daily basis, time is definitely stretched thin during this time of year. 

But I have been itching to write. I have been itching to get back into Darryn’s world (my unfortunate protagonist) and see what he and his friends are going to do next; where they are going to travel, what they are going to discover, what they are going to face and who they are going to defeat (or get defeated by, who knows!). And I know how to manage my time well enough that I could have squeezed at least *one* writing session into the past three weeks. 

Yet I haven’t.

I realized that I am letting the resurfaced doubt from these rejections — doubt that I don’t openingly feel on the surface — creep deep into my heart and keep me from the one talent that I claim to have; to keep me away from my story. Three rejections in less than a week have created almost a month of being lost in a void that I didn’t even realize I was in, until I couldn’t stand it anymore. Granted, three isn’t a lot, truly, but after only sending out eight queries…well, I am not very good at math, but right now, the odds are not in my favor (but may they forever be in yours; unless you’re from Panem. Then get those odds outta here). Yet how could I let that stop me? And what if a simple rejection (or a few or a million) stopped those who have inspired me on this journey?

What if Tolkien stopped writing LOTR because someone doubted him (which some silly people did and some people still do, poor fools)? The greatest tale ever to be told of all time wouldn’t exist. Those awesome movies that I have obsessed over, memorized and watched when I couldn’t find a date to my junior prom (trust me, I had a much better time with Aragorn and Frodo *drool*), wouldn’t exist. Thousands upon thousands of people who have united over this timeless masterpiece wouldn’t have bonded. Orlando Bloom wouldn’t have found some an amazing role to kick-start his acting career to ludicrous speed (and ladies, how grand of a tragedy would that have been?). The list could go on and on of what *could* have happened if Tolkien gave into his doubt and stopped, but I will stop it here. Instead, he kept going and wrote a story that literally changed my life, and I know I am not alone in that.

Who am I to allow myself to quit, even unconsciously?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I was never going to stop writing this story. I love it too much to abandon it. And I am not claiming that I have the ability or the creativity or the talent that, as I do continue writing, to match the calamity of Tolkien’s genius, either. But I do believe strongly in the idea that you cannot edit a blank page. You cannot achieve anything if you do not go after it with all of your heart, and then some. And you will never know what you will accomplish unless you fight for it. Don’t ever let the world or the opinions of it be the reason you give up on your dreams, or give up on yourself. It isn’t worth that. Keep fighting. Always, always keep fighting.

You never know what will happen if you do.

Cheers,

Nicole

PS: And just for the record, yes, I am sitting down and forcing myself to start writing Chapter Eleven tonight, after this post. Even if I only manage a paragraph, it is better than giving into doubt! So go get ’em. 🙂