Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Doubt Monster of Writing

It's been one of those writing weeks when writing doubts pop into my (usually) happy writing brain. A big monster taking over where my writing should be. The writing doubt is this: I have no idea what I'm doing. Which leads to this: Therefore, my writing stinks.

The "I have no idea what I'm doing" is pretty true. I don't have an MFA. I took exactly one creative writing class in college (required for my major in English Ed). I haven't been to any writing conferences (money is an issue). And -- here's the biggie -- I don't read books on the writing craft.

WHAT? Is that even allowed? Someone who writes but doesn't read books about writing? I know I should read them. I want to want to read them. I'm sure I'll get there one day. . . .

What I'm interested in reading is books. To my credit (if I have any left) I do read blogs on the craft of writing. Just not books on it. What I do read is middle grade books. All the time. I read them aloud to my kids. I read different ones to myself. I read and I read and I read. Paying some attention to writing style or technique of the authors whose books I'm reading. But mostly I read for the story. Because I love -- I LOVE -- a story.

And then, motivated by the stories I have read, I write.

Because I also love sharing a story.

I don't know if my writing will ever be good enough to be published, but I write anyway. And maybe my writing really does stink. But that's not my point. My point is: How do you deal with your writing doubts? When the doubt monster creeps in, how do you creep him out? Or at the very least --  how do you get him to stop eating your cookies?

20 comments:

  1. Oh boy, I hear you! I usually just write anyway, get focused back on the story I want to tell...then read the thoughts and words of other writers and authors (well knowns like Libba Bray, Nancy Werlin) who suffer from the same self doubt and they too battle the fear. Crazy writer brains we have.

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  2. I thought Cookie Monster was now the Veggie Monster. Or is that just a vicious rumor? :-)

    It seems to me about the only way to work through writing doubts is to keep writing. You have to write it out. And the best way to learn to write is to read. So, it sounds to me like you're doing great! :-)

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  3. It just must be one of those weeks. I've had doubts too. The best thing to do is just keep writing and reading. You can only get better! :)

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  4. We ALL have that problem. But if you don't keep trying, you will never succeed. Also, if you NEED to write anyway, you are a real writer. :D

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  5. Doubt is a writer's worst enemy. We write because we love it, and we hope someone else will love our writing, too. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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  6. I think doubt is part of the process.
    Unfortunately.
    grrr....

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  7. THANK YOU! I figured if I put it out there, other writers would know exactly what I mean. And you did. And do.

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  8. Doubt is part of the territory.

    I think you're doing the "write" thing by reading as much as you can. But there is something to be said for reading books on writing too. (Don't just take my word for it; the editor, Kate Sullivan, talked about this at our SCBWI-Oregon conference a year or two back.)

    Start with Stephen King's On Writing, or Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird. They are about life as much as writing. And then, if your appetite is whetted, I highly recommend James Scott Bell's Plot and Structure. If I'd read that when I was staring out, I'd have spared myself years of wandering in the wilderness.

    I have faith in you!

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  9. Michael, I so appreciate your comment. And there IS so much to be said for books on the craft. It's me with the issue. And -- with highlighter and pen -- I'll start somewhere with a book on the writing craft and start studying for the exam of my my life (getting published).

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  10. I'm having the doubts this week too. But it's true, write because you love it. Then revise like you mean it. Craft books help, but reading other books in my genre inspire me and pull me from the funk. Good luck.

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  11. The doubts are the worst! I'm not sure. I just keep trying to do better. That drive makes it go away because I'm doing something about the fear.
    Great post!

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  12. I think it's wonderful that you're reading as much as you can in the genre you write in. That's very important in my bookl. I've had no formal training myself and I'd like to think I'm a decent writer. Of course, we all have bouts with the doubt monster. I don't let doubts get me down. I simply keep moving forward.

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  13. Get a Doubt Vacuum. They don't always work, though. And you may not want it to.
    I think if you reallly stop doubting than you need to be worried. That's what I tell myself, anyway.
    I inspire myself by reading good books. Ones that give me hope.

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  14. Ah, so true, Barbara. I have doubts all the time. Like every week. But I keep writing. Or sometimes I pull out an old story to remind myself why I do this.

    Richard Peck said the best way to learn to write is to read. Specifically you're supposed to read 1000 books in your genre.

    I'm sure I've reached that goal by now.

    However, I have to echo Michael G, and say do read BIRD BY BIRD. It's gorgeous. And reads more like a memoir than a book on craft.

    I also used another book by James Scott Bell, Revision and Self-Editing, when I revised my first novel. In general, though, I'm like you -- prefer perusing blogs for advice instead of books.

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  15. We all have doubts - it comes with the territory. We can't let the doubt cripple s though, or else we'll never succeed!

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  16. You know, I suppose doubts - in their own way - help us write better too. They push us to be better, write better, and do what we think we can't.

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  17. Doubts definitely come with the process. I find reading craft books useful, sometimes, especially when I know what writing areas I need to work on (plotting, for example) and then I can get some ideas. I've learned a lot from reading the kinds of books I want to write, too. But I do think the most important thing you can do is just keep writing stuff. That's how I learn the most.

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  18. Barbara, we all stink at first. But the more you practice something, the better you'll get at it. My writing has improved so much in the last couple of years, and I still don't think it's good enough to send out to agents. I'm okay with that. I think it's almost there. But at this point, I'd rather focus on becoming better than spend my energy trying to sell something that isn't good enough.

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  19. Andrea, Myrna - read and practice. Makes good sense. Thank you.

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  20. Hang in there and keep writing. I've been there before with the doubt (I don't have an MFA and I don't get to go to conferences) Reading the books about writing and going to any writing class I could (MNSCBWI sometimes offers classes for around $25 and the Loft used to offer free classes through the library) was my way of silencing that doubt and connecting with other writers. Keep writing and don't listen to the doubt.

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