“If they weren't solidly real dragons... it wouldn't have been worth doing.”
Jo Walton

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

the demons of doubt are multilingual
Tue 2014-07-22 23:26:53 (in context)
  • 6,883 words (if poetry, lines) long

In terms of story revision, today was solid. The read-through edit on the draft in progress finally reached the point where I'd left off drafting before, and I feel a lot more able to finish the draft. Mainly I'm trying to get that last phone call right, along with Ashley's reaction to it. Also, I know a lot more about this story's peculiar apocalypse than I did when I wrote previous drafts. Full sized short stories are different from flash. In a 566-word short-short that's focused more on relationship dynamics than actual worldbuilding, I can get away with not really knowing why the sidewalks melted. In a 5,000-word short story that's focused very specifically on the main characters' roles in the Snowpocalypse, I kind of have to know what those roles are.

I still need to work on the timing. There's no good reason why the last scene needs to take place two days after the scene before it. Again, there's just no leeway for a lull in the action after the OMG moment.

So. One of the thoughts from yesterday's blog post stuck with me. The one about how there are few greater joys than increasing your competence in an activity you love, but how the photo-negative image of that joy is the creeping existential dread that you'll never excel at the activity you love after all. And how the intensities of both the joy and the fear are directly proportional to how much you enjoy or even identify with that activity.

Yesterday I was rambling on about that fear and that joy with regards to roller derby. But this is not primarily a roller derby blog. This is a writing blog. I am a writer. Roller derby may have taken over my life, but writing is my life.

Oddly, that paired joy and fear do not play as blatant a role in my relationship with writing.

I think it's because writing is a lot more... nebulous? Intangible? ...than roller derby is. I can observe with certainty my ability to skate backwards or to positionally block from a sideways stance, and compare my current ability to do these things with my ability last year or the year before. Observing my own improvement in writing is a less sure thing. While I can say that this year I'm sitting down to the keyboard more often, finishing more stories, and making more sales, I can only take it as an item of faith that what comes out of my keyboard when I do sit down is better now than it was in the past. And it's not so much the religious tenet sort of faith as it is the mathematical axiom sort. A + A = 2A. More writing + more reading = better writing.

(No, more sales doesn't necessarily mean better writing. More sales has a lot more to do with submitting more stories more often and to more markets. The axis of saleability is on a separate graph from the axis of quality. Besides, editors aren't just looking for well-written and interesting but also "a good fit with our publication," which you can drive yourself mad trying to plot on a chart.)

So I don't experience so much the joy of watching my skills improve, as I do the satisfaction of watching myself get serious about this "I want to be a writer when I grow up!" thing, treat writing like my day job, and go to work every scheduled workday.

As for the fear/dread/doubt question... no, I don't find myself doubting that I can do this writing thing. Writing is one of those things that I know I can do well. I've proved it to myself over the years. It isn't something like a physical sport where I fight with my body's agility, strength, and reaction time. It's more like... oh, like singing. It's something that to some extent comes naturally to me, something that I've done all my life and have witnessed myself do well at. I've received enough positive feedback on it to be confident I'm not deluding myself here. But unlike singing, writing isn't subject to sudden attacks of stage fright or forgetting the tune/words/harmony/etc. It's not a performance. It's more like architecture. You don't let anyone into the house until you're pretty sure the walls and roof are solid. (And you try not to take it personally if someone notices a windowsill is sagging.)

So, no, it's not my ability to do writing well that I find myself doubting. No. Weirdly, what I angst over is whether I will do it.

Doesn't that sound silly? To be afraid of something that I have total control over preventing from happening? It's as silly as being afraid of the dark while having my hand on the light switch.

And yet that's the shape of my doubt. I fear failing myself. If writing is my life (hyperbole, but a useful one), my fear is getting to the end of that life without having written (and published) the stories I lived to write.

Which I suppose makes my regular workday writing schedule a way of keeping that fear at bay. It's a way of reassuring myself that I've done what I can, today, to prevent an unhappy ending to my story.

That's all I can reasonably ask of myself: That I do, indeed, go to work every scheduled work day. That I don't stand afraid in the dark when I have the power to turn on the light.

Today, I turned on that light.

Tomorrow, I intend to install a brighter light bulb.

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