Monday, 17 January 2011

Writers Doubt

The odd thing about being a writer, for me at least, is that ever single idea feels like my last. I have this odd little doubt at the back of my mind every now and then that tells me that one day I’m going to run out of ideas, because I’m not a proper writer. Even the simple act of starting this blog by labelling myself as a writer feels wrong to me somehow. I haven’t yet earned anything from my writing and I’ve not even got an agent, so how can I possibly call myself a writer? The truth is, my doubt often pushes the fact from my mind that I may not yet be a professional writer, but I certainly have written enough and have dedicated enough time to the craft to feel like a writer. But of course, that's a logical way of looking at it and doubt has this funny way of bypassing logic.

Most writers feel doubt, no one seems to want to talk about it, but almost every writer feels like they aren’t good enough at some point, and coincidentally this is often a quality that can actually make someone’s writing stronger, because unsurprisingly, feeling like a failure can actually drive someone to achieve excellence.

Doubt manifests in different ways with different writers but I truly believe that it exists in 90% of writers, maybe more. But thankfully, the saving grace is that this doubt isn’t permanent and every now then a writer will completely overcome that doubt, it’s not permanent, it’s guaranteed to show up again mere hours or days later, manifested in a completely different way and fully equipped to make that person feel like a fraud all over again. But it can be beaten; in fact, the reason I’m writing this blog is because I’ve just managed that very thing myself.

Lately, my self doubt has taken the form of, “I don’t write as much as I used to, that means I’m a failure as a writer”. And last night I realised that it had nothing to do with my shortcomings, which are many, and everything to do with the fact that I used to get a big fat student loan every couple of months that made it much easier to find time to do it, recently, forced to find a way to pay my sizeable rent, I have had to find work. And not so surprisingly, full time work that isn’t writing related does unfortunately have a rather nasty side effect of leaving you with less time to write. And it’s only now, on this side of redundancy that I have realised this.

The other thing that kept concerning me was the very notion I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, the possibility that I had run out of ideas. I was struggling to find time to develop concepts, so naturally convinced myself that this wasn’t a matter of finding the right time or the right mindset and instead convinced myself it’s that I couldn’t come up with workable ideas anymore. This, as it happens, is bullshit.

I sat in bed last night, unable to sleep. Simply because I couldn’t shut down that section of my brain I usually reserve for developing my ideas. An idea I had had and forgotten months ago suddenly shot to the surface and started bubbling. Not only was this proof that I was far from out of ideas, but it was such an intriguing idea I simply couldn’t stop thinking about it, and then I had this unbelievable need to get it written down. So I picked up my iPhone and typed some notes shorthand notes that I planned to develop into a treatment in the morning. But no, that wasn’t enough. I couldn’t help myself; I couldn’t stop expanding the concept, introducing themes, developing motives, creating characters and the idea’s expanded so far that it became uncomfortable typing such masses of stuff into my iPhone’s tiny tiny keypad.

So I got up, moved to my desk and started writing that treatment right then and there, and worked for several hours, by 5 I was finished, and I returned to my bed with a big smile on my face, my mind at piece and swiftly fell asleep.

The last couple of months have been ripe with self doubt for me, mainly as a result of finding it difficult to find work in a related field, but that’s all changed now, maybe it will only last a couple of weeks, maybe it will only last another hour, but how can I possibly sit here this morning and doubt my status as a writer after that? The quality of the work itself is irrelevant. As far as I’m concerned writing is what makes someone a writer, having that unstoppable desire to tell a story makes you a writer, spending a large percentage of your day thinking about writing even when your doing something else makes you a writer and anyone who spends their time writing would do well to remember that next time they feel that all too familiar doubt.

This blog exists for one reason and one reason only, to document this moment, so that in future, when I’m struggling with my own doubts, I can turn to this and remind myself what I am.

Thanks for reading.

1 comment:

PCA said...

Dan,

Just came across the blog and can totally relate to your writer's doubt.

Take heart...and remember (this coming from an American), that the finest things come from Manchester, England:

Boddington's, Robbie Coltrane's Cracker and more cool bands than we can count.

Good stuff.