Sunday, May 15, 2011

Faith, huh?

What is it about writers that makes us constant self doubters? Is it some deep psychological malfunction? Are self doubt and creativity mutually exclusive or are they somehow wrapped up in the very fibers of what makes us writers?

I don't think I've met a writer yet (and introduce yourself if you're one of them!) that manages to get through an entire MS, or subsequent edits without a little (or in some cases, a lot) of self doubt. I know I've experienced it. In fact I've experienced it more in these last two months than I have since I started writing seriously two years ago.

My current WIP has a lot of death in it. I started it before I started my new job. Which I love, but if I'm being honest, working in a world where life is such a precious commodity has altered my previous somewhat hardened perspective. Most of you, or at least those of you who have been reading my blog for a while, know I work in public health. And that means a lot of different things to a lot of people and, trust me, the field is expansive. But to lay it all out there, I work with cancer patients. More to the point, I work with cancer patients that are in the prime of their lives -- adolescents and young adults.

These people shouldn't have cancer, right? Cancer only happens to kids and the elderly. False. While I'll save you the PSA, I won't skirt around how working with these amazing survivors has softened and humbled me. It's a change I didn't expect (sneaky change!) and one that I would never give back.

This new me looked at my WIP with fresh eyes and had to wonder, should I keep going? Shouldn't I clip the death? My MC is, in a lot of ways, ruthless and I thought maybe I should abandon her and write something with more of a message, more heart, more... something. But regardless of what I needed more of, I felt I needed less death.

So I did what any logical writer might. I stalled. I stopped writing that story, somewhere around the 50,000 word mark. And there it sat. Staring at me from a little white .doc file on my desktop. I doubted my ability to continue with the story because I couldn't reconcile the new me with the old perspective.

And maybe in the end, I wasn't suppose to. I recently went back through and reread every page of my WIP. And somewhere along that journey with my MC, the new, softer me found a connection with the old. I began to have faith that I could take those newly found emotions for the people I serve and weave them into my MC, creating an even deeper and more developed character than before. It wasn't my perspective that needed changing, it was learning to have faith in myself. Faith that I could take what I've learned in the real world and inject life into my fictional one.

I can't say I'll never doubt myself again. And I can't say that some change down the road won't send me into another tailspin. But what I can say, is that no matter what, I will find a way to keep the faith.

How do you learn to push past the doubt and harness the faith?


  1. Great food for thought. I've been under this cloud for the last few months too. Wondering if I should ditch the world I built and write something else, if I'm good enough to make it, and if I'm doing the story justice. I push past by holding on to the comments from my dear critique partners, the encouragement from those that care, and a firm believe that I was meant to do this. I may not see a rainbow all the time, but just a break in those clouds, makes me smile.

  2. Great comment, Traci. I'm so glad you don't give up on the Akara world you've created. It's fantastic. Thanks for sharing. :)

  3. This is such a great post Min! As a writer, I think we've got to pull in those emotions from "the real world." Sometimes it's those things that are hardest to write that will be best medicine.

    Your MC does have her harsh moments, but at the same time the reader can connect with her because we sense she is truly good. She reacts to her job, unlike some of her counterparts.

    But because of your it gives you a new perspective to write from. ((HUGS))

  4. I am so thrilled for you! I think giving Saeth more depth is perfect. She'll be much more rounded for it. I can't wait to read the rest of his wonderful story. :)

  5. You know from YAFF all my set-aside thanks to self-doubt things. At least you know you're not alone.

    Jenn is so right about Saeth. The change you feel fits perfectly with the inner changes she goes through as the story progresses.

  6. Sounds like softening the character and adding more depth will be awesome. Amazing how our experience changes our writing.!