I’m writing this blog early because I’ve lost the notes I scribbled for myself AGAIN, and I’m afraid I’d better write it before I lose the idea entirely. It’s been one of those months. I get organized one day, disorganized the next. I keep getting knocked off balance. Not a bad thing. Life happens, and most of it’s good, but it can settle down any time soon.
On top of that, I keep bouncing from optimism–“This is a great book”–to doubt–“Can I pull this book off?” I’m in the “slog” part of my new novel. I know where the plot has to go, what the characters have to struggle with, but this is the part of the book where subplots are coming together to weigh heavily on the story and pacing, where the big, black moment is breathing down my protaganists’ (and my) neck, and everything has to feel impossible for my protagonists to achieve. Problem is, when they reach that stage, so do I. We’ll survive, I know, but at the moment, things look bleak.
It’s nice, then, when new members join our writers’ group and I can share things I’ve learned with them. It reminds me and my longtime writer friends that we’ve come farther than we realize. We forget that sometimes. I remember when I was invited to be on my first writers’ panel at a mystery conference. I sat there, rubbing elbows with authors I’d admired for years, wondering why in the world I was supposed to be a part of the group. I felt like the lowly newbie, but no one treated me that way. As a matter of fact, many of them came up to compliment me on a new short story of mine that had come out in a Women’s Sleuth anthology. Writers are generous that way. They made me feel accomplished.
That memory triggered another one. I went to a writers’ conference at Ball State in Muncie, Indiana. Lawrence Block offered a weeklong workshop on writing, and I was shocked when at least fifty percent of what he taught emphasized finding the personal fear that held writers back from pursuing their dreams. I thought I’d already faced mine–years of poverty being near the top of my list. But I was wrong. After filling out questionnaires and personality quizzes, my biggest fear was “Am I good enough?” I have to admit, he nailed my biggest hangup. Not just for writing. But for life. When I was a student , I always knew I could have scored higher on a test if I’d just studied a little bit longer, even when I got an A. When I sold a short story to Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, I knew I should really be working on novels. I’ve always been able to see what I could have done better. And I’ve always admired people who were born with the ease of self-confidence.
But we are who we are. And now that I’m older, I’m more accepting of my flaws. And it helps that I can look back and see that I have come a long way. I’m making progress. And I’ve finished lots of books. I’ll finish this one, too. And once I pound it with rewrites, something I’m proud of will take shape. I know it will. Because I’ve learned the process. And I know that I’ve doubted every book I’ve ever written at this stage of the plotline. It’s a good thing. Panic keeps me sharper, trying harder. Writing isn’t meant to be all fun and games:)
And–here’s the source of Neil Gaiman’s quote, “You have to write when you’re not inspired.” This is a really interesting link. I hope you enjoy it. http://winningedits.com/neil-gaiman-on-writing