Today I’m talking about my recent struggle with self-doubt and what you should do when Writing gets you down.
It’s been a while since we spoke, hasn’t it? Here we are sprinting toward the end of September and a quick check tells me that my last post was in December (an evergreen post that you can use again this year: HOW TO KEEP WRITING OVER CHRISTMAS). So what the hell have I been doing?
A quick catch-up . . .
Well, for one thing, I’ve changed my mind about how I want to put my book out into the world. With much fanfare, I previously announced that I was going to independently publish my debut novel, SAFE HANDS. I was fired up, determined and even gave myself a deadline of June 24th. However, a conversation I had with American novelist and screenwriter, Bonnie Macbird after our interview for The Joined Up Writing Podcast, began to change my mind. Bonnie wrote a new Sherlock Holmes novel and had planned to self-publish it, until a friend suggested she submit the manuscript to a publisher. To her surprise, they snapped it up. It made her realise that she hadn’t been relishing the idea of doing everything herself anyway, and was happy to just get back to writing the next book. This – along with several similar conversations with other authors – got me thinking. I have a busy day job, a family, a podcast to host and all of that has to be fit around my writing. Have I really got the time and energy to handle all aspects of formatting, delivery, cover design, editing and promotion of an independently published book? No, I do not.
Excuses, excuses . . .
I know what you’re thinking – isn’t that just another way to delay finishing the book? A sneaky bit of procrastination. Well, it could have been exactly that, but in June (around the very time I should have been publishing the book) I did begin to send the manuscript out to a number of beta-readers. I got the first two thirds of the book into at least a readable state, sent it away and awaited the feedback. Despite my trepidation, I’ve been blown away by the positive comments I’ve received and for a while I rode the crest of that wave of encouragement all the way into the rewrites of the final act of my book. At which point I ‘got into the weeds’, slowed down and allowed Self-Doubt to catch up with me. Don’t get me wrong – I knew the end game of the novel needed some work but it’s the kind of work that I hate. Slow, meticulous rewrites, trying to make sure that all of those plot strands can now be knitted into a thrilling garment – perhaps a nice sweater like Sarah Lund wears in The Killing. But when my day job gets busy, my mind gets fried and suddenly it feels more like I’m making a pair of six-fingered mittens.
We’re all busy . . .
Yes, I’m busy, but who isn’t? My job as a sound recordist and producer can take me all over the country and sometimes abroad, hopping between several different projects and always trying to leave some time and space for my own creativity. Regardless of your job, I’m sure you have similar issues, but it’s unrealistic to think there won’t be times you have to take a break from your own stuff, put your head down and get through it. The trouble is, as writers, the moment we find ourselves with a snatched half an hour, we tend to feel guilty if we don’t utilise all the time for our WIP. Guilt creates negativity, which is fertile ground for our old friend, SELF-DOUBT. That’s where I’ve found myself over the past few weeks and it’s only now, as I get a brief respite from filming, that I can see it was just a phase. It’s time to drop all that crap and remember that Writing should be fun. And what could be more fun than finishing the story I want to tell and getting it out into the world? I’m pressing RESET and giving myself until the end of October – one month from now – to finish the current draft and submit it to the imprint I originally intended to send it to a couple of months ago.
Staying motivated . . .
So the next few weeks will be rewriting and editing the novel and continuing to put out episodes of my show, The Joined Up Writing Podcast. If you haven’t taken a look before, I’ve been interviewing dozens of published authors for almost 4 years and you can listen to any or all of them absolutely free. I find talking to successful writers incredibly motivating and I’d love to hear what you think of the show. You can find the whole archive at JoinedUpWriting.co.uk, and subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast or wherever else you get your podcasts. For the latest episode, I chatted to Australian author Emma Viskic.
So I may have been down but I’m not out. I’m not only rewriting my novel, I’m rewriting my attitude. But what do you do when things get tough? Let me know in the comments as I’d love to hear how your projects are going and how you tackle things when Writing gets you down.