Another Bit of Inspiration

May 29, 2012 § 2 Comments

Combing through my old LiveJournal blog for things to share here, I came across this image. It comes from Steven Pressfield’s excellent book, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles.

I think this quote goes along well with my post on conquering fear.

I also found a post on my old LJ that also talks about fear and the writer. I wrote it in October of 2011, and completely forgot about it when I wrote the post from a few days ago. It’s interesting (to me, at least; your mileage may vary) to see how closely the LJ post parallels the post here. The LJ post is titled “The Worst Enemy”:

“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” — Sylvia Plath

A friend of mine posted that on Facebook this morning, and it sure does resonate with me right now. Especially that last sentence. More than anything, self-doubt is what keeps me away from the keyboard. Well, that and having a bajillion chores to do every day. But mostly, it’s the self-doubt.

You see, I know I can write pretty. I have no doubts about that. But being able to write well is only half the battle. Possibly less than half, but I’ll give myself a little credit and round up. The other half is being able to tell a good story, and that’s where self-doubt always nuts me. I get ideas for stories, and they seem fantastic in my head. When I start writing them, however, that niggling little gremlin starts telling me that it’s not creative enough or interesting enough or that it’s been done before, better.

At first, I usually ignore the gremlin and press on. But when you hear something often enough, you start to believe it–and that goddamn gremlin never shuts up. Pretty soon, the story starts to seem dull, the characters start to seem stereotypical and cardboard, and the enthusiasm quickly drains away. The gremlin wins, and smugly proclaims from his seat in the back of my brain, “I told you so.”

I’ve read countless articles and books about how to defeat the gremlin. I’ve even forced myself to finish things (the most common advice), ignoring the gremlin’s demoralizing chants. I’ve completed first drafts of four novels, rewritten two of them, and completed probably a dozen or so short stories. Even then, though, the gremlin wins.

“Oh, goody for you,” he says. “You finished it. But look, that ‘novel’ is only 50,000 words. It’ll need to be twice that length before a publisher will even look at it. And it’s deeply flawed. The characters aren’t interesting at all, and the story you thought was so clever? It’s really not. It’s rather trite, actually. Trite and predictable. I saw the ‘twist’ coming a mile away. Face it, it’s just more dreck. Go put it with the others in the closet, that’s a lad. You’re never going to make it as a writer, you know. You’ve wasted your time.”

Successful writers don’t let the gremlin stop them. They write, rewrite, rewrite some more, rewrite even more, and then send it around, collecting rejection after rejection until someone finally buys it and publishes it.

How they do it, I don’t know. Perhaps they’re just wired differently. My gremlin self-doubt kicks my ass every time.

I think I’m going to name him Plath.

(In case you’re wondering, Plath the Gremlin still  hasn’t shut up.)

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