People are weirdos. There’s no other explanation for the trouble we tend to create for ourselves. I don’t know if it’s all of us, but quite a few are so convinced of their distinctiveness that no one could possibly understand them. That sounds a bit narcissistic, and it includes feeling something no one has ever felt before. Other people are perfect, and we are not. Doubt is a major part of the torture we willingly put ourselves through, but I think we can be pretty certain that we don’t feel much that haven’t been been felt by others. Doubt and feeling inferior are sadly quite common. Many of us even feel like imposters, like we have no right using the title writer or author.
I used to be stressed when I heard authors talk about writing a couple of thousand words a day, because that doesn’t work for me. I eventually realised that the words would come when I relaxed, and my feeling now is that words arrive when they do. They are never late. That sometimes means that I write 3000 words in a week and sometimes 300. I’m a slow writer because I edit quite a bit as I write. One of my strategies is to listen when I can’t write.
I listen to a few podcasts where authors interview authors, and selfdoubt is a common topic there. I had bucketloads of it, and it prevented me from even starting to write. I had an idea for a novel for many years without writing anything down, but I started about ten years ago. I didn’t make much progress because I still didn’t have much confidence. I was convinced that the story was great, but I wasn’t sure that I was the right one to tell it. That’s how long it took, and now that I’m in a totally different place, the mansucript didn’t take that long to write. When things started happening I found that I had ideas for many more books.
I understand from the podcasts I listen to that you’re never really out of the woods. Doubt has a way of sneaking up on you, even after years of success. I have passed the first hurdle, though. It may not be as intense for the reader as it has been for me, but I believe I will be able to share some of the experiences I’ve had with the characters I’ve created. Everyone wants to be a commercial success of course, and I’m no different, but right now that is a secondary concern.
So when I don’t write, I listen. I recently discovered The Worried Writer by Sara Painter, and when I don’t want to hear words, I find that music by Rachmaninoff, Chopin, Mussorgsky, Debussy and others help me find the elusive words. Another strategy is to stay active. It’s amazing how many ideas appear out of nowhere when I ride my bicycle or go for a walk. It often happens when I’m stuck, and after letting ideas simmer at the back of my head for a while, the solution seems to appear when I’m doing something else.
Blogging is also an excellent strategy, because it makes me active when I don’t feel especially creative. I’m frankly quite addicted to writing, because even on days when I have spent hours in intense concentration, and really made some progress on my manuscript, I’m so pumped up that I just have to blog in the evening. I think my conclusion to this is that I just have to do it. One of the more common pieces of advice from podcasters is to finish the manuscript, because before you do, you don’t have anything to edit, and you are not closer to proving to the publisher that you can handle something as comprehensive as a novel. I have passed that hurdle, and I did because I made myself do it. Yes, a certain amount of discipline is in order.
The photo was taken at least three cell phones ago, and talking was actually more relevant than a good camera then. It’s from a place I used to live, but I didn’t reflect much on the meaning of this piece of art. It’s a part of Artscape Nordland, a project where the county brings art closer to the people in a region where the museums and galleries are few and far apart.
It makes sense when I think about it today. This one is called a cairn, and the artist described it as a pavillion that is intended to give you the tranquility and time for reflexion. It’s more like a stage we can use to observe the landscape and the changing light, than a structure that offers protection from the world outside. It’s a place where we don’t need to tear down the walls.