Tag Archives: doubt

Trust, that elusive animal, or Humber, week two


It’s coming up to the point of no return. Today is the last day I can withdraw from Humber’s School for Writers with no fee penalty.

I have to admit it’s looming large in my head. Not that there’s anything wrong with the program, and I am lucky lucky to have a mentor who I love reading and who has, I believe, a similarly twisted sense of humour to mine.

But I’m afraid. I’m afraid of letting myself down, I’m afraid of failing again, I’m afraid of starting something that I might be going to fail.

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And I’m SO good at NOT writing. I find it very easy to doubt myself, my ability to stick to anything, to see a project to completion. My lifetime script has been that I am an initiator, not a finisher. But that’s not strictly true, I know, if I think back. But I still don’t trust myself. And on the other side, I hate when I don’t try something out of fear.

Not sure where my messed up self comes from, don’t have time to dig deep enough into my psyche to figure it out today, but I know it’s there, like a big rock in the middle of the stream.

It’s not just me I don’t trust. I could list the names of trustworthy types I feel I know on the fingers of both hands (on a bad day, just one). Like Nova Scotia weather, you can come to rely upon a sunny day only to find rain driving into your face. I’ve become a cynic, not totally by myself, but with some considerable help. And fog.

But, when you have trouble trusting others, and you can’t trust yourself, either, it gets pretty murky out there. I have to start somewhere.

Maybe I should take a page from Neil Gaiman, another favourite author.

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Sometimes a high-in-the-sky view can be overrated.
Today my building is wreathed with clouds and rain; yesterday the wind was howling persistently through my windows. I can’t see the ground.
It all got me to thinking about being high above things, as vs down and dirty in amongst them.
It’s easy, as a writer, to step back from life and observe. Fun to watch and note and “see without being seen” as my kids’ favorite game Scotland Yard says. Sometimes fun to envision playing with bloodless characters like chess pieces, moving them here and there, seeing how it turns out.
But I don’t think that’s where good writing resides. I think the writing I enjoy anyway is the writing that is on the ground level, below the clouds and mist, face to face and intense, filled with muddy puddles and those splashes when someone drives by and hits one. The writing of out-flipped umbrellas, waving tree branches, surging waves on a shore.
To get there, occasionally you have to get out in your world, experience it, feel is around you, meet people you’ve never imagined exist, have shocking and friendly and scary and enjoyable experiences. For that, you also have to be involved. Get your hands dirty, touch the world around you. Get to know people more deeply than the surface hello, understand motivations, hear histories.
The problem, of course, is the balance between writing time and experience time. I’m still working in that one…

Panicking and all that


This weekend I’m off to an excellent mystery writer’s conference – Bloody Words XII in Toronto, ON. It’s one of those GOOD conferences, with a short story contest, the opportunity to have your MS evaluated by an author, a chance to take said story to pitch to an agent, plus lots of sessions on how to write, meetings with all the fabulous authors you read, and fun galore.

So I should be looking forward to it. Instead, I am in a state of suspended animation similar to that of a deer in the front of an oncoming Mac Truck.

You see, I missed the short story contest, despite promising myself I’d enter. My story didn’t fit the guidelines and I hated to send in a revamped weaker one that probably would just embarrass me.

I did send in a MS for evaluation, though, and am inwardly cringing at the potential for damning with faint praise from a real live author. Of course I assume she’ll hate it.

And then I booked an appointment with an agent, and now I am overcome, frozen, totally blinded by the view of my incompetence as I review my book, working on it so it’s shiny enough to pitch.

Part of it is the aloneness of writing. I’ve been lazy about sending things in for publication and my recent contest entries have been uninspired. I feel as if I am dabbling in the shallows of the tidal pools of my mind. Little little splashes.

Part of it is the difficulty I have roping my mind into behaving properly. It might be simple laziness, but I also wonder about the effects of my MS on my brain power. Of course, as soon as I

say that, I hear my mum telling me it’s just an excuse, but I do run up against limitations that seem real to me. Maybe the novel format is too much to take on, my “poor me I’m sick” self says.

“You’re just wasting time,” my maternal message says. “You can do anything you put your mind to,” she adds, dangling participles with abandon.

Self-messaging runs deep deep in our souls. Over years of therapy and self-examination and trying to pull them up by their roots, they still hang in there, sprouting in the darkness, waiting their time to reach into the sun and be seen, in all their malevolent beauty.

I still feel sleeping in past eight is “wasting the day” as my dad told me over and over, despite having a disease that demands more rest. I feel incompetent with handling my finances despite managing okay in general, but my relatives never let me think I could do it. I feel fat and lazy despite working out several times a week (and said illness) because that’s part of the messaging I’ve absorbed over the years. I feel inadequate and all that every day.

And yet, I’m not. I’m active, fit, smart, pretty, round, yes, but strong as a bull. I’m funny and witty and I write well when I write. I accomplish a lot in my humble circles and in bigger ones, too. So why, when presented with this conference, does my confidence drip away through the drain like so much sludge?