Saturday, June 28, 2008

DOUBT, SELF-DEPRIVATION, & CREATIVITY

I've been reading my favourite blogs this weekend; aside from admiring the weather outside my window. As I read, I'm stuck by the similarities between writers. So many of us share strong commonalities. We'd rather write than go to a party, attend a banquet, or shop with a friend. And I've forgotten how many times I've heard a gifted, talented writer say, "I terrified they'll discover I'm a fraud." Or another state: "I don't know why I think I can write -- I can't." And yet another: "If I don't publish, I'm nothing." Or the equally terrifying declaration: "Maybe I'm just a One-Book author."

Sad statements from creative, inspiring human beings.

Do these doubts and self-deprivation go hand in hand with creativity?

I've made my share of sad statements. And just as quickly, I have read a piece of composition and thought: Wow, I wrote that. And then four paragraphs later I've wanted to crawl under a rock because of my inadequate concept of comma and semi-colon placement. How can I call myself a writer and not retain the difference between a coordinating conjunction and introductory fragments? Or independent clause and disruptive thoughts?

There are those who would argue that to write effectively you must first master the mechanics of writing. My dear husband often refers to me as his Word Mechanic. That's because to him what I do is remarkable. He would never think to stick me along side the likes of Stephen King, Eric Lustbader, or Margaret Laurence for comparison. To him, if I have a problem with commas, I should ask a friend who knows about commas.


I've seen the sales reports for Roberts, Patterson, and Evanovich and wondered what ever possessed me to pick up a pen. What can I offer that hasn't been explored a zillions time before? How can I compete with these legends? What ever made me believe I should try?


While I'm waiting for the answers, it occurs to me that self-doubt may be a motivating factor. I, like so many of the writers I admire, am profoundly curious about the human psyche. Particularly mine. Every time someone asks me why I write, I'm reminded that I'm a driven creature. I'm motivated by an unexplainable need to tell a story. But not just any story. Characters, for no apparent reason, pop into my head and refuse to leave until I discern what they want, why they want it, and what will happened if they fail. In the same instance, I'm the first one to snap at my friend: "Don't be stupid. You're the most gifted writer I know," yet, retaliate when told the same thing with: "Yeah--right. You're just saying that because you don't want to hurt my feelings." My delicate, easily crushed feelings.

I've questioned everything since I was a kid. In fact, my mother said I used to drive them nuts by all my questions. I needed to know why the guy on TV said what he said in the manner he said it. Consequently, nobody could ruin a good movie faster than I.

It was the same way around adults. I couldn't tell you how many times after interrupting their conversation my dad would say to me: "Go play outside." Whereas I would reply, "Yeah, but what happened to the man? How come his wife left him? Is he going to be okay? Why did he ram that car? How come he can't see his kids? Doesn't he love his wife anymore?"


When I told my parents that I wanted to be a writer, they smiled and nodded as if they'd known all along.

I don't know why I write. And I don't know why so many talented writers are full of self-doubt. But this I do know: actors act, singers sing, artists draw, dancers dance, and writers write. All for the sake of an unquenchable urge: What if ...?

3 comments :

  1. "And I've forgotten how many times I've heard a gifted, talented writer say, 'I’m terrified they'll discover I'm a fraud.'"
    I immediately connected with this! I had the opportunity to communicate with Judy Blume for a research project I was doing - and she said the same thing! Turns out, most gifted women feel like frauds. We don't trust that we really are gifted. Why are we so afraid to trust in our abilities? I'm not sure that men have these same feelings.

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  2. I like your husband's approach. If you don't do commas well, get help from someone who does. How simple is that?

    For some reason, it is hard for us to learn to say, "I do that well." It's also hard to understand the why of it all. Why do I have this strange gift? How does it work? And because we don't undrstand, we don't trust it.

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  3. I finally bought that little book: Eats, Shoots, & Leaves. It's helping. But part of my problem is the more I learn about what I don't know, the more I obsess about learning. It's really ridiculous becuz my head can't possibly retain all this stuff. lol.

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