As I said in the comments of my last post, doubt can be a very detrimental thing to a writer, but it can also be very powerful. As artists (and human beings in general) one question that is likely going to come up time and time again while we do our work is “why”. It’s a simple enough word, a simple enough question, but the answers to it almost never are. When it comes to something that we are passionate about, asking ourselves why can be the difference between succeeding and failing miserably, achieving a goal and fall short, and happiness or a permanent sense of failure. You might look at that statement and think I’m being a little dramatic, but think about it. How many times have you stopped yourself from doing something just by asking yourself why you would do it, or what good would come of it?
Have you ever attempted to take on a task that you felt strongly about and then gave up on it because you questioned it? I’d be willing to bet we all have.
Whenever we are presented with a thought that develops into a real desire we must consider everything about the possibility before us. Whenever I am getting the idea for a new piece settled down and trying to hammer out the details one thing I try to look at is just how well I think I can develop a piece about the particular topic at hand. When I started writing Maverip (the magnum opus of my budding career) I felt very confident in the work I was doing. Having been a lover of the paranormal my entire life, with a particular interest in vampires, working on that piece just felt RIGHT.
Speaking from the point of view of someone who has completed many other works since the start of that series I can easily say that it doesn’t always feel that way. Sometimes you get an idea and you can feel that the idea is just absolutely awesome but once you sit down to actually work on it you question your ability to do it correctly. This is often the case with some people, unfortunately. We will begin a new project, perhaps one that is just outside of our comfort zone or slightly off center from our typical line of work and we will be plagued by the thought that, since it isn’t the same thing we always do, we will be unable to make it work for one reason or another. Often my own bit of doubt is that, upon completing the piece, whomever reads it will absolutely hate it and I will be little more than a failure. In the case of Maverip my doubt has really only kicked in fairly recently, but it is that I won’t be able to make a convincing argument for my piece and that, either in the advertising of the book or with the presentation itself, I will fall short and no one will take the time to check it out. But that is a different post as well.
Regardless of whether or not you feel doubt, the real clincher is how you react to it. So often people will just give up and stop the work the second they get that first hint of doubt. This is one of the most self destructive behaviors I have ever seen. Doubt acts as a cautionary emotion for us, guiding us in the right direction and helping ensure that we don’t take the task at hand too lightly. Unfortunately people don’t always see this. I have spoken to a number of people who have had the desire to do something, be it writing or painting or any number of other things, that have never acted on the desire because they doubted themselves, feeling that they would never be able to perform their desire well enough to suit others or consider themselves a success. This is rubbish. When looking at doubt one must never allow it seep into their psyche to the point that it interrupts the passion that is kindled there. This is such a terrible waste of talent and opportunity. As a matter of fact, for those readers who have a religious background, think back on the parable of the talents that we are told in Matthew 25; 14-30. Three men are given talents and each of them treats the gifts differently. Two of the men use the talents given and get more in return, gaining the favor of their master, while the third buries his, not using it for anything and returns it to his master alone.
The basis of this story is one that can easily be rendered applicable even to those who don’t look at the religious aspect (or choose to adhere to a different belief system). Basically what it says is that when you have something and you don’t use it, you get nothing from it. Would you buy a car just to put it in the garage and never look at it or drive it? Would you buy a house just to let it sit on its plot, never lived in or used? Would you buy food just to let it rot and go to waste with no intention of touching it? The answer to those questions was likely no, right? If not, I’m personally glad someone with such a financial blessing is reading my blog, but I must discourage the behavior! The same mindset should be applied to this. If we are so blessed to have a passion for art (or anything really) we cannot allow ourselves to be discouraged!
Doubt can be one of the scariest things you can experience as an artist of any kind, but it is also well worth the fight. If you give up on a project every time you doubt your ability or the possible outcome of your efforts, chances are you will never know what you are capable of. However, if you push through the mire of this heavy and scary feeling it can be replaced with the satisfaction of completing the work in question and having it taken beyond where you thought it could go.
By pressing through the doubt the weighted me down for the days before sending it, I was able to see my very first piece in print in a small, nonprofit circulation five long years ago, and I haven’t looked back since. Such is the case with many incredible talents. Even the horror master himself, Stephen King, was plagued with such doubt that he threw the manuscript for Carrie in the trash. His wife retrieved it and, after looking through it, convinced him that, rather than giving up, he should trudge on. She recognized the potential in the work (as well as the man himself) before he even did. Carrie went on to become King’s first published novel and has since had three movie adaptations, one spin-off sequel and countless stage performances. And it was literally plucked out of the trash.
The rewards for overcoming doubt often will vastly outweigh even the harshest of situations in which the doubt can be proven to hold even the most minimal amount of truth. In reality, if we finish a work that we have some doubt about and move forward with the process of getting it out there, what’s the worst that can happen? Someone won’t like it? Big deal. There are over seven BILLION people on this (that’s 7,397,799,570 people at the time of writing this for those of you that want exact numbers). There is bound to be AT LEAST one person out there who likes the work, who is thankful you finished the work and who may even be inspired by the work. The bottom line is, even if your work only truly touches one person, that’s still one person who is better off because you didn’t give up. That’s one person whose life or confidence may be saved because you pushed through your own sense of doubt. And you tell me; isn’t that worth the battle?
Feel free to add your thoughts to this post or send them to me in a message. I love getting to hear all of your thoughts on these blogs! Until next time remember; don’t give up- embrace your doubt. Trust me, it’s worth it.