Hello Doubt, My Old Friend


I think I don’t know what I’m doing.

This happens to me sometimes, this lurching feeling akin to throwing the brakes on at 100 mph.  So there I was, humming along at a good clip, lots of writing happening and SCREEEECH.  Full stop.

I can’t speak for anyone else but Doubt only throws himself onto the hood of my car because I let him.  I should just run him down; accelerate when I see him standing in front of me instead of slamming on the brakes.  Because I brake for him, he can then hop in the car with me and get all bossy about where we’re going and how we’re going to get there.  Doubt is a bully and a backseat driver.

Ok, enough of the automotive metaphors.  Hmmm…let’s try something else.  Hmmm…nothing coming to mind.  See?  I’m plagued now by Doubt.  It is everywhere and it is affecting my brain.  All I need to do is breathe (always remember to breathe) and know that Doubt is only a temporary problem.  Of course, it took me decades to get to this point but now that I’m here, I’m not going to let Doubt push me around.

I submitted a story to my workshop.  I knew it needed work and it was only the first 10 pages.  The beginning held so much promise.  Then, it careened around and fell apart as it went; I tried to glue it back together but it didn’t really work.  At the end of the excerpt, the main character (much like the author) is sitting head in hand, wondering what the hell to do next.   And, of course, my instructor jumped all over it.  What does she want?  What is she doing?  Why is she here, there, and everywhere?

All completely legit questions.  And, I don’t have an answer to any of them.  That’s what happens when you write without a plan or an outline or even an inkling of what’s going on.  I’m not usually a fan of outlines.  I like to loll around on the sofa until the characters tell me to get my ass up and write a thread and then another and another.  Once I have the threads, I  usually figure things out on my own.  With this story, nobody spoke to me much, there were no threads and the result was as you’d expect: rather a mess.

I feel badly for my character.  I’ve left her confused and unhappy at the base of a volcano.  She doesn’t want to be there (well, she does really – she had the opportunity to leave on page 6 and she didn’t).  She’s staying but doesn’t know why.  She doesn’t know what she’s looking for.  She is running but doesn’t know from what (aside from molten lava).  I’m her chauffeur and my sat-nav isn’t working.  We’re both lost.

The upside of all of this is that it’s only 10 pages.  I can trash the whole thing (if necessary) or prune it back until it’s 1 1/2 paragraphs without shaving years off my life.  It’s not like I’ve committed myself in 500 pages to this poor lost girl.  Maybe all I do keep is the first paragraph and toss the rest.  But, first maybe I need to slow down and give some thought to who this girl is and what she’s up to.  No, not maybe.  Maybe is the handmaiden of Doubt.  It’s bad enough having Doubt around without all of his minions.

Hey, Doubt!  Go stand in the middle of the road and I’ll get in the car…

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