Lately, I find it hard to read works by other authors. I have a hard time entering book stores. Often, I’ll sample literary magazines and websites to get a feel for the kind of content each source tends to publish. It all just leaves me crestfallen.
There’s something about reading an engaging work by an already published author–or worse, entering a vault (hence, Barnes and Noble) in which many can be found. Is it jealousy? No, much worse than that; it is Doubt.
Here’s how it works. Last night, I picked up a new novel. I got under the covers, scanned the front cover, back cover, etc. Back in the days when I considered myself primarily a ‘reader,’ I’d dive right in. Open up to chapter one, and devour each page until I reached the final word. These days, now that I am releasing that previously caged, ‘intrinsic writer’ I find myself headed straight for the ‘about the author’ bit in the back. I NEVER used to care that much about the author. Unless I found it to be a particularly fascinating read, I often didn’t even consider the writer. It was all about the narrator, whether he/she served as a character or not. To me, that’s who told the story. It was like on some level (and all readers do this), I truly believed the narrator/first-person character actually wrote the damn tale. But the author? Nah, that was just some name on the front cover–and the spine.
So I read all about the author. Her acknowledgments, her response to all the novel’s praise. It was there I read a quick bit she did on writing a first-person narration from a male’s perspective. And I thought, Oh no, that’s what I did. That’s my book. That’s my narrator. My guy is a boy too! And I’m a girl!
Enter, Doubt. Well, I’m thinking, I bet she does it better than me. She was thirty-one when she wrote this book. I’m twenty-nine, not much time. What if every agent I plan on contacting in the future says the same thing about my book: been there, done that? What if I need to re-do the entire thing? Do I have time for that? She wrote the first draft in four months!? It took me eight! I slammed the book closed. Picked up my journal. Told myself to ‘calm down, you’ll get there,’ etc. etc. Then I wrote some more empty, bogus, inspirational messages to myself: Force yourself, Katie, one half-hour, read this woman’s novel. Don’t be afraid of it. She’s her, you’re you, right? Learn from the damn thing. Study. Evaluate. Examine.
So I begin. My first thought? How does she know so much about interior decoration? Did she research that? Or, as ‘intrinsic writers’ should we just know about this stuff? What the !@#$% is linoleum? Should I know this? I don’t describe rooms and houses in my book like this! Her male voice is better, her story’s better, this is why she’s published, and I’m not, she’s got it, I don’t. At this point, I chucked the book across the room, hoping to God I dented it somehow. My cats darted off the bed; it was bad. I crossed my arms and huffed. Really, I could see myself in the mirror; I looked pitiful. Intrinsic Writer my ass.
THAT, to all of you reading this, is my definition of “Doubt.” It’s there. It’s eats at us intrinsic types like lye to our skin. Unfortunately, it comes with the job. There are days when it doesn’t exist. My writing looks stupendous to me. The next day, often the very next day, I’m throwing perfectly good contemporary literature into door frames.
Since I’ve been doing this writing gig, I’m come to discover that there are only two things I’m certain of: 1) Perseverance is the only way, the only way, I will ever have a chance 2) I AM an intrinsic writer.
Oh, and, yes, I’m going to attempt to read that book again tonight. I’ll bet it’s a brilliant story.
2 responses to “Doubt”
Thank you for these bold, honest words. What writer hasn’t been there? I used to enjoy each new story with reckless abandon, reveling in the wonder and suspense as the story unfolds. Yet now, the more I focus on my own pieces, the more I find myself turning to other works not out of pleasure, but rather as a critique of my own words against theirs. And inevitably, I find my own inferior to the other masterfully knitted words of published authors. I hope that one day I can put the doubt aside and be successful with my own style.
Hi there! Thanks so much for stopping by! I’m glad someone entered “the vault” of my old blog posts. Here I am a year later, and nothing has changed much. Still plagued by doubt. Still, like you said, reading for pleasure and education–and of course comparison. Which can’t possibly be healthy!