Friday, May 2, 2008

Performance Anxiety

Maven Jackie BarbosaIn the world of romance, heroes rarely suffer from this malady. Not only are they supremely confident gentlemen of the world, they are also so wildly attracted to their heroines that any possibility of failure to rise to the occasion is unthinkable.

Would that the writers who invent these rarefied creatures shared their immunity! Alas, I'm afraid it's not, because I seem to have developed a pretty bad case.

You would think that the validation inherent in receiving a contract for publication would be sufficient to convince any author that her work has merit and she should simply forge ahead. But I'm not any author. I am Jackie and I am neurotic. Which means that instead of rejoicing that my editor loves my work and wants to publish it, I'm worrying about living up to his expectations. About not screwing it up.

Now, of course, I know the best way to screw it up is not to get it written. So obviously, I need to conquer my fear. I've still got plenty of time, but every day I fritter away angsting and biting my nails is one less day I have to meet my deadline.

So, my question for you, MaveFaves, do you conquer self-doubt when it's preventing you from writing? I'm already trying the Angie Fox "it's only half and hour" method with some success, but I think I need more techniques in my box of tricks.


Kendra said...

I don't think you can conquer self-doubt. And I believe it is rampant in writers. Especially pubbed writers. Ever read Tess Gerritson's blog? She lays it all out there. She worries that each book won't perform as good as the last and worries that she'll disappoint her readers. Very humble.

I have a friend who's made the NY Times top ten. She's told me she takes absolutely nothing for granted because it could all disappear in a heartbeat. She simply works her hardest.

Bill Clark said...

Here's an idea: make the self-doubt your friend. Tell yourself it's a healthy sign that actually validates your work. Because if you *didn't* have self-doubt, you'd be a self-assured jerk - and we all know how unattractive they are, and how badly they write! :-)

B.E. Sanderson said...

I try to work through the self-doubt, or I'd never get anything done. (Giving myself permission to suck on the first draft was helpful in that capacity.) The doubts that come after getting published? I'll cross those hurdles when I come to them. At some point, though, you have to find some measure of self-assurance, or you drive yourself batty worrying over every little thing. (Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.)

:hugs: Hang in there, Jackie.

Anonymous said...

I wish I had better advice than just put your head down and keep going. That's really the only way to make it happen in spite of the self-doubt. You just gotta do it.

Carrie Ryan said...

I always heard that it doesn't get easier and indeed it doesn't :) I don't know any author who doesn't question themselves and their writing at one point or another. The way I deal with it is to remember I'm just telling a story and when I'm done with the story I can revise like hell to fix it up :)

Santa said...

Write. Sit and write. To a certain extent, you've already proved your mettle. You would not have been signed otherwise.

Even the big names are filled with self-doubt, no matter how easy they make it seem. And yet, they follow that simple advice.

Write. Sit and write.

Off to follow those sage, though not of my own, words.

J Perry Stone said...

You're in a downward spiral, Jackie. You have to remember, these are just thoughts that are in no way indicative of the reality of your work. If they were, than someone please explain to me why when a writer is in a bad mood and reads a scene, they think, “It reeks,” while the next day, in a significantly better mood, they can read that same scene and think, “pure brilliance.” You know that’s happened to you. It’s just a thought. Thoughts can be controlled. Don't give the negative ones consideration. Don’t focus on them. You just decide.

What do you think is happening? Are you worried about what others (agent/editor/audience) are thinking of the work? If any of us took all that on, none of us would ever write another word. In the beginning, middle and end of it all, it's you who has to like it. You know who you are. You know what you like.

And Santa's right: sit and write.

J Perry Stone said...

I also wanted to say, you know you wouldn't be having any of these feelings, at least not to this extent, if you hadn't suddenly become an "official" author.

Promise me when the time comes for me, you'll give me advice when I'm in the same pickle.

And lastly, never ask a Leo for advice. They puff up like a blow fish and take over all your response space.

Let us know how you're dealing this weekend

Amie Stuart said...

What Bill said. I know we've talked about it but the (what I like to call) Post Sale Freak Out is normal. Perfectly normal. I did it and I know others who've done it too. You WILL pull it together nad get the book done because you're a pro :)

Jackie Barbosa said...

Thanks to everyone for the encouragement and words of wisdom.

Honestly, at this point, I AM just writing. Slowly and painfully, but writing nonetheless. All I can do is hope that at some point, the floodgates open and the words pour out. Because 100 words a day just ain't gonna cut it ;).

Bill, I've heard this thing about self-doubt before. They did some study and it showed that people who were TRULY incompetent had very high opinions of themselves, precisely because they were SO incompetent, they didn't realize they were incompetent. That's always given me hope!

Unfortunately, I haven't quite figured out how to translate that into words on the page. But surely, eventually, the muse will out!

Thanks again!

Bill Clark said...

Bill, I've heard this thing about self-doubt before.

Hmmm...and here I thought I'd come up with it just for you, Jackie. Oh, well, I guess there are no more original thoughts to be had anymore - as people have been saying since the time of the ancient Greeks. :-)

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Manuscript Mavens