I used to think that not being inspired would kill or squelch my motivation to be an author, but I've come to learn that inspiration is only a small piece of it. What eviscerates an author's desire to move forward is Self-Doubt. It goes beyond being thick-skinned about criticism, too. Being a teacher, I know that criticism is part of what helps an author (or anyone, really) grow beyond the moment and into the stronger place. Knowing what others think is a good thing, although it does depend largely on the spirit in which that feedback is given. Even when I think I have a handle on things, that insidious creeper of an emotional pick axe strikes, that self-doubt that can push a writer off the path.
And, no matter how much desire exists within a writer's heart, he can't always embrace it long enough to get past that Self-Doubt. Armor is only as good as its lack of flaws, and even the most minuscule flaw can render one's authorial armor useless. No matter how much sunscreen you put on, if you miss that one spot, you get burned. You learn to endure the discomfort for as long as it lasts, and you hope to prepare for the next time because it will happen again. And that is when you are the most vulnerable to the pick axe. It strikes without mercy, too.
There is a way past it, though. Embracing your flaws, your imperfections. When someone points out something that he or she thinks is wrong or unsatisfying or undeveloped or whatever, you have to look close enough to decide just how much validity it has. It's not easy to do, though. What I do know is that I cannot compromise what I want while I am re-evaluating.
Recently, I've been having been playing mental tennis matches between continuing to write or stopping altogether. Just bringing everything to a halt. Walking away from it all. It was a dark, dark place to look into, and it made my heart pound, but it was necessary. I had to have a few hard conversations with myself about what I wanted. I had to revisit the reason why I want to write, and here's what I've come up with:
I don't care about being published. I mean, I do it because that's the only way to get my stories, the ones I yearn to tell, out there into the world. But, I'm not looking to be famous. Unlike some authors who devote their lives to the craft (and there's nothing wrong with that), I already have a passion that fills my life: teaching. Writing isn't a hobby, and it isn't a career. It's a part of my DNA, and I can't resist the urges to do it. My mind fills with stories and ideas and conflicts and connections and characters... and I need release. Self-doubt, like a cancer, has plagued my inner drive to write, and I need some "literary chemo" in order to get past it. I'm sure you know that once you feel doubt, that feeling escalates until it can be debilitating. I need to re-dedicate myself to my drive to write because I AM a storyteller.
Complicating this are the uproarious emotions that come with starting a new school year: new students, lesson plans, administrative duties, going to work with that face that shows everything is okay so you can focus on what's important. Putting my career before everything else means that I have to put writing away until I can focus. I hate that feeling. It's almost like suppressing a part of who I am as a person. How do you suppress your personality? Do you lose a part of yourself when you do this? Can you get it back?
So, my course of action is simple:
- I do my job to my absolute best (that's a no-brainer).
- I push and push past the self-doubt, no matter what, to devote time to my writing, since that's a part of me I need to express. It's an imperative I cannot ignore.
- I need to revisit the uncomfortable, more unpolished aspects of my writing and see if anything can or needs to be done. It won't happen right away, but it's on my To Do list.
As the picture above shows, I'm armed and ready to go up against the Beast of Self-Doubt. The faith I have in myself provides the armor, and it needs to remain strong and unyielding. May my aim be true, my blade swift, and my resolve unwavering.