What the frak am I doing?

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Do you ever just have one of those moments where all the self-doubt comes flooding in and you wonder – what am I doing?

Or better – what the frak am I doing? 😉

Am I successful? <– This is a good one too.

At times like these, when the self-doubt creeps in and you start questioning your choices – how do you get past it?  I’m specifically talking to the wanna-be writers out there – folks like me.

I’ve been writing for myself for a long time.  That essentially means that I was writing and not sharing that writing with anyone else for a couple of reasons – 1) my circle of friends and family aren’t particularly interested in what I write – family is especially bad.  There aren’t a lot of scifi /fantasy fans in my little circle – or there haven’t been.  Friends who have been interested tend to not have time to read my stuff.  I have sent many a pdf off into a seemingly endless void where it disappears forever and I never hear any feedback whatsoever.  My circle continues to grow and more and more people are not only willing to read what I create, but they outright ask me to be beta readers, which is cool, awesome, heartwarming and ego stroking all at the same time.  They also tell me when I suck, which every writer needs to hear.

2) I haven’t necessarily wanted to share everything I wrote.  I never remember what I have and haven’t told you guys here on the site, so bear with me for a second if I am repeating myself.  About ten-ish years ago, I wrote my first full length epic fantasy novel.  It was a monster.  Without editing it, rewriting any of it, doing any of the stuff you should do with anything that you write, I submitted it to literary agents.  I got a lot of rejections and one response asking for more – from Jabberwocky.

I was thrilled.

I immediately sent off more and waited for the offer I was sure would follow to come in.  It didn’t.  I got a very professionally written critique in return – something that I don’t believe happens all the time – I could be wrong.  I have talked to a lot of wanna-be authors who have told me that they receive simple rejection letters, not critiques.  I got a critique.  It essentially said that I had a really good story idea with a strong start, but that the proceeding prose needed some work.  It also gave me some examples from my excerpt that illustrated their points.

It was awesome and ego crushing all at the same time.  (don’t get me started on the idiotic thought that I could sit down, write a novel from start to finish without any editing and get it published – that just doesn’t happen – or doesn’t happen often – I suppose someone, somewhere, has done that at some point)

I don’t know how someone else would’ve reacted to that – I only know how I reacted to that.  I took it to heart and decided that I needed to be better, I needed to learn to write, develop my stories, my characters and just plain get better.  I have spent the last ten years doing just that.

When I felt like I was ready to start letting people read me again, a lot had changed.  The Author’s Platform as talked about a lot and the Internet was playing a larger role in the life and career of an author.  Social media was being born, podcasting was hot and so was blogging.  I decided to embrace all of this.

So when I go back to the self-doubt and ask myself – am I successful?  In creating my ‘author platform’, I would say yes – this site does okay, I’m contributing to sites like SFSignal.com and GraspingfortheWind.com, I have two successful podcasts (1 here and the other here) and produce what could arguably be called one of the most successful podcasts out there – I Should be Writing. All of these things lend to my author’s platform in that they get my name out there and get people interested in what I’m doing, what I may be writing.

In having my stories published, I would say no.  I continue to struggle with focus – on what to work on, on getting stories completed.  I continue to struggle with short stories – which makes me think that maybe I am just not cut the right way to write short stories.  I always run long.  I don’t know.

So I go back and forth between trying to write short stories and trying to write long fiction.  I used to do a piece of flash fiction every single Friday!  Now, I can’t seem to get my brain to think inside the constraint of 3 – 6.5k words, which is the sweet spot for short fiction.

What the frak am I doing? I am working on my novel – the complete and total rewrite of Sam Kane, now titled: Into the Fire.  Urban fantasy, kick-ass heroine, tons of emotional turmoil – I really think it has the potential to be fantastic.  I could get blocked tomorrow and find myself working on something else – I honestly don’t know.  I have pulled 1000 words out on this project so far this week (as of Tuesday at noon).

As for the self-doubt, that’s never going to go away.  I think, even if I become wildly successful as an author, there will still be this nagging little voice in the back of my head asking questions like this and calling into doubt the paths I take, the stories I tell.

What do you think?

~P

1 comment for “What the frak am I doing?

  1. February 2, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    A few years ago, I wrote a little piece on what creativity is, and (by implication) what that makes self-doubt.

    From what I’ve been seeing, the whole “getting published” thing is beginning to become irrelevant, so I have a roadmap laid out for going indie. There’s still a few holes in it (primarily the “find some beta readers” part) but it’s probably 80% or more complete. The question is timing (am I too far ahead of the curve?), and what are the metrics that define “success”? Thus, I haven’t pulled the string yet, but I’m definitely leaning in that direction.

    As far as success goes, you’ve certainly achieved success as a podcaster. As a writer? Depends on how you define success — finishing a novel? someone else likes it? got published? — two out of three ain’t bad…

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