Monday Musings: Fish or cut bait….

Sometimes I think the hardest part about being a writer is the amount of time we – meaning “me” since I can’t speak for anyone else in this capricious industry – spend second-guessing our work.  We’re essentially an insecure group. Yeah, yeah, that’s “me” again!

Those who know me are probably laughing out loud at this admission.  I am an insecure introvert.  Really!  Having confidence in my ability to write doesn’t mean I’m not insecure about sitting in front of this empty computer screen every day trying to create a memorable story someone wants to read.  Even N.Y. Times best-selling authors have these insecurities so I know I’m in good company.

That knowledge doesn’t mean squat though when I find myself revisiting a chapter, a paragraph, even a word over and over again. I know something’s bothering me but identifying it can be so frustrating.  I’ve learned to depend on my wonderful critique partners to point things out.  They’re not as close to my story and can offer great suggestions.  Many times, one of them will say something to shoot me in a different direction that pulls me out of the bog I’ve unintentionally created.

On the flip side, second-guessing can get me into trouble.  Recently, I questioned whether I was introducing my hero and heroine quickly enough in my current project.  My critique partners suggested I throw out the first chapter so the heroine meets the hero that much sooner.  Their points were valid.  Ripping the scene out was the right decision if I wanted to introduce the heroine to the hero earlier.

At the time, it was easy to just hit “delete” – well, no, it’s easier to throw the words into a “Bits & Pieces” file just in case – and say I can filter the deleted information into later chapters. The deletion did accomplish what I wanted.  The hero and heroine met one chapter earlier.  The problem is I forgot I no longer write short contemporaries where this quick introduction is necessary, a habit that’s been difficult to break since I’ve thrown myself into the single title suspense arena.

Now, even though there is a romance in my story, my suspense demands the biggest development.  When I ripped out the first chapter, I deleted four major threads I needed to launch critical suspense elements. I couldn’t move on and still build the story I’d envisioned, which made me start second-guessing my story and my abilities…again.

So I put the chapter back in last week.  My creative side read it through and pronounced it “good.”  No question.  No qualms.  And I found myself wondering why I’d put myself through the wringer the past few weeks fiddling with this one chapter.  I know that’s second-guessing my second-guessing. Type-A personality, remember?!  🙂

I’m the first to admit there’s an editor with twelve-inch talons embedded in my shoulder.  Yeah, she can be a tartar. Nope, can’t shake the demanding creature off.  Guess I spent too much of my adult life in business and management so logic and organization are ingrained in my mindset, despite my creative side.  I do plot my essential story elements so I know where I’m going. And I depend on my wonderful critique partners to help me step away from the story long enough to spot what is and is not working.  We’ve worked together well for years and I value their suggestions.

This experience has reminded me, though, that I can question my work until the cows come home.  Do I go back for the millionth time to see if I can’t actually fix whatever’s bothering me?  Do I leave it the way I wrote it, or do I cull it and move on? Fish or cut bait?

Personally, I’d rather throw my line into the water and fish…I mean write! I’ve accumulated some excellent writing skills — there’s that confidence! — and I have a number of stories I want to share.  I just need to get out of my own way, make a decision, and move on.  I have to trust my instincts.

Now, if I could only stop second-guessing whether this last blog line finishes my thought, so I can finally get it uploaded!  What do you think?


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14 Responses to Monday Musings: Fish or cut bait….

  1. beth trissel says:

    Excellent post, Karen. So, you do this too.

  2. Great post, Karen! I know that feeling everyday. It’s hard to be a writer. But I always try to save everything. You just never know!

  3. Cindy Woolf says:

    Great blog, Karen. I can really relate especially lately. I question everything I do and have wondered if I’m cut out for this profession. Lucklily for me, I decided I am.

  4. Karen Docter says:

    Yep, Beth, me too. 🙂 Thanks for the vote of confidence! It does help to know I’m not the Lone Ranger.

  5. Karen Docter says:

    Thanks, Hillary. I think writing is such a personal thing we can’t help but feel a bit insecure about putting our thoughts out there for strangers. I do keep everything I’ve ever wrote, whether I use it or not.

    You never know when you might need something so good for you!

  6. Karen Docter says:

    Hi, Cindy. I’m so glad you have decided you are cut out for this business because readers would miss out on some great stories!

    It’s tough second-guessing yourself. Adding someone elses expectations can make it worse. We can get so hard on ourselves even when we know we can’t please everyone. It’s one of the reasons why I love my critique buddies. They all keep me grounded. 🙂 🙂

  7. I’m glad I’m not the only one. I second guess myself a lot lately, but I know, deep down, that If I stick out this rough patch it will be worth it. Great post!

  8. Karen Docter says:

    Thanks, Lynda. I think this is something we all go through sooner or later. Stick with it! It’s worth it! 🙂

  9. I had to laugh when I read your post since I’m in the middle of a huge wave of self doubt myself. Quite frankly I don’t think there are many writers who don’t wonder if they’re doing the right thing at one time or another. It makes us human 🙂

    And it’s good to know I’m not alone!

  10. Great post Karen….it’s nice to know I’m not alone…as I was reading your blog I thought I’d written it. You hit every feeling, doubt and insecurity I have head on! lol (and your last line was perfect….now quit doubting your abilities and write)

  11. Good post. I agree, I second- guess all the time and often feel guilty of the time spent writing when there are so many other things that need done.

  12. Karen Docter says:

    Hi, Shelley. I agree. And, no, you’re not alone. I hope your doubt eases back and you can move on with your career.

    Sometimes I just change directions to get back on track. For instance, with the scenes I’ve been questioning, I finally went on to something else. I don’t know if it was getting away from the problem that resolved the problem or I worked through it in other scenes so it just “appeared” when I went back. Funny how our minds work sometimes!

    Good luck!

  13. Karen Docter says:

    Hi, Christine. It’s wonderful that we met on Twitter and connected. Get a feeling we have a lot in common. 🙂 I know our writing together is galvanizing both of us, so thanks.

    Yes, ma’am, getting back to writing. Tomorrow. Will connect with you on Twitter. Later!

  14. Karen Docter says:

    Hi, Maureen. I run into doubt about my writing often, but feeling guilty because I’m writing instead of cleaning the house or doing this job or that or even spending more time with my family is my biggest self-doubt issue, too.

    But, I remind myself this is my career. We don’t feel guilty if we walk out the door to a job. Why should we feel guilty about writing? Especially if we mean to make it a career. I have gone so far as to clock in and out in a file, just like a job time clock. Serves two purposes for me. It reminds me I’m “working” but it also serves as proof to the IRS that my writing is not a hobby but a real job.

    You might try that to see if that helps you feel less guilt over writing time.

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