Friday, April 6, 2012

writing and self-doubt

turns up something like 50 million hits if you google it. Clearly, writing is an endeavour all set about with self-doubt, like the Limpopo River with fever-trees (Just-So Stories reference).  Then there are the hopeful writers, often self-published, who have no self-doubt at all, but let's not get into that just now. The point is that one doesn't have to look far on any writers forum or blog or board to find quite good writers meebling and wittering about how they've just written the worst sentence ever in the history of sentences, all their characters are made of delaminated cardboard, the middle of their novel sags like a brothel mattress and their similes are even worse than that one.

Oddly, considering my crap self-esteem (my self-respect is okay, though) and my general lack of confidence in my ability to do anything, I'm pretty confident in my ability to write a good coherent sentence / paragraph / scene. I believe I can write dialogue in which the speakers can be told apart, and characters of at least bas-relief dimensions. I fall short in big-picture structure, but I'm getting better at that. Also, my commas are pretty good.
I am not, for all that, under the delusion that my work will sell easily or automatically be popular. Being a reader first, I'm aware that different readers have different tastes in style as well as in genre.

Since I'm not given to wibbling and wittering and meebling in the way of omg this writing thing how have I gotten myself into it I can't possibly do it I will have to change my name and move to another province... it was disconcerting to find myself doing that very thing last week.
And why? Because the modern storyline has archaeology in it, and museum practice, and possibly rival institutes getting snooty at each other. As I set myself to writing those sequences, I became paralysingly aware that I have never worked at a museum, and I have never excavated or conserved a bog-body, nor engaged in museological infighting. I was second-guessing every detail and every line of dialogue.
Gosh what fun.
When I'd had enough fun, I sought consolation and bracing good sense from Mark and from the Furtive Scribblers. Which netted me contact information for two experienced field archaeologists and one employee of the British Museum. And reminded me that I have been behind the scenes at the Museum of London and its Angel Wharf archives, briefly at the Victoria & Albert, and have penetrated deep into the inwards of the British Museum, with the accents growing posher each time we passed through another locked door. And that I work at a university, where the academic infighting can't be that massively different.
So the meebling has been reduced considerably, and I have somewhere(s) to go for those questions not easily answered by book and online research. But this has been a salutary lesson in how self-doubt lurks skulkingly about and can pop in at any moment.

Now I'll find out how many pages on the conservation of Lindow Man I can read on Google books.


Terri-Lynne said...

I was just reading Sherwood Smith's blog, wherein she says, re, a book signing: I hoped that all two of you who might show up would buy something at the new Mysterious Galaxy, our new local indie. (No one who shows up has to buy my doorstop of a book--they have not only sf, but romance and mystery on hand.)

Sherwood-freaking-Smith. We all feel it, no matter who we are, no matter what field. You're amazing, and you're not alone. :)

Terri-Lynne said...

Um...I left a comment on here a couple of days ago...where did it go???

Terri-Lynne said...

Ok, I'm seeing the one I just left. Let's see if IT survives!

batgirl said...

No one is immune! I suppose if I have to spend time at one side of the Dunning-Kruger Effect, that would be the side to choose.

I have no idea why your comments went into the spambox, but that's where I found them! Fortunately, my gmail is set up to let me know about comments. I guess I should be checking gmail more often, hmm.