I'm better. I was in a funk all day Saturday, though. My thoughts are so wrapped up in the story right now. When it's not going well, I feel horrible.
Yesterday I picked up a book I've had for years. It's called Fearless Creating. Here's a link.
I bought this book maybe ten years ago. It caught my eye when I was browsing my way through the SFMOMA museum shop. Back then I wanted to write, but I just couldn't bring myself to sit down and do it. And the first third of this book is all about the very early stages of the creative process—going from the wishing stage to the doing stage. Ten years ago, I read that first part but I still couldn’t get past the wishing stage, and the book's been gathering dust on the shelf ever since.
Reading it again now has been SO helpful and empowering. First of all, it reminded me how much I've already accomplished. I've been working on this project for 2.5 years; I've written over 300 pages. I'm way, way, way past the wishing stage. I'm doing it. I've found a way to motivate myself to keep at it even though it can be really hard (see Saturday's post!) and I certainly don't have to write a novel. No one's forcing me. Ten years ago I couldn't do what I'm doing now. I didn't know how to motivate myself. I didn't have the strength to keep trying.
I do now.
And the middle of the book, the part I couldn’t get to before because it deals with actually creating something instead of just wishing to create, describes so many of the thoughts and fears I now experience regularly. Apparently all of these issues with confidence and self-doubt are typical for artists. I'm not a freak. I'm an artist hip-deep in the creative process and when you are creating something, it's normal to struggle and agonize about the quality of your work. I couldn't believe all of the margin quotes from really famous artists and writers relaying their difficulties with confidence. I keep thinking I should get to a point where it gets easy and I feel good about what I’m doing all the time. That’s not going to happen. When you are really trying and stretching yourself and risking failure, you’re going to have doubts. The trick is to keep going without letting them paralyze you.
I’ve managed to do that, but I’m still going to try some of the exercises from the book that help artists overcome their fears when those crippling doubts strike. It’d be nice to simply deal with the fears as they come and then get on with the writing instead of feeling like a complete failure and moping for hours.
Anyway, I ended up having a great writing session yesterday. Scott took the kids out on errands and I wrote for over three hours. I felt scared and unsure and had a hard time getting started at first, but eventually the story grabbed me and pulled me in and I forgot about trying to write well. I just wrote.
I’ll never get to the point where I’m “fearlessly creating”, but that doesn’t mean I’m a failure and shouldn’t try to create something. On the contrary, it’s a normal part of the process, something that artists of all levels constantly experience and struggle to overcome.
I’m not a freak.
I’m normal...for an artist, anyway.