Tuesday, June 19, 2012 | By: Lynn

Lean Toward the Light

Do you lean toward the light? Are you a hero?

I recently watched a writer being interviewed on Public Television. The writer’s hair was gray (so he has a little experience on him) and he has won a prestigious award for at least one of his novels. The interviewer asked him to respond to something he'd been quoted saying about his writing process. I thought his response was beautiful and worth filing in my brain and heart under “things to remember.”

The writer said that every time he works on a story, every time he sits down at his typewriter (yes, he said typewriter), he feels unable to write a story. "I have a voice in my head from childhood, ‘Who do you think you are?' But I keep at the story,” he said. “I see that I am bridging the gap between despair and the light. If I denied the faith in that, that would be wrong."

Nagging Insecurities
I think the writer’s thought is very interesting. I've read about and heard other writers talk about the fact that they face anxiety and doubt when they write. Daniel Todd Noyes posted his thoughts about writer insecurities on his blog.

“Is it really my place to say that all writers feel insecure about their work at times? Probably not. I'm sure that out there in the vast expanse of our planetary dwellings, there live souls who merely need lay fingers to keyboard to create literary works that leave them feeling nothing but joy and pride at what they've accomplished. It's just, I'm not one of them.”

Oh, To Banish Self-Doubt
Self-doubt seems to be not uncommon. For the longest time I didn't know that. I knew I had that experience going on inside me but I thought it was a sign that I shouldn’t be writing. I would listen to my inner critic and it would at times convince me to procrastinate or give up, at least for the moment. To know that other writers, even very successful writers, face this struggle helps me a little. The pain of it is still there nearly every time I begin writing, on a new project or for the day. It subsides as I get into my writing and that’s always a relief. “Yes! See, I can do it.” But it presents again; that inner critic telling me I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m not qualified, the story isn’t right, etc., is there for me at my next attempt. If I didn’t love writing so much, I would probably have listened to the inner critic and outer negative influences (real and imagined) and given up long ago or perhaps work at some kind of writing other than the romances I write.

What’s interesting to me is that this author I saw on TV seems to see the process—of facing the doubts and fears yet plugging along—as an exercise in "leaning toward the light" (his words). And I wonder if that process of bridging the gap between despair and the light is as important or more important for writers than the writing. The writing may be important for a number of reasons, but the process of feeling the pain, having the awareness of the struggle, and yet choosing to put faith in something—in yourself and your vision—in hopes that things will work out best if the effort is made is valuable in itself. It’s hard to acknowledge that we don’t always have confidence or know all the answers, and still choose for what the light means to us. That’s nothing less than heroic.

Answer the Big Why
In his May 2010 University of Illinois commencement speech Tim Shriver, chairman and chief executive officer of Special Olympics International, challenged graduates to address the “The Big Why. Why are you here? Why are you doing what you are doing?” Shriver suggested that a lot of people ignore answering “The Big Why,” to the detriment of society. Maybe for writers, the answer lies in leaning toward the light, despite obstacles and challenges and naysayers who say we can’t or shouldn’t do what we love, that our books aren’t good enough, that we should write in a prescribed way rather than write what’s in our heart. Maybe in our own small leanings as we express ourselves we bridge the gap between despair and light for everyone.

What better reason do you need to write?

Parts of this post are excerpted from Romancing the Prairie, the newsletter of the Prairie Hearts chapter of RWA.


Anonymous said...

Wow. Where do I even start with a response to that?

So often, I feel my writing is frivolous and unimportant, unlike the "real" business of life, like going to work, cleaning the house, mowing the yard, etc. And when I do "find time" to write, many times I procrastinate and do something else. Because what I do write just seems so stupid, so worthless, just a pile of dumb words scattered on a page.

As a child i was never encouraged to pursue my dreams. Instead I was given a hundred reasons why I was bad for even dreaming. Even today it's hard for me to summon up the self confidence to do things, to realize I might not be the ugly, talentless, worthless being I think I am. It's good to know I'm not alone in having doubts, in being afraid, in wondering if I'm worthy enough to follow my muse.

Lynn said...

what a lovely comment. thank you. :)

R.T. Wolfe said...

I didn't lack confidence when I wrote my very first manuscript. Or when my friends read it. Or when strangers read it. They read, I wrote my second book. They read, I began my third book. It wasn't until I was offered my first contract. Whoa. Book three has put on the brakes with my insecurities. I need the release date of book one to get here so I can get my head back! Thanks for the post!
-R.T. Wolfe
Author of the Romantic Suspense, Black Creek