Monday 5 August 2013

Don't let the voices hold back your writing!

Writing is tough.
Getting any semblance of good writing polished and ready to be read by others is difficult. It takes time and dedication, not to mention a good dose of talent. Oh, and a lot of hard work, of course.
Writing a novel is so hard it makes my toes curl. It consumes you. You have to plan it, then write a draft (which takes months or even years), then edit it, then edit it some more and redraft, then listen to people's comments about it and all the while you can hear the niggling voice of doubt whispering (or shouting) in your ear. "Your book is rubbish! Nobody is going to want to read it! Your characters are not likable. Your plot is thin. The story doesn't make sense."
I am still working on my first novel and I am currently in the phase where I have completed the first draft and I'm editing it to make it better. And I hear that voice of doubt everyday.
One part of me loves the book and my characters. I marvel at how I have managed to write almost a hundred thousand words (that is a tenth of a million, people!) and stay more of less sane. And those words actually tell a story, that actually makes sense!
But another part of me - the insidiously scared and pathetically weak part - thinks it is probably all a pile of crap and I should get back to doing something I do well (like singing in my band, perhaps).
I am sure every writer has these feelings of self-doubt (there are countless blogs and accounts of this phenomenon), but I don't know why we always have to question our abilities. Does it make us somehow better? Do we strive to improve because we question our skills?
Talking of singing, as I did rather incongruously a moment ago. For many years in my teens, I would sing and the default response from people would be to criticise me. "Stop singing - it's going to rain!" was one of my particular favourites. It really knocked my confidence and it took me a long time to understand that those people were not criticising my singing (I could, and still can sing well), they were just saying something negative as it is easier than saying something nice.
Think about it. We all do it.
It is easier to put someone down than it is to boost their morale. I think the voice inside our heads telling us we cannot do it, or we are not good enough, is just the same thing. It is so much easier to assume the worst than to praise our own talents.
What we need to do is use that fear to push us to improve our writing. We should never give in to the negativity. That way lies madness, unpublished books and broken dreams.
If we can learn to listen just the right amount, the voice can help us improve a weak plot point, or give a character more depth. But if the voice is holding you back, and you are paralysed, unable to submit your manuscript, it is time to tell it to shut up and just get on with it.
Things are rarely as bad as the voice would have you believe!