Earlier today, while I was eating lunch, I somehow found myself in the middle of a study group. Not my study group, but just some random study group. I don't even know what they were studying, just that somehow, for some reason, the topic got turned around to writing and before too long, they were all looking at me like I was Yoda and they wanted me to show them the ways of the Force.
I'm not exactly sure why this happens. Not that it happens a lot, but every now and then, it's like I accidentally walked out the door with a neon sign across my boobs that reads I WRITE BOOKS! ASK ME HOW! And even though I feel like I know a lot about writing, I don't always feel qualified to give advice on the subject. I mean, why should anyone take advice from me? I can't even write a five-page essay without freaking out.
But there we were, talking about writing, when a shaggy-haired dude looked at me and said, "I have an idea for a story, but I don't know how to put it onto paper."
"You sit down and write it," I said.
"But I don't know how."
"Yes, you do," I said. "You sit down and write it."
"But I don't know how."
"Yes, you do."
He looked at me like I was confused, and shook his head. "Naw, man. It's like, I get writer's block, or whatever."
"No," I told him. "You give up on yourself and call it quits. That's not writer's block. That's doubt."
Dude went quiet for a moment. Then he said, "So how do you get rid of doubt?"
"You tell it to f--- off," I told him. "And then you sit down and write."
Doubt is universal.
I have it. You have it. Bestselling, world-famous, published-in-sixteen-countries-in-thiry-languages authors have it. We've all had it at some point. Doubt is that sudden, sobering realization that everything we've been hoping for, everything we've been working toward, it's never going to happen.
"Things like that don't happen to us," we tell ourselves, and for a moment (sometimes even a long moment), whether we want to or not, we believe it.
Different people believe different things, but for me, I like to think of doubt as an Internet troll: some unemployed bald guy sitting bored in his parents' basement, looking for a fan site where he can stir up some trouble, at least for a few hours, until something good comes on TV.
There's only one way to deal with an Internet troll: ignore it and eventually it will go away.
Yeah, you might be thinking, that's easy for you to say.
But the truth of the matter is, I'm no better at this than anyone else is. I feel doubt every day. I may not always succumb to it, but I feel it. It's always there, trying to find a way around my mental firewall so it can stir up some bullshit flame war between my proverbial Team Jacob and Team Edward.
For those of you who know me well--and by "well" I mean sobbing on the phone late at night because I completely suck at writing and have nothing else to live for--know that what goes on here, on this blog, and what goes on behind the scenes, when I'm hyperventilating because my one-sentence pitch is too wordy, are two very different fronts. Sometimes it is very, very difficult to find something positive to say on my blog. It would be much easier to post about the other stuff, like rejections and unfavorable critiques and the people who've said nasty things about my writing for no reason other than they don't like me as a person.
But if you engage the crazy, you become the crazy, a lesson I've learned all too well in recent years.
So if you feel Doubt nagging at your noggin, do yourself a favor: ignore him and do it anyway, and eventually he'll go bother someone else.