My writing life has been hounding me for years. It’s like a terrier that yaps at my feet until I pay attention to it or take it for a walk or give it a treat. I want to ignore it but it won’t let me.
When I’m writing regularly, as I am now, I should be on top of the world. I should be proud of myself for sitting down every day and putting words on paper. But instead I am plagued by self doubt. When doubt creeps in the little terrier that begs me to write something down, that whines until I have, runs away with his tail between his legs then hides under the bed until it’s safe to come out again.
I have written reams on what a shitty, shitty writer I am and why I should close up my laptop for good and toss it. I have tried over and over to convince myself that my writing is a hobby, one I could easily trade for knitting or ceramics. I have tried to let it go because it is painful to hear me talk to myself like I do. It is painful to want something so badly but feel that you may never achieve it. It’s beyond frightening to think that what I tell myself might actually be true and that I might suck more epically than any writer that has ever put pen to paper. And then....just as I’m about to hit the ‘delete’ key the terrier will poke his head out from the dust ruffle. He’ll creep closer and maybe lick my ankle or nudge my leg. He’ll look up at me with those puppy dog eyes as if to say ‘so what?’ Then he’ll start to whine a little and just to keep him quiet I’ll write a poem or two. When he’s satisfied he’ll creep back to his bed and go to sleep. The only way to keep him quiet is to write. Because as hurtful as all this self doubt is, it is far more distressing to think that I quit, that I gave up on something that meant so much to me. It’s impossible not to write. And if I’m not the greatest writer, so what?
When doubt gets really bad, when it threatens to erase an entire manuscript or clear the contents of my computer I look to my bookshelves for inspiration and pull out the worst novels I can find. Every author should stock a few. I pick them up in the 99 cent bin once in a while and in times of great duress I open them and curl up on the couch with my terrier and read a line or two and think the thought that keeps all would be novelists coming back to the desk, “if they can do it....”