Thursday, 5 September 2013

Doubt - Savita Kalhan


The definition of doubt, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is a feeling of uncertainty or lack of conviction. It also defines my frame of mind at the moment, and the problem with that is that while a certain amount of it is very good when writing, too much of it is very, very bad. It’s inhibiting, and for a while it has been paralysing. It has affected my confidence in my ability to write, and my self-belief was shot. Words were written and then scrubbed. More words were written, and then rewritten to be scrubbed again and then not written at all. I got to the point where I seriously didn’t think I could write anymore.

Somehow, despite the doubts of the past year, an ending to my WIP was reached and written. That’s when the doubt sneakily crept back in and I decide to write an alternative ending. Which ending was the right ending? I didn’t know and couldn’t decide.

Was the ending the problem or was it the book itself?

Now I’m back at the beginning of the current WIP because having read it through, I wasn’t happy. It wasn’t working, the voice was lost. I tried rewriting the book, making it sharper, more immediate, but still it wasn’t working.

Was it time to shelve it and walk away? Well, I did for a while.

With the end of the summer looming, I managed to push all the doubts aside, and by now there were very many of them, and started again. It hit me straight away. I was writing the book in the ‘wrong’ person. I rewrote the first few chapters quickly, setting the ‘I’ aside for the third person, and I think it’s working. It’s got to be done quickly, before I change my mind, before I let the doubts creep back in.

I’ve been wrestling with the question of why I’ve been experiencing so many doubts this year for a while now. Writing is a solitary occupation; there are lots of rewards, few of them financial, and lots of knocks, which I’ve weathered as best I can. But recently I’ve been wondering whether it’s the right occupation for me. The problem is that there isn’t anything else that I’d rather do. So I’m writing again. And hoping and working towards being published again. I’m persevering, another word which, like doubt, I’d rather scrub from the dictionary.

I was going to write a nice little post on Dr. Seuss, which would have been far more uplifting, interesting and fun. So when I find the right frame of mind, that’s what I’ll write - next time.
 
Twitter @savitakalhan
 

18 comments:

catdownunder said...

I sympathise madly. Someone suggested I should change something from third to first. I couldn't do it but I hope the opposite works for you!

Penny Dolan said...

Wishing you better times, Savita. Sometimes a mixture of small things attack the confidence, each almost easily brushed away, but theys it there present in your mind all the same. Besides, the demands of home & family don't stay constant either, so when things like that meet a complex Work In Progress, there's all sorts of unsettling, conflicting feelings. Wasn't there a post about Not Giving Up the Day Job here on this blog about a week ago? It made a lot of sense.

Anne Cassidy said...

You could change your perspective. What job worth doing doesn't need constant reevaluation. Can you imagine a doctor or scientist who didn't constantly go over their methods, the way they do things? This book may or may not work but what you're doing is right. Try it like this. Give it that one more go. Then if you're still unhappy start something else and shelve it for a year. Then you can look at it with fresh eyes.

Stroppy Author said...

What Anne C said! And I'll be in London one day next week (think it's next week), all being well, so shall we meet for a gossipy, writerly coffee? I can push positive vibes at you :-)

Lynda Waterhouse said...

Thanks for this post. Your experience of rewriting to find the right voice chimes with me. Take Anne's advice!
As Shakespeare said, 'Modest doubt is called the beacon of the wise.'

David Thorpe said...

The Bard was right; doubt is the unfortunate friend of writers and philosophers. Perseverance is 75% of success. Good luck.

Joan Lennon said...

I went looking for David's quote and found this: "The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt." Bertrand Russell. YAY!

It's horrible, this doubting, isn't it, but it will pass. Impossible to believe when in the midst, but true nevertheless. Here's to that!

Richard said...

The comment I made a week ago is apposite here too:

http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=7780182174577095197&postID=1589578625247270941

Heather Dyer said...

Feeling for you here... I too got to the point where I considered that life might be better if I just stopped trying. But I never quite managed to stop! I suppose there's your answer?

Savita Kalhan said...

Thank you all! I'm still working away at the WIP with the third person finally working. I may change my mind again on that when it's finished... Sticking the doubts where the sun don't shine for the moment, and hoping not too many of them escape.
Stroppy - Yes please! Only problem is that on Wednesday I get injected in the gammy leg for the second time, which means bed rest for four days, so I hope you're in town on Monday or Tuesday!
Anne - you're right about the constant reevaluation, but when it seems to be leading to the same conclusion, then it becomes a problem. However, I'm not allowing it to completely bog me down, just yet!

Savita Kalhan said...

Joan - I'm going to write that Bertrand Russell quote in block capitals and stick it up in my study! Thank you.

Jane McLoughlin said...

Really glad you've stuck to this, Savita! Self-doubt is always the default setting for the gifted, but when it starts to get crippling, it can be a real destroyer of talent. But you have persevered, and your strength of character is shining through. And what Anne C said is right, of course. Finish the draft, give it another go, and be proud of yourself for an impressive achievement--not giving in to doubt, just as you haven't given in to the unfair hand you've been dealt recently. Fight on! xx

Savita Kalhan said...

Jane - Thank you. I'm still fighting...just!

Anonymous said...

Good Luck with your writing xx

Tam said...

Sympathies, Savita. I'm pretty sure every good writer has doubts (except Patrick Ness), usually on a smaller scale than yours but you're not alone. Anne's advice is great - good luck with third person swapover and don't be afraid to start something new.

Stroppy Author said...

Damn! I'm in London on Thursday :-( Next time - and good luck with the leg xx

Savita Kalhan said...

Stroppy - thanks, and definitely yes to next time you're in town!

Savita Kalhan said...

Anonymous - please don't be anonymous so I can thank you for your kind wishes.