It’s nearing 1 am as I write this. In my headphones Garth Brooks is singing about a midnight train. I’ve attempted to rewrite a short story that I first wrote back in April, but the doubt has yet again blocked those attempts. At least my nails have gone unchewed, right?
When that doubt about my writing kicks in is when I want to bite my nails the most. It’s that calming constant, my way of thinking. Ponder a line, chew a nail. Question my self-worth, chew a nail. But, I don’t have that now. Not that the nail biting helped my writing for better or worse, but at least it kept my mind off of how badly I suck at this.
I stayed up until 2 the other night just talking story ideas with my pal Greg. He really dug them. There was the one about the time travelers and the other one about the world of vampires. Then there’s the one I was trying to rewrite before I gave up to write this; the one about a mother and father killed and their baby stolen. His mind raced with ideas of how to make those stories, especially the vampire one, into short films. I wondered how the hell I could block out that little nagging voice that tells me how much each line sucks and how I just need to quit.
I had this one English teacher back in high school that I didn’t like much. She was the only teacher to make me diagram sentences, but that isn’t what I resent about her. She also instilled in me the idea that repetitive uses of words like I, he, she, they, the, and so on made for bad writing. It somehow made you non-creative and lazy. She also frowned on the constant use of “he said” or “she said” when attributing a quotation. Looking back after studying the work of successful authors, I realize that she was totally wrong. But, shaking that conditioning is still a work in progress, and feeds my doubt until it’s fat and full.
Let’s say I sit down and fight that doubt and crank out a story, it’s hard to tell how I’ll feel about it. If it sucks, it’s an affirmation of what my scumbag brain already decided. If it’s good? I must be a fluke. I’m just faking my way through it, and I need to stop. You can’t get anywhere by faking it. As one of my co-workers from my time as a historical interpreter at Prickett’s Fort put it, “Don’t make up anything, because one day someone will come along and they’ll call you on it.”
“It’s only a matter of time,” my brain said, wringing it’s hands that it had just manifested out of nothing.
So, how’s this an update about my nail biting? It’s not, really. It’s more about adding another item to my habit breaking list, I guess. So far I have nail biting and booze drinking on the list of things I need to stop. I’m going to add self-doubt to the tab as well. I stopped drinking somewhat cold turkey. It was more will than anything else. Adding up the sober days has almost become a game. I’ve discussed how I’m battling with my nail biting before (obviously). But how do I break the habit of crippling self doubt? Now that’s the question.
Sounds like the subject of another blog post to me.