If in doubt


Joe’s Post #19 — Ok, so there I was, staring at the screen, my Joe-face all scrunched up, looking at the words I’d written, the scene I’d redone. Then it hit me. Doubt. I’d changed the whole scene around, but what if it wasn’t the way to go? What if the first scene was better? What if my new coffee maker wasn’t really the best one to buy?

So how does one, such as myself, overcome doubts in a story?

The Top 10 Ways to Cure (or at least get over) Doubt:

1) Phone a friend. Another perspective always helps. “So, you know, should my character have sex with a dead dog? No? Ok, thanks!”

2) Take a break. Go for a walk. Clear your head. Sometimes you just need to get away from what you’re working on. You come back, a few hours later, a Timmies in your hand, and the answer may be clear.

3) Trust yourself. Sometimes doubt is just over-thinking. Should I have the medium pizza or the large? Should I have my scene start with dialogue or description? Either choice won’t change the world.

horoscope4) Read your horoscope. (This was my horoscope for yesterday.) If it says something like, “concepts you hear about today may seem confusing and bothersome, Aquarius. You might go off alone to try to make sense of them, but this isn’t the day to do  that,”  then you may just want to fug it all and go see a movie.  But come back next day!

5) Think of similar stories. How did those writer’s handle similar situations? Odds are, they didn’t let their hero have sex with dead dogs (although, to be fair, I haven’t read all of Chuck Palahniuk’s books)

6) Consult a psychic. Ok, funny story here. I went online to see about the whole psychic thing and there was a woman sitting in front of her computer crying. Above her “Free Chat With a Psychic.” W-T-F? It was the saddest thing I’ve seen in a long while.

drunk7) Have something to drink. No, I’m not saying go all Hemingway for a day, but sometimes a glass of wine, a bottle of beer, a shot of jack (or a quick smoke of something) might actually help calm the mind (or make you care less about the perfect solution.) Hot tea can even work for some. I have no idea why.

8) Ignore the problem. Hey, you aren’t Hemingway, drunk or not, so it’s ok to realize you can’t write the perfect novel. Leave what you last wrote and move on. Ben Franklin – “When in doubt, don’t.” I love this guy

9) Realize that doubts are fears. (Oh, I have to remember this for my characters!) They come from somewhere. Is it a good scene or am I afraid people will judge me for, you know, the whole dog thing.  Again, no wrong choices here but understand where your choice and fear and doubts are coming from.

10) Write the doubts (and fears) down on a piece of paper or type it out or scrawl it on the walls in blood (fake blood, right?) Afterall, if we’re writers and having doubts about our writing, doesn’t it kinda make sense we’d solve the problem by writing it out?

Today, for example, I think I used all 10.

Anyone else have any other ideas?

Pages Rewritten: 220

Turkey Dinners in 2013: 0

Doubts Quelled (this week): 2,396

14 thoughts on “If in doubt

  1. If in doubt, go to Maui. Okay, I know this won’t work for everyone. Also, the jury is still out on whether it works for anyone.

    • Dammit, I should have put “get out of the country.” Worked like a charm for me on the last novel. And Maui? How could that not be the most perfect place to write or at least think about writing?

  2. The trouble with “If in doubt, don’t” is how you phrase the question. “Should I write a scene of necrocanophilia?” or “Should I avoid a scene of necrocanophilia?” But it’s a good list. I’d add go wander around the garden for a while, but you’ve got to be a gardener to do that.
    Love the “write drunk, edit sober”. Sort of like “write e-mails drunk, but don’t hit send until your sober….”

  3. Great list if you have time. 😉 If you’re writing against a deadline and you’re way behind, you have to walk fast, talk quickly to the friend (or psychic), or speed-write your #10 list. Doing any of these things too quickly thwarts the internal processes, the real advantage of most of these “antidotes.”

    • Thanks for another insightful comment. You’re bang on about working to a deadline. If you’re desperately short of time, then the only real way is to push the doubt aside and get it done.

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