Ever have doubts about your capabilities? I think we all have. (Except for maybe a few oblivious people out there.) But doubt and fear are normal reactions when it comes to how we feel about our own artistic expression, including writing.
The older I get, the more I see how things are connected. We draw upon previous experiences to prepare us for new ones. In this case, since I’m fairly new to writing, I often find myself comparing writing to making music. I’ve been singing since I was eight, playing piano since the age of nine, and playing in band since junior high. So I have a lot of experiences to draw from. (I won’t tell you how many years. Let’s just say it’s many decades!)
Now I’m not an excellent musician. I’m good at sight-reading choral music and the technical aspects of music. (That was the only way I made it to Area in the state competition in choir in high school. I beat out singers with better voices because of smarts instead of talent.) I’ve sung solos and played instrumental solos. I’m okay, not great. I know my limitations.
But there are some people, the happy oblivious ones previously mentioned, who have absolutely no idea that they are bad. God bless them, they often are the most dedicated and enthusiastic participants, but they have no idea they stink. (I know that’s rude, but it’s true and we all know it.) So here’s the doubt mentioned in the title–Sometimes I think, “Am I one of those people?” I honestly have to ask myself that question from time to time. I don’t think I am, but I think it’s a healthy question to keep myself in check.
So since writing is a lot like music, there are those who stink and those who are good. (Don’t get yourself in a kerfluffle. We all know there are writers who stink.) So as I’m going down this path of choosing writing as a career, I’m wondering how am I doing? I know there is a lot of room for improvement, but am I one of the oblivious? Do I stink and no one is willing to tell me? I think my true friends are honest with me. I hope so, because I can’t improve if I don’t know!
On the other side of this coin, there are people who, no matter how much they practice, no matter how good they are, they’re still afraid of not measuring up. Boy, do I fall into this category. I get tremendous stage fright. It’s not uncommon for me to get sick to my stomach, sweat, or get heart palpitations. I used to cry and I’ve even blacked out before. Thank goodness I’ve at least got that under control! I’ve had people ask me, “If all of these things happen to you? Then why do you subject yourself to such torture?” The answer is, I’m compelled to. I have to. If you’ve ever been a part of something wonderful, that’s bigger than the sum of the participants, you’ll know what I mean. It’s a bit addictive but I think of it as a spiritual. It’s like you’re making magic, honestly. And who doesn’t want to make magic?
And speaking of performing with others, have you ever performed with outstanding musicians? They make the experience a joy. And of course they you make better because you usually perform better to match them. Well we, at Austin Mystery Writers, have put together an anthology and invited some of our friends to contribute. I think they raised the
bar for us and we delivered. Sometimes I have my doubts about the quality of my story, but I also have faith it’s pretty good and I’m getting better. So I have faith amid my doubts and I’m moving forward, enjoying the experience, and making magic. And as always, practice, practice, practice, practice.