Write of Way #11 – The Cycle of Doubt
It’s a well-known fact of writing that—wait.
Is it well-known? Hmm, let’s start again.
Every writer, at some point in their career—no.
That’s no good either. Only a Sith deals in absolutes.
Maybe I shouldn’t be writing this. Why am I even wasting my time? I could start over and approach it from a different angle. Yeah, that would be better! That’s what I need!
Ignoring my bad acting, does any of that sound familiar? Throughout my writing career I’ve, despite my very great reluctance, become rather familiar with an entity I’ve named Mr. Cycle of Doubt.
Maybe you’ve met him, as well? If so, then you know he’s kind of a dick and really not someone you want around.
I mean, there you are, minding your own business, working away on your story, and then this bugger comes creeping into your thoughts.
He’s easy to miss, at first. A soft-spoken fellow and he doesn’t cause much harm, just offers a bit of healthy cynicism.
As writers, we’re all familiar with a little healthy cynicism. You know, just a pinch of doubt here and there to keep our delusions of grandeur in check. I’d say cynicism is the natural balance to ego, but this Cycle of Doubt fellow, he’s the natural balance to a lot of things, primarily, actually finishing your story.
So he’s quiet when he first shows up, but that never lasts long. Before you know it, the healthy cynicism he brings has swollen into a great big festering sore of doubt. You ignore it as best you can, but soon you start to lose faith in your writing, you start to lose faith in your story, and worst of all, you start to lose faith in yourself.
But Mr. Cycle of Doubt ain’t done yet. Not by a long shot. Once he’s stopped you from working on your work in progress the real doubt begins.
Maybe this story isn’t this great, after all?
Maybe you should start on a new one?
Yeah, there’s an idea. Let’s start over. Nice and fresh. A clean start will work wonders!
And soon, you start to agree with these ideas. They make sense, after all, right?
Wrong. Oh, so wrong.
These thoughts may seem tempting after first, but they’re just another obstacle to overcome on your writing journey. At about fifteen and sixty percent into every new piece of writing, Mr. Cycle of Doubt slinks into my mind and starts pandering his counterproductive drivel.
I imagine it’s rather difficult to file a restraining order against an anthropomorphized fictional entity I’ve created just now to highlight the doubt all writers experience, thus, we’re forced to deal with this rude fellow in a different way.
It’s a bit of an unorthodox method and maybe you have your own that works for you, but I deal with Mr. Cycle of Doubt by indulging him.
That’s right. I listen to the doubt. I do what it suggests and stop working on the story at hand.
But these actions aren’t genuine. I’m pretending, in a way. Or, maybe I should say, I’m venting an overflow of creativity.
You see, I’m convinced Mr. Cycle of Doubt is a product of our creative minds. As writers, we’re always looking for new stories to tell. When we fixate on one for too long, we begin to grow bored with it. We want to move on.
It’s a natural reaction. But that doesn’t mean it’s right.
The only way you’re ever going to finish anything, is to, well, finish it (groundbreaking stuff, I know).
When Mr. Cycle of Doubt comes along, peddling his counterproductive nonsense, I’ve rarely succeeded in continuing what I was working on. The more I ignore the doubt, the worse it gets until it’s entirely paralyzing.
So instead, I acknowledge it.
The doubt wants me to work on a new project? Great! I’ll start brainstorming right away! I’ll take detailed notes, and create outlines, and craft unique characters. I’ll go all in on this new project.
Then, when the creative surge has passed, I’ll wrap up this new project nice and neat, and drop it in the “Ideas for later” folder and return to my actual work in progress.
Mr. Cycle of Doubt is not a friend of mine. He’s an annoying member of the family I really don’t care to see but have to say hi to at every family reunion. He’s unavoidable.
All you can do when he rears his ugly head is indulge him, as long as you’re secure in the knowledge you’re only doing it to get through the temporary period of doubt.
I’ve always found when you ignore the doubt, it only grows. But if you indulge it, it passes. Generally, it only takes me out-of-commission for one writing session.
So, when Mr. Cycle of Doubt comes knocking on your door (and he will), let him in. Offer him a coffee. Indulge the creative surge he brings with him until it passes, then send him on his way and get back to your work in progress.
After all, you’ve got a story to write, and the only way to finish it, is to finish it.
As always, I love to hear your thoughts. Have you met Mr. Cycle of Doubt? How do you deal with him? Are you, or do you know, a lawyer specializing in restraining orders for fictional entities?