Describing the Doubt and Fear

Describing the Doubt and Fear
Image provided by Peter Nederlof

After reading Phoebe Quinn’s post at A Writing Path, I began to question how much effort I’m really putting into my writing. Her article wasn’t about effort, but somehow it triggered those types of thoughts in me. Do I give it my all?

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying I’ve been expecting great achievement with little effort. To be truthful, I’d be wondering what the point is of writing at all if it didn’t require that intense concentration and passion that puts me in a time warp feeling as thought I’ve been in outer space when I come to.

I’m questioning how I keep on wanting to rush through some of the writing. When I was younger, I used to love to do descriptions. It could be a regular object like a teacup, a person walking down the street, or an entire setting like a park. It seemed to come to me naturally. Anymore though, I rush straight through those parts getting to action and the feelings of the characters.

Why am I in such a hurry? True, I am not young anymore. In fact, I’ve been deemed a senior for a while now. Even so, unless I find myself getting blown up, I don’t think I’ll be dying anytime soon. This means there’s plenty of time for me to cultivate splendid descriptions of the scenes as I go through them one by one.

And when did I lose that natural touch for writing descriptions? While sitting at my desk, I can see out a window by turning my head slightly to the left. It’s a view of the street I live on so even though some things don’t change often, other things do. I look out this window every time I need a moment to think. And my mind isn’t so full that I don’t see what is out there either. I notice the breeze blowing the leaves in the trees. I see Jake [one of the residential cats] lumber across the street. The sound of a car will make me glance out to see if it’s one of the neighbors. Now, why am I not putting any of this into my writing?

It got me wondering if I’ve gotten stuck on the mechanics of writing. Rationally, I know I can write my first draft any old way I want. However, emotionally, my obsession for perfection and my fear of never ever being good enough plays havoc with me, making me doubt the adverbs I put at the end of sentences, the spelling of words I know but invariably spell wrong, the number of sentences I start with a prepositional phrase. And the list is a long one.

Is there a way to turn off the doubts and fears, but still keep the emotions going full blast while I write? No, I’m not expecting an answer to materialize. Sometimes though, it’s sensible to put these types of questions out there to examine and ponder on.

“It was one of those cases where you approve the broad, general principle of an idea but can’t help being in a bit of a twitter at the prospect of putting it into practical effect. I explained this to Jeeves, and he said much the same thing had bothered Hamlet.” ― P.G. Wodehouse, Jeeves in the Morning


11 thoughts on “Describing the Doubt and Fear

  1. I sympathise with you. There are many times I want to get to the end of a piece I am writing and I would be thinking of writing the ending when I am at the beginning – knowing full well I have the whole chapter planned out. I dont’ know. Perhaps sometimes writing becomes a chore for me because I’m not fully engaging with the topic at hand or I am bored with it before I have truly begun. Or maybe it’s just because I am impatient.

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  2. I tend to like descriptions that are complex, perhaps bordering on elaborate. I actually have a post coming up next weekend that touches on that subject. I think we tire of writing descriptions when we tire of writing in general, and then we (at least I) say “oh, I’m sure they get it” and stop. When I read someone describing something (like the teacup you mentioned) it makes me wonder about all the things in my day that I ignore / take for granted or just plain miss.

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  3. Glynis, I feel like you’re talking about the quality of being vulnerable: sensitive and aware of the wounds within yourself that cause you to pay attention. Those are the parts that make one a good writer in my opinion. Anyone can write a description – a red house at the end of a long drive – but a description that turns your reader into the observer that you are – the house that caught the crimson sunset and cast it back a bruised red along the lonely length of its driveway – it’s not easy. Nor is there any guarantee.
    It’s OK to have doubts but you can only measure yourself by your glow and your shadow. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else’s standards – you are the only you.

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    1. Shari, at this point in my journey of serious writing, I’m learning to embrace all the insecurities I have. I’m beginning to assume, though I may be completely off my rocker here, that many writers have these same self-doubts and learn how to handle them in their own ways. I choose to accept the insecurities and NOT try to get rid of them because I have this feeling that tells me they are going to serve me well if I just learn how to use them. First, though, I need to recognize them and comprehend what they mean for me.

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  4. I have some sort of quirk that allows me to write and revise a piece without qualms or insecurities. My anxiety kicks in when I deem a piece finished, read it, and think, “But that’s terrible.” I then ask my husband to read it. If he agrees, I put the unworthy thing on the shelf (and sometimes rescue it from banishment later and find it not so bad after all.) If he sees merit in the piece, I use a fair allotment of my courage and publish it. Then I start writing again as though I’m Shakespeare. Strange.

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  5. I certainly get hung up on the mechanics of writing. It’s hard to repress that inner-editor, but the saying about letting the first draft rip does tend to bring out the most interesting writing. Yet, there’s no one way to get the writing done. I finally realized the notion of writing a book-length piece is not within my reach, so I have opted to focus on submitting short pieces to various publications for awhile.


    1. I’d do the same thing except I have this story rolling around in my head. It’s been there for several years. Before I can make a decent go of anything else, I feel the need to see this through, at least to a later draft.

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