Saturday, January 27, 2007
Is it something about writing itself that makes writers doubt themselves? Could it just be the inevitable rejections, the low ratio of reinforcement to punishment? Or is it more that those who are driven to write tend to be self-doubters from within? Kate S, Stewart Sternberg, and Michelle’s Spell all had posts on or around this issue in the last few days.
My guess is the latter, that those of us who have an inner drive to write also have some quirk within us that makes us doubt our abilities. I imagine, of course, that everyone doubts themselves sometimes. But some of us are chronics at it. It’s as if we’re addicted. We just can’t stop. Writing is not the only place I doubt myself, for example. When I was first in graduate school I had a feeling that any day now it would be found out that I just wasn’t bright enough, just not disciplined enough. I doubt myself on my job, on whether I’m doing the best I can for my students. I doubt myself as a father. I doubt whether I’m anything more than an embarrassment to the game of chess.
Why the doubt? Because I’m made that way, and maybe you are too. I think, in large part, this comes from an introverted and introspective personality, and this is why it shows up so frequently in writers. We reflect on things? We question. We study ourselves and those around us, and we know, if we’re honest with ourselves, that we don’t always do what we could or should be doing. We see amazing talents around us, and also colossal failures. And we don’t want to admit that both can exist in the same person. In us.
I think the doubt can make us better writers, as long as we don’t let it destroy us first.