The Specter of Doubt

Doubts

 

(‘doubt’ /noun/ a feeling of uncertainty or lack of conviction.)

I can’t imagine a human being that has gone through life and never experienced some kind of doubt. To be honest, it’s a daily occurrence for me, and while I think it can be healthy in some circumstances, in others it can be downright frustrating.

We all grow up learning as we go, and we face uncertainty as teens when we must deal with more mature situations in our relationships, but then we are faced with the decisions about the direction of our lives, our jobs, our education, and how to achieve any of those goals. In some cases, decisions are thrust upon us and we must deal with them the best way we can, but vague and unforeseen outcomes are always daunting.

When we cross that line into parenthood, the level of doubt becomes phenomenal. The problem is always twofold in that we haven’t been a parent before and each child is as individual as a snowflake. We can soak in advice in massive amounts but in the end we must sift through that advice to find the pieces that work for each of us…today.

If there is one constant in the universe it’s that children will seldom react the same under given conditions, especially if we want them to. My children are grown in their thirties and they still find ways to surprise me, so I assume that factor will forever remain.

In August 2015, I published my first novel, “Moonracer: The Long Shadow,” and after four long years of research, writing, editing, and re-writing, to say I had my doubts would be an enormous understatement. It’s easy to love something that is your own creation, especially after devoting so much time and effort to bring it to fruition. When someone else reads and enjoys your work, the feeling is truly wonderful but that’s a far cry from public acceptance.

I recall a line of dialogue from a television show, and shame on me for not remembering the title, but the son of an accomplished author was enjoying the success of a best-selling book. The father spoke in a condescending tone over a glass of wine, “Everyone has one book in them, but the proof of you being a true author is what you do next.”

I have found a great deal of truth in not only that line but many other words of advice spoken by real-life, accomplished authors. The world of books is a brutal business and the hugely successful authors are as rare as lottery winners. I think of this often when I roam the aisles of one of my local book stores. Every book on the shelves, stacked on tables, and filling the bargain bin was written and published by someone. Someone who probably worked as hard as I did but here was their result, languishing in a two dollar bargain bin.

You don’t have to look far to find stories from best-selling authors about how many times their work was rejected. I read one saying to paper your office walls with rejection letters in the promise you will be accepted before you ran out of wall space. I have to admire that level of optimism, but that’s also the reason for the recent migration to self-publishing.

While it’s true a publisher is probably a well-seasoned judge of what makes good writing, the author is also at the mercy of what the publisher deems marketable. Literary giants like Anne Rice and J.K. Rowling were turned away by many because their work wasn’t mainstream popular at the time, but even Anne Rice admitted she wrote what she loved, not caring what publishers thought. She also added that every book has an audience, but finding that group of people is the most difficult challenge.

All of the doubts I have over the quality of my work, the lack of sales, a couple negative, lukewarm reviews, and the cost of advertising with little return all compound themselves to make you feel your time at the keyboard is wasted. But under all of that is the smallest glimmer of desperate hope, fighting its way to into the light.

The essence of that ray of hope asks the most pointed of questions. The still, small voice that whispers from deep inside, cutting into your soul, “Why did you write your story? Was it to make money and be successful? Was it to find a new career? Was it to gain recognition or fame? If any of those reasons are yours then you are doomed to fail. A prostitute screws people for money without passion or soul. Is that the kind of writing you want to do?”

Then as quickly as that mythical blade stabs home, the same voice reminds you of the powerful truth that outweighs all else, “We write because there is a story to tell, and that’s what we do. We craft imagination, we conjure worlds, and we mold characters from memories and emotions as we reach into the dark places of fear and pain. We chisel out heroes and give them demons to grapple against, we revel in victory and spill the torment of defeat, and we forever spin the yarns of love, loss, and bitter revenge. We make hearts race with suspense and eyes weep with both joy and pain, but in the end it’s all because there is a story that must be told.”

Any writer wants the success of being a top-selling author. Why wouldn’t we? But none of that matters as much as the words on the page, because without those words we use to paint that image in your mind or that voice in your heart, they will forever remain in that ethereal place known as the back of our minds.

What a shame that would be.

T. August Green

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