The Dust-Bunnies of Doubt

Dust bunnies

Just like doubt: grey, floppy, useless. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m 30,000 words into this rewrite, and I think I’ve made a mistake.

Not like a fucking typing error, either, but a mistake that changes the entire plot. And some of the characters. And maybe makes some things exist that shouldn’t. And definitely made at least one character exist that shouldn’t.

So I’m staring at this manuscript, wondering if I’ve damaged it beyond repair, wondering if I’ll ever get this one finished, wondering if it’s even worth going on with.

This is a crisis. Or, to a writer, Friday.

Doubts are like dust-bunnies: they’re mostly made of pieces of you and they’re not useful. And just when you think you’ve got them all, you spot another one lurking under the furniture. And then another. And then a herd. But if you don’t keep on top of them, sooner or later you’ll be drowning in them. Or something. Is that how it works with dust-bunnies? I’ll admit I’m not sure and I’m so not getting further distracted by Googling it.

I wish I knew some way to stop the doubts. They slow me down. They’re the opposite of coffee. Fear-juice, designed to make your brain less functional and reduce the day’s word count.

Tom Pollock wrote a great piece on this feeling entitled “The Fear Never Gets Any Easier” over at Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds blog. Go read it. It’s an excellent summation of how this feels. The line that sums it up for me is this:

I’ve spent a year and a half telling myself I can do this, and I’m terrified of finding out I was wrong.

Writers are stage magicians in their own heads. We wave our hands and say the words and wink at the assistant, but we know that it’s all an illusion. That one mis-step is the difference between flawless and broken. So sometimes it seems like it’d be a hell of a lot easier to not make that step. You can’t trip if you don’t move.

How do you get past it? I don’t know. I wish I had some magic advice to give about how to put the brain goblins to rest, if only because then I  could take that advice myself. But I don’t, and I suspect it’s because there’s no magic formula.

So, how do you get past the fear and the doubts and all the other shit? You just do. You go on punching the keys or scrawling the pages. You move on. Even when you don’t want to. Especially when you don’t want to.

It’s going to be a long day.

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