Thursday, December 3, 2009

dispelling doubt: a dialogue

Yesterday I attended a workshop about using written dialogue to enhance a deeper meaning of the academic disciplines. I had a lot of "why-didn't-I-ever-think-of-that" moments as I watched/listened to the presentation and then brainstormed ways to apply this in my own classroom.

In an unrelated activity, I also participated in a forum discussion in which many well-established, successful writers admitted that they fear they are, to use an appropriate phrase, "faking it". In other words, with each finished project (or new one about to start), they are afraid the world will discover them to be the fraud they really are.

And I confess, I experience this feeling sometimes, although not to the extent of others. My self-doubts usually kick in either when writers block strikes in the middle of a project or at the very start of a new one. And I don't know that I feel like a fraud as much as worry that I only had the one good idea, and the rest are crap. That maybe I'm not really a novelist after all, being that I have no formal literary training. I'm a rhetoric girl, remember?

Ok, so maybe that is a fraud-like feeling.

One participant on the forum was curious about coping mechanisms. How do we manage such doubts? how do we control the voices?

And so, in an effort to marry the two activities, I decided to create a little dialogue between the Doubter (D) and the Believer (B), perhaps not too far off from the internal dialogue I might actually have.

D: It's back. She's staring at the blank page, wondering if it's all crap, wondering if she's ever gonna write another decent novel -- hell, another decent chapter -- and whether she's gonna spend the rest of her life hearing people say, "It's not as good as Faking It, but..."

B: What evidence do you have to support this?

D: Ummm, well, none at the moment. I mean, no one's said that to her yet.

B: Has she run out of novel ideas?

D: Well, no (although she can't seem to think of anything to write at the moment).

B: That will pass. It always does. And she's gotten a lot of positive feedback, yes? People who aren't her parents or friends telling her that they like what she writes. And what is it that she tell her students about the continuum?

D: She tells them that they're better than some student writers and not as good as others. As is she on the continuum of professional writers..

B: Right. So, what's the problem?

D: Sure, she's got ideas. But what if she fails to execute them well? Just because she's gotten a lot of good reviews doesn't mean there aren't any bad ones floating around somewhere.

B: You think her favorite writers never got a rejection or a bad review? You think they've not executed well? Does that make them frauds, or participants in the process?

D: Um, the second one?

B: Right. So what it comes down to is a decision. She's got to decide whether she's a fraud or an honest-to-god writer that knows what she's doing. When it's not working on the page, I'll tell her to re-read and revise, and then read something else, or write something else, and keep honing her craft until she gets it. And really, do you think she wants to be a fraud?

D: Well, no.

B: So that's it. She'll decide not to be. Because she's not, regardless of what delusions you feed her about it.

D: So, she's the Decider...

B: Now let's not get carried away...


Rob said...

Doubter = T.K.O.

Elisa said...

HA! I love it, Rob!

Anonymous said...

My self-doubts are already starting and I've barely finished my first chapter. How do I write when I have so many other things that need to be done? Do I hole up, somewhere, for a few days, so I can, at the very least, get into the book? I've got a lot written, for my first effort, but I can't go back to it, if I know I'm going to have to stop so often. Suggestions, PLEASE!!