Authorial intrusion usually refers to those instances when an author calls attention to the writing in such a way that the reader is pulled out of the flow of the story. Say, an historical fiction writer who wants to avail readers of every last bit of research she’s done on the Crimean War even if it’s not relevant to the story. Or an essayist who reminds readers that cell phones were not a thing when she was growing up.
But today I want to talk about a different kind of authorial intrusion—one where self-doubt creeps into the author’s mind and goes around and around like a roller coaster you can’t get off. I don’t think writers have cornered the market on self-doubt, but we sure do know a lot about it.
“Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt. ~William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure
Sitting alone at your computer trying to string words together leaves lots of opportunity for nagging feelings of uncertainty and apprehension to creep in. How do we overcome self-doubt? Dani Shapiro doesn’t think it is something that should be a stumbling block.
From Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life:
I’m not sure self-doubt is an obstacle. It might even be a writer’s best ally. It seems to me that every really good writer I know is plagued by it. Confidence is highly overrated when it comes to creating literature. A writer who is overly confident will not engage in the struggle to get it exactly right on the page — but rather, will assume that she’s getting it right without the struggle. People often confuse confidence with courage. I think it takes tremendous courage to write well — because a writer has to move past the epic fear we all face, and do it anyway.
There. She dropped the F-bomb. Fear. Because that’s what self-doubt is, isn’t it? Fear that our writing isn’t good enough. Fear that no one will take us seriously. Fear that we won’t fit in. Fear that (insert your own particular bogeyman here).
Fear is scary. That’s why it’s fear, after all. But I love how Elizabeth Gilbert makes peace with it.
From Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear:
I don’t try to kill off my fear. I don’t go to war against it. Instead, I make all that space for it. Heaps of space. Every single day. I’m making space for fear right this moment…It seems to me that the less I fight my fear, the less it fights back. If I can relax, fear relaxes, too. In fact, I cordially invite fear to come along with me everywhere I go.
What does it mean to make space for fear? I didn’t know the answer to that until I saw this TED Talk by writer Lidia Luknavitch. I bet you’ll be moved, as I was, by her raw and frank discussion of how to believe in yourself even when you’re afraid.
How do you make space for fear? Have a great weekend, everyone!