Tuesday, March 19, 2013

About Doubts

Pam Houston posted this on facebook today and I wanted to pass it on:
About the heavy doubt: it's normal; it's the territory, the province, the wallpaper in what Jim Dickey called the cave of making. It is your talent itself that produces it. So write through it. Do the work. If you let it stop you, if you let it make you hesitate, you're making the first and most elemental mistake, and you're acting like a dabbler, an amateur. This day's work. Each day. ~ Richard Bausch
Richard Bausch was one of the authors my advisor turned me on to last year - a master at writing short stories. One might be able to teach a class called, "Everything I learned about writing I learned from Richard Bausch."
This hit home so close today because I've been struggling with two things lately. Firstly, of course is doubt about my writing.  Is it good enough? Especially through my first drafts, this doubt plagues me to the point of paralysis if I don't put blinders on, stop reading what I'm writing, and just plow through.
But the other thing is doubt about writing as a career. I made an off-hand remark to my husband the other day that every job I want to do doesn't pay much. And his off-hand remark back, which I'm sure he meant no harm by, was that if it doesn't pay, it's not a job, it's a hobby.
And that made me wonder if I'm really a writer, or if writing isn't really just a hobby. Something I spend an inordinate amount of time doing, but really no different than say golfing or scrapbooking.  
Maybe in the end it doesn't matter if I am a hobbiest or a professional. Maybe it only matters that I don't let those labels stop me from doing the work, every day.
What do you think? Does it matter how you view yourself?

12 comments:

  1. I disagree with your husband. :) Writing is a job for me - and it pays, but not well. I write some at the day job, I write as a freelancer, and I write as an I hope soon-to-be-published novelist. I don't know that I can separate who I AM from my writing - it's one and the same, so I wouldn't call it a hobby at all. I AM a writer. I think you are, too. So I'd definitely call it a job - but more importantly, it's a passion and a calling.

    On the doubt - oh my goodness. I doubt all the time. What's really bad is that stuff I think is terrible, others love, and stuff I think is good, others aren't too excited by. Guess I'm just better off thinking I write crap. Ha!

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    1. Ha ha!! I think that last part is true of me, too! Maybe what undermines my confidence in writing is that what I like and think is good, others don't. :)

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  2. If making enough money to live on is the sole criterion that defines you as a writer, then what are we to make of someone like Edgar Allen Poe? His published stories were either unpaid or given a pittance: The Raven sold for $9.

    Then there are innumerable authors whose work was repeatedly rejected: Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Madeline L'Engle, e.e. cummings, Margaret Mitchell, Judy Blume, etc.

    Our actions define us. I am a writer because that's how I dedicate my energy. Yes, I've sold articles but I don't consider my work a "hobby" simply because those pieces didn't pay enough to support me full time.

    You're a writer, Heidi. No doubt about it.

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    1. Thank you, Kathryn. So true that most true artists in the past didn't necessarily make a living and yet we call them artists (and writers and poets, etc). Maybe we need to define job better. :)

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  3. It's very difficult for us Americans to not define ourselves by our profession (the thing we make money doing). But it's the wrong thing to do.

    Yeah, Van Gogh only sold 1 painting his entire life, but I bet you'd call him an artist, right?

    At the end of the day, others can try to put a label on you but only the label you put on yourself counts. If you are a writer in your heart, then you are a writer. End of story.

    Just think about the people who have read your book and told you it made them smile, or it touched their life. I know this has happened. You are a writer.

    Me? I still haven't figured out what I am beyond resident of Earth. I'm happy with that, though.
    Paul

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  4. If you write because you must, because writing is like the beating of your heart or the breath of your lungs, then you are a writer.

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  5. I worked a a counselor for years...always making less than my husband. We could never live on it but it was my job. Now writing is. I will never make a lot but I loved doing both.

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    1. It's amazing to get to do what you love!

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  6. Heidi, I think the questions we have to ask about any activity are, does it use my gifts and does it contribute something of truth and beauty to this poor old world? I would say writing does both and if that is our gift and we exercise it and love doing it, then what we call ourselves is immaterial. We are fulfilled and happy. Your writing is certainly the use of a beautiful gift of insight and expression, and you have touched many lives with it. End of sermon!

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    1. Thank you, Dan. Sermons always appreciated. :)

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