Sometimes when I write, I wonder if I am wasting my time. When I see bestselling books advertised on the side of my facebook page, I think, “Who am I trying to kid?” But I continue to write. I tell myself that there are lots of different tastes and maybe someone will like my work. Not all painters create a masterpiece. Not all teachers inspire a U.S. president. Not all cake decorators have a Food Network show. So why do I feel like my writing is useless if no one except a few close friends and family members ever end up reading it? I think I know the answer, but I’m afraid to admit it.
Why are so many writers plagued by self doubt? Why does it try to lead us astray and tempt us to abandon our heart’s desire? We constantly have to fight a battle within ourselves; we struggle to dig down deep where that elusive inner strength resides.
The creative writing process is a very long one, especially when you’re talking about writing full length novels. Because it takes so long to get the product to completion, it is sometimes hard to see that the unfinished project has value and that it will come to fruition if nurtured to the bitter end. It’s easy to get discouraged when looking at an unfinished story that your brain is still wrestling to conclude.
Tonight I was putting together some cornbread dressing to cook the day after Thanksgiving. We’ll be going to a large gathering at a Catholic Church in Vattman, Texas, for our meal on Thursday, but I decided I’d like to have some dressing to snack on over the following days when we’re relaxing around the house. The dressing is my favorite part of the meal! My son, who has enjoyed eating my dressing for almost 24 years, walked in and looked at the bowl of broken cornbread, sautéed vegetables, toast, and sausage and said, “What’s that?” I told him I was making dressing and he said, “That doesn’t look anything like it.” A while later, my younger son walked in and said pretty much the same thing. They were not impressed with what was in that bowl, but I know that it will be my delicious “famous” dressing when it comes out of the oven.
That got me thinking that I do the same thing with my unfinished writing. I look at it and say, “That’s not a book! That doesn’t look anything like a bestseller!” I forget that I have to keep plodding along and plotting my story until it all gels. And if no one comes to the table after it has been served, then I guess I will just have to try and enjoy the feast of finished pages all by myself.
One thing I’ve learned while participating in the National Novel Writing Month challenge is that I can really brew up a batch of chapters quickly. No longer will I be content to simmer on low, producing only one chapter a month. I’ve realize that my brain can think on a high setting and that I really enjoy devoting my time and thought to the process.
This Thanksgiving I will be spending time with family dining amongst over a thousand people who will pay good money for turkey and dressing. We will give thanks to God, celebrate our country, rest, and then the following day we’ll eat my famous dressing that started out as a bowl of broken ingredients. I will write, and I will dig deep past my own doubts and finish the last part of my novel. Eighty thousand words, dropped one at a time onto a page, simmered, stirred, and after a long edit, ready to serve. I hope I won’t have to dine alone!