“I think we live in a pretty shallow time and I think we long for that depth, we long for that honesty …” ~ Lady Gaga
You know how you’re going along, everything seems great and then something happens and you get tripped up by a huge load of self-doubt? That happened to me recently and I nearly let it over take my feelings about all the projects I’m currently working on.
I have a virtual friend who is a writer. I’ve read several of her books and loved them. I’m not going to tell you her name because I don’t want you to be angry with her after I write this story. Some time back she put out an email to her fans to ask us to read her latest book and write a review. This was the third book in a series that I had never heard of. I loved her first series I had discovered a few years ago. It’s in a completely different genre, even so I was in. I requested and got the third book in this new series, then went and bought the first two books so I could have a context for writing my review. I liked this new series, but not as much as the first fantasy series she created.
As I was reading the second book, I kept coming across mistakes, which wasn’t like her previous work. So, I emailed her to tell her that I thought the wrong version of her manuscript had been mistakenly uploaded. She emailed back saying she was mortified, and confirmed my suspicions. That began an email conversation which I enjoyed very much. In the process, she discovered that I had written a book and I asked her if she would read it and write a review.
Last week she finally got back to me to tell me she didn’t like my book, she liked the concept, but thought it moved too slow, (like a glacier). She didn’t like the historical timeline, or the protagonist in the past. She did say she was very sorry that she didn’t like it and hoped we could still be friends. Though I was surprised, I emailed back immediately and told her, of course, we were still friends. I admired the fact that she had the courage to tell me she didn’t like my book. One thing that gave me hope was that she said for me to keep writing.
All of this happened while I’m working through the No Pants Project tutorials, an endeavor that is making me do lots of deep thinking about my talents and skills, and what I can offer potential clients. Sometimes the thought of putting myself out there causes me to doubt myself, so that on top of my writer friends comments, played upon my insecurities.
About an hour after receiving the email, I began to feel devastated by my writer friend’s comments. So far, most of the comments I have received about my book have been positive. But that didn’t matter. I felt dreadful, like everything I put into my book was worthless, that I was worthless. Those feelings extended to what I was attempting to do by becoming a consultant. You probably know the feeling. Self-doubt spreads like poison and contaminates our confidence, even in things we’ve felt competent about doing for a long time. Oh, I forgot to mention this came on the day I was scheduled to teach my acting class.
It was performance night so I couldn’t call in sick. Yet, I was feeling horrible about myself. As I was getting ready to go, I got one bit of inspiration. Wear something in my favorite color, something that makes me feel good. In the spring I had purchased some new clothes. One of the items was a skirt that is variegated colors from peach at the top all the way to dark blue at the bottom. I had never worn it, and that skirt called to me. I had a peach blouse of exactly the same shade on the skirt. I wore it to finish my ensemble. When I put on those clothes, I felt better. My female students even commented on how lovely I looked. I told them I’d been feeling off and I just had to wear my power color.
Later that week, I was reading Rebecca, by Daphne de Maurer which, I picked up because it’s the September/October book club pick for the #oursharedshelf, social media group. In fact, I joined the group BECAUSE they were reading Rebecca. I had read it years ago after watching Alfred Hitchcock’s and the PBS versions of the story. I wanted to make a comparison of the three versions. (Yeah, I’m nerdy like that.) Anyway, as I was coming to the end of the book, it occurred to me that I read lots of classic British fiction. If you’re not into classic British fiction, you might not know that most of the stories unfold very slowly.
Side note: I once belonged to a book club group that enjoyed reading mostly contemporary fiction and nonfiction. But at one point they got it into their heads they wanted to read some classics. The book they chose was Middlemarch. I have read Middlemarch. I warned them that reading this book was going to be different than the fiction they were used to and that they might want to choose an easier classic their first time out.
In the first third of the book George Eliot is building the world by informing the reader about the relationships of all the characters who will play a big part in the story she’s about to tell. If she didn’t do that, we as the reader would be very confused about how intertwined the members of the community are, what their histories are together, and why they choose to act as they do. In other words, their stories wouldn’t have as big an impact as George Eliot wanted them to make.
When it came to the day to meet and discuss the book, no one had finished reading it. They said it was boring, or they didn’t understand it. And I have to admit, I was rather disgusted with them. I’ve read some pretty incomprehensible stuff. Theology and philosophy, for example, while working on my B.A. in religious studies. I’d have to read the assignments over and over until finally some of what the writer was trying to get across began to become clear to me. Even though it was tough reading my college textbooks, I’m so grateful I stuck with it because they were full of deep concepts that I still contemplate today. So because of that, maybe I was a little hard on these women. I like a challenge but a challenge in reading isn’t for everyone.
Jane Austen, George Eliot, Charlotte and Emily Brontë, Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, and William Makepeace Thackeray, all of whom I’ve read, construct their stories to unfold slowly. That’s not to say there is no action or conflict in their stories, but most of it is quieter, and more internal than modern readers are used to. Because a book speeds along at a fast pace doesn’t mean you can’t find deep meaning in it. Even among the classics, there are books that are funny, some might say a romp, but they also contain meaningful themes.
Don’t get me wrong, I love action stories. But at dinner with Barry this last Tuesday night when I had to teach, I told him I had made a discovery. My book has been greatly influenced by the classic British literature I’ve read. And I said, “I loved The Da Vinci Code and all of Dan Brown’s books, but sometimes when I’m reading them, I feel breathless and say to myself, “Can’t we slow down for just a little while?”
My book is paced slower than some of the current popular fiction. It’s not as slow as a glacier, but it takes place over a matter of a couple of years in the storyline in the past, and several months in the storyline in the present. In it, my characters are going through a process of grieving/awakening. You can’t do that kind of character transformation in a short, fast paced book. I mean, I suppose someone could, but not me. And I can only write in my own style.
So the moral of this post is, when self-doubt hits, embrace it and allow it to have it’s way for a while. Then kick it to the curb and move on with your life. Not only do I feel better about my current published book, but the sequel I’m working on as well. I also feel better about what I’m learning about starting my own business.
A day or two ago, I started a conversation with another person in the NPP, and he made the comment that I was an expert story teller. That comment took me back as much as the one about my book being slow. The conclusion I came to is that we are all so much more than our talents, skills, or how people perceive us. When self-doubt rears it’s ugly head again, I’m determined to remember that.
Thanks for reading, liking commenting. I appreciate it. I hope you have a fabulous weekend.
Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018
Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. If you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. Stay tuned for news on the audiobook version Lucinda is working on. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.