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Today is Friday the 13th, so you'd expect demons.
And you'd be correct.
The great state of Colorado --and home to Delve Writing-- is under siege again. After devastating wildfires, we now have torrential rains and formidable floods. Delve staffers are safe and mostly dry, but we're surrounded by friends, neighbors, and countrymen who are battling the rising waters, and in some cases swimming for their lives.
There's 24-hour news coverage of disaster and destruction--stuff that's happening mere miles from my house, Facebook is brimming with posts from friends and acquaintances in affected areas, and my cell phone buzzes with an Emergency Alert every few minutes.
Today was supposed to be a binge-day of editing for me, but I admit to finding it difficult to submerge myself in my story when so many around me are literally submerged.
In addition to my own personal Facebook demon, Davy Jones, sitting next to me, I also find myself battling the familiar demons of email and distraction, as well as the occasional call from Mabel & Ethel (the friendly ladies who volunteer their time as the telephone landline demons).
Do these events constitute a genuine reason for not writing?
Sure, if I wanted an excuse not to work on my manuscript, I'd say the events of this Friday the 13th provide a solid one.
But honestly, my ducks are all safe, my house is dry, my power is on (and my computer has mostly recovered from The Great Iced Tea Spill of 2013), so there's really nothing preventing me from getting some editing done except for me and my personal demons.
So how do I turn off the outside world and tune into my story?
In the face of all the news flashes, flash floods, and flashy demons, my best defense is surprisingly the kitchen timer.
My plan is to disconnect from media (social and otherwise), set the timer for one hour, then dive into my edits. When the timer beeps I'll summon my frenemy Davy Jones and together we'll check Facebook, the answering machine, and the local newsfeed.
Sound like a plan?
If you're with me, grab your kitchen timer and strap on those water wings!
And keep in mind the best advice
--for writers and disaster victims alike--
in these words-to-live-by from the incomparable Dory:
JUST KEEP SWIMMING.
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My writing demons have returned. Or have they?
You see, the last couple months have been chock full of ducks, which gave my writing demons the perfect opportunity to swoop in and wreak havoc. And swoop and wreak they did, or so it appeared. Here's what happened:
In the midst of a very chaotic summer, I sent my current work-in-progress out to "beta readers" as a sanity check of sorts before I submit the manuscript to two agents who requested it. When I sent it to the beta readers I felt pretty dang good about it. I knew it wasn't perfect, but I was spitting in the face of my perfectionist demon (sorry, Harpy), feeling confident the story and the writing were good. Perhaps even "good enough."
Then came back-to-school chaos, and I was so wrapped up taking care of ducks,
I wasn't thinking about demons at all. I let my guard down. That's when I received the critiques from my beta readers.
As an unpublished writer, even when my guard is UP I have a permanent chink in my armor where demons can slip in: I'm already always asking myself
"Am I good enough?"
This is the part of the story where the demons swoop in.
Even though most of the beta readers' feedback was positive, a few tiny criticisms snowballed in my psyche.
I began to feel like the manuscript SUCKED. Like the problems were insurmountable: too many, too varied, too widespread, too inherent--take your pick. I became certain I'd never be able to fix them. My story would never be
"good enough," much less perfect. I could work for several more years on this book and still not even be close.
"What's the use?" I thought. And I stopped working on my manuscript.
After some wallowing I began to suspect I'd been victim to a sneak attack by the Demon Triumvirate:
Insidious Sam (the demon of worry), Kakorr (the demon of fear), and Aunt Fay (the demon houseguest of fatalism).
But then I learned that Sam, Fay and Kakorr had been on Walk-About for the past month (long story--don't ask) and therefore could not be the guilty parties. Snickerdoodle, Vex, Davy Jones and the rest of the colorful lot are also accounted for, and my ducks are all squared away, too (if not in a neat row).
So who's been sabotaging my manuscript submission efforts?
Allow me to introduce Thomas, the demon of self-doubt.
Thomas is not exactly a new demon. It's not like I've never felt self-doubt before. It's just that he's usually accompanied by a hoard of other demons who mask his appearance.
Take Worry, for example. Self-doubt can often be an underlying element of worry. Same for Fear, Fatalism, Perfectionism. Even Procrastination and Distraction can have roots in self-doubt.
When he's not lurking in the shadow of another demon, Thomas usually reveals himself by whispering subtle, seemingly helpful warnings:
Don't wear that -- people will ridicule you.
Better not go on stage -- you'll trip, say something stupid, or otherwise make a fool of yourself.
You shouldn't write that -- it makes you sound naive and dumb.
For goodness' sake, don't submit your manuscript to an agent -- you'll be a laughing stock.
Getting published? Forget about it. Everyone will know you're a hack and a fraud.
Obviously if I ever hope to finish editing my manuscript and submit it to the perhaps-no-longer-feeling-quite-so-patient agents, I must banish Thomas. But how?BRUCE
I've tried cigars, coffee, calamine lotion, reggae music, advice from my mentor, unplugging the phone, Post-It Notes, antacids, duct tape, dreamcatchers, nightlights, chamomile tea, and sticking my fingers in my ears. But none of these trusted demon-defenses work on Thomas.
Unless Bruce Willis is available to babysit me for the weekend, I'm at a serious loss.
Please help me out here--
What do you use to banish self-doubt?
Chris Mandeville is the president of Delve Writing and a writer of "new adult" novels and a non-fiction project for writers.