Monday, April 20, 2020

Dealing With Doubt

One of the most frustrating things for many writers I know is the overwhelming sense of insecurity they have about their own work. They are the epitome of the statement one's own worst critic. It takes a tremendous amount of effort to focus, put words down on paper (or screen), and write a story beginning to end. The self doubt and nagging suspicion nothing is going to be good enough can be paralyzing. It has been a large part of why each of my books has taken so long to be published.

Never Give Up was written over the course of eight years. The first chapter was written in a single day but then nothing happened for a year and a half as I was gripped with a stomach churning fear of rejection. I picked at the manuscript for years until I dedicated myself to Nanowrimo one year and pushed through to the end. It still took me another two and a half years before it went to publish however. Between editing, allowing a beta reader to see it (yikes!), and submitting to agents I was woefully ill prepared for, it was a long process. Then I had to fight that little voice inside that said to run and hide at every new turn. My heart would race, my palms were sweating, and my stomach was in knots no matter what step I was on. The day I hit publish I cried happy tears while chugging Pepto.

When that book was done I faced another major fear. What if that was the only story I ever came up with? How was I supposed to be an author if everything I had went into just one book? Once again my fear was staggering. Later that year I was hit with inspiration for what would become the second book I would write but seventh I would publish. In fact, to date I have only published four. The fifth is with my editor, the sixth is being written even now, and the seventh will be released next year at a specially planned event.

Publishing Never Give Up was extremely important to me. It was the culmination of years of work and proved I had the ability to face my fears. It was still a long time before I felt I could do it again though. The second book I published was Survivor. This book was even worse when it came to doubt and, at one point, self destructive coping methods. Telling such a personal story was mortifying and something I attempted to back out of several times. Ultimately it was the belief that what I was sharing was more important than my fears that pushed me through. Fish, Crash, Combat, and eventually Sharing Strength all have that same belief behind them. These are stories I needed to write.

I have yet another project, somewhat writing related, that is currently taking about 70% of my time and nearly all of my concentration. It is at a level of second guessing, doubting, and nerves that I feel like I am dead in the water. I am fortunate that I have a strong team around me to keep me going. When it comes to handling the doubt in my life I turn to them and ask myself if not moving forward will bring more regret than my current fear. How do you deal with doubt?

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Learning Something New

The past couple days have been about watching shows and movies about military missions, particularly in the Middle East. The next book in the series is called Combat and centers around deployed Army soldiers serving in Afghanistan. The first three books so far have covered issues such as domestic abuse, sexual assault / bullying, and survivor's guilt. Sadly because of my experiences there was no reason to look deeper or further research on any of those subjects. I know all of them well.

I have never felt the sting of a bullet grazing my skin, or worse, punching a hole through my body. I've never attempted to keep my wits about me in the middle of chaos like a firefight. There hasn't been a time I've been given orders that would put my life or the lives of others I'm responsible for in danger and been required to obey anyway. On top of those I haven't felt the heat of the Arabian desert or the wind burying sand in my pores. I have no idea what vehicles the military drives or what may have been modified by the enemy. The types of weapons used on both sides are unfamiliar as are the rankings of the U.S. Army. 

I chose these shows and movies because they give me a sense of what buildings look like and how the members of a team may communicate with one another. I can get an idea of complications that may arise during a mission I would never have thought of without the research. These shows also use language from military sources. 

There are always going to be things I have to create in a book but I want to make sure the story is as authentic as I have the ability to make it. The relationship between the soldiers will be no problem and the feeling behind the situations are something I can relate to, it is the navigating through the streets and military actions I would struggle to recreate. These are the reasons I am watching the shows and movies. I know so many people who would say you can't get a real experience by watching scripted television and for the most part I agree. However, short of jumping on a plane to Afghanistan in the middle of a global pandemic, it's what I have to work with.

I'm curious, what is the most interesting or difficult thing you have ever researched and what method(s) did you use? Was it effective? What would you change for the next time?