Do any of us know what we’re doing?
About seven years ago now, maybe more, I dreamed up a character I only ever called “the gentleman”. He was tall, slim, gaunt, and impeccably dressed. He wore black pants, a black embroidered western shirt, and a black cowboy hat. His black cowboy boots would be polished to perfection, no scuffs to be seen. He would be flanked by his young twin daughters, hauntingly stoic, both with milky white skin that gave them an almost undead quality. Both girls wore intricate, custom-tailored brocade dresses with skulls embroidered on the hem. Neither smiled. I can’t remember how or when the gentleman came to me but I wrote down his description in a notebook I can’t find anymore. I imagined him walking with his daughters down a stone sidewalk to meet the main character of my novel. My first novel. The novel I recently finished. (Don’t sprain your thumbs going to Amazon to find it, it doesn’t exist anywhere else but in my carefully guarded files.)
Here’s the thing. That character I dreamed up isn’t in the book. He didn’t fit. The story evolved significantly over the years and he evolved right out of it. I think about him sometimes. (Mostly when I see the book cover I’m pretty sure wound its way into my subconscious to inspire him.) Almost every time I do, I ask myself the same question:
Am I doing this right?
Probably not, and that’s one of the many reasons it’s taken me so long to write the damn thing. I question myself at every turn. Is it good? Will anyone like it? Do my friends just say it’s good because they’re my friends? Is everyone in the world a better writer than me? Am I a hack? Am I already a failure even though I haven’t put it out into the world yet? Is my book just the same five words repeated over and over in different combinations? If I’m a writer, why can’t I beat my partner in Scrabble?
Here’s the best part about all of these questions. Since I’m a writer, (that’s fucking hard for me to say, so be nice, ok?) I like to think I have a pretty good imagination, and it runs WILD to find the most ridiculous answers to these questions.
My solution? Write more. I know what you might be thinking. “Hey, instead of blogging about this, you could be working on your book.” I know, and I am. But I also wanted to share my experience in case there’s anyone else out there feeling the same way I am. Maybe it’ll help them. Maybe it’ll help me.
Honestly, do any of us know what we’re doing?