Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Self-Belief and Writing

with 10 comments

Folks, with the recent posts about self-acceptance, I figured I’d follow it up with how self-belief and writing mix — or don’t.

In my own experience, when I am more confident in myself, and I know that what I’m saying makes sense, I am more likely to make sense in writing than when I am more insecure.

And yet, insecurity is part of what drives a creative person. I can’t deny that. (No creative person can, really, not if he or she is smart.)

The trick is to balance the two. Be just insecure enough to want to write, to need to write (or play music, or compose music, or, I suppose, paint, draw, act, or any other creative pursuit), but be confident enough in what you can do — your belief in yourself, as it were — that you can actually sit down and do it. Without fear. Or at least without the fear stopping you cold.

I’m not sure how that all works, mind. In my head, right now, I’m picturing a space station for a YA milSF story I’m working on. And as I tend to think two-dimensionally, this is a real problem. My main character, a young girl and a military prodigy, would not be thinking in 2D.

How do I get to where I need to be, so I can describe the space station I hazily see, and make the readers believe in it?

Or, here’s another conundrum I’m working on right now.

I’m writing a novel in a friend’s universe. (No, I won’t tell you which one. I won’t unless/until I pull it off. I do have permission from my friend to give it a try and an interested publisher if I can pull it off.) I know I don’t write like my friend. But I’m going to talk about characters that interested me, that my friend could not work on, as his main character needs to be doing something else.

If I think too much about how I don’t write like my friend, or that his readers won’t like what I’m doing because I’m not my friend, well, that will stop me cold.

But just a little insecurity, in that I want to find out what’s going on, and can refer back to what my friend’s written so I can use that as best I can to ground my writing…d’you see? (Or am I thinking too two-dimensionally again?)

Finally, I have a story going in my Elfyverse that’s taking a long time to gestate. I have two new characters who will be interacting with my known characters Bruno, Sarah, Lady Keisha, and more…and I like these characters. But it’s hard sometimes to figure out how to get those new characters into the mix without making them seem lesser than the two titanic mains, Bruno and Sarah, especially as this new story isn’t about Bruno and Sarah. (Instead, it’s about new love, unlooked for, with more mature folks.)

So, should I think about how people won’t like the story, because it’s not about Bruno and Sarah, and they’re at best peripheral characters? Or should I think about how there’s room for more characters at the Elfyverse inn?

And just a little insecurity may be useful. But a whole lot of it just stops me cold, and makes me trot out the “Fear is the mindkiller” speech from DUNE.

As I said, you have to have enough belief in yourself (self-belief, natch) to keep going, even when you don’t see an end-point. (Yet.) But you also have to work with your insecurity, and keep it at bay enough while using it at the same time to inform your work and make it thrive the way it was supposed to do all along.

(If this is still clear as mud, my apologies.)

What do the rest of you do, when you’re trying to create something? How do you strike that balance? (Tell me about it in the comments!)

Written by Barb Caffrey

September 9, 2017 at 8:31 pm

10 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Reblogged this on Have We Had Help? and commented:
    Amen to that…

    Jack Eason

    September 10, 2017 at 12:22 am

  2. Hi Barb.
    Writing in someone else’s ‘universe’ is always a challenge….asks anyone who takes up the mantle in an established graphic novel series. Whereas it is your friend’s ‘verse’ he would be concentrating on his own set of characters and their motivations and ‘moves’. Now those you are interested are not in that central action, so in their own motivations and ‘moves’ could legitimately be quite different; thus an another style and approach to writing would not look odd as the narrative is taking place in a ‘different part of town’. Just so long as you don’t upset the whole dynamic of your friend’s ‘verse’ and you have his permission it should all go quite well.

    Concerning your own ‘verse’. New folk should turn up, as they do in real life. These people add depth and flavour to the narrative, particularly as you draw them in closer to the centre of the story, they can have myriad functions for example:
    Their part of the narrative could be played out through the role of witnessing the central tale.
    They could be eased into the main flow of the narrative as characters caught up in the actions of more central folk.
    In a minor role they could become protagonists, on the sidelines as it were.
    All these and others are valid, they also stop the writer becoming a little bored with the central folk or feeling they have to pad out the book with ‘business’.
    The late David Gemmel would introduce minor, unlikely characters and build up their importance not so much they would dominate but the reader would be wondering ‘what’s happening to…..’

    So don’t be afraid to do what you wish with your ‘verse’. You can always revisit and re-write. If you fee it’s working, then it’s working!

    As I read your post you have a lively imagination and an inventiveness which should be let loose. So dive in and let your creativity off the leash, it’s your work.

    Best wishes

    Woebegone but Hopeful

    September 10, 2017 at 6:40 am

    • Thanks, Roger. I appreciate what you said. I will keep working on it, and not let my fears of failure get the best of me. (That speech from DUNE works pretty well, most of the time, to remind me I’m not alone in that.)

      Barb Caffrey

      September 10, 2017 at 5:37 pm

      • Fear and demoralisation are always lurking in the background, even amongst the top writers (unless they are insufferable egotists).
        Writing Fantasy or SF can give the writer the opportunity to immerse themselves in their own created world, there they are free of some of the constraints of the world we live in. Having such freedom in turn can allow a writer more scope and thus shake lose of the negative emotions which may hold them back; after all it is the writer’s world.
        Have a good journey.
        Best wishes

        Woebegone but Hopeful

        September 11, 2017 at 2:34 am

      • Thanks, Roger. 🙂 I truly appreciate your comment. (And let us hope so. I could use a little escapism right now, even if it’s self-created escapism.)

        Barb Caffrey

        September 11, 2017 at 7:25 pm

      • I visit my ‘family’ in my book frequently😃

        Woebegone but Hopeful

        September 12, 2017 at 10:37 am

      • Our families in our books are either more like us, or less. (It depends on the story.) But yes, they can be very comforting, either way… 😉

        Barb Caffrey

        September 12, 2017 at 6:23 pm

      • Mine are actually quite independent at times.
        So I’m tidying up on a re-write and I get this message from two principal characters.
        “Are you sure?” ask I
        “Oh c’mon man!” comes the swift reply “Have you not been reading the narrative?”
        I guess they know best 😄

        Woebegone but Hopeful

        September 13, 2017 at 2:31 am

      • 😀

        Barb Caffrey

        September 13, 2017 at 4:04 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: