It took me a long time to decide to write a book.
I've been writing for most of my life (since I was four or so). Over the years, especially in my school career, I've written more short stories and poems than I can remember. I went to Governor's School in 1991 and 1993, and went to college on a writing scholarship (a fun but short-lived higher education experience; I left college a year and a half after I started). After college, I kept writing, but didn't get serious about it for several years. When I finally started writing again in the spring of 2000 - this time for an online writing contest at the ACW Club, I wasn't sure if I still had the knack for making things up and writing 'em down. I won the first contest I entered, and two more after that, so my confidence was bolstered and I kept writing stories here and there, never considering sending them out for serious consideration by writing markets.
Until I met my fellow writing compatriot and Reedy River Rat Gail Gray, I'd only gotten the courage to send one of my stories out for publication. I sent it to ten different markets and got rejected ten times. After that I gave up submitting for a while, until Gail convinced me I should try again. The self-doubt was overwhelming, but I finally did it... and to my surprise, the piece was accepted.
What a rush! The self-doubt got beaten back into a corner, squealing in pain (but still alive, oh yes, it's almost impossible to kill - like some kind of mental cockroach *shudders*). I started sending out more pieces, and found a few more homes for my stories. This bolstered my confidence even more, and I realized one day about a year after the first acceptance that I was writing all the time. Short stories and poems, mostly, but still good stuff. I was attending a regular writers' meeting and the quality of my work got better and better. "You should write a book," they told me. "It would be amazing!" Every time I'd bring a new short story to the table, Gail would tell me, "You could turn this into a novel." (Seems like I've been long-distance writing my whole life and didn't know it, heh.)
But still the self-doubt remained. I never finish anything long-term, the self-doubt said disparagingly. I'll just get so far into it and quit. Or that's just too long of a project, the self-doubt would whisper. Why work on something that'll take at least a year to finish and then never get published?
The prologue of the novel came to me one night in early August, and after composing it in a white-hot fever of creativity, I sat back and read over those first few pages, wondering to myself, can I keep this going? Can I actually write a book? Is there enough in this story to make it believable and entertaining? Is this something I...
"Oh, quit it already," I said to myself. "Just do it, for God's sake." For a wonder, the self-doubt shut its mouth and I kept on writing.
Since then, it's crept back over and over again, but I keep beating it back with the biggest stick I can find. I show it all the pages I've written, the encouraging notes from writers' meeting, the way the plot has developed and taken on a mind of its own. When self-doubt whispers that I'm not (flourish of trumpets, please) a REAL WRITER, I remind it to look my writing credits, my query letters for short pieces, and my blog and the people who follow me, because all those things prove that I am what I say I am. I show it my timeline for getting the novel completed and published, and I remind it that I'm using the Clark Kent job as a means to an end to get where I need to be.
I tell it, in no uncertain terms, to f&$k off.
And sometimes - MOST times, at least lately, while I'm riding the high of creating this crazy novel - it does.
What do you do to beat your own self-doubt? How do you remind yourself that you are exactly where you're supposed to be?