I have a gift for tragic self-reflection, which from time to time blooms into a forest of self-doubt. I got it one Christmas in a year when I was especially naughty and apparently Santa ran out of lumps of coal.
A lump of coal would have been like a diamond-studded Rolls Royce in comparison.
Yes, as a matter of fact, I am getting ready to dive in and start revising the book I finished at the beginning of the month. How could you tell?
Is it because you can tell the doubts have come flooding in like the morning light in Jackson Browne’s song, “The Pretender.” Here’s the reference if you need a reminder:
I’ve been aware of the time going by
They say in the end it’s the wink of an eye
And when the morning light comes streaming in
You’ll get up and do it again
So I watch movies and listen to music.
Unfortunately, my self-doubt—the gift that keeps on giving—watches the same movies I do. And puts its own spin on them. Here’s the quote I was given this evening. From the movie, Midnight in Paris. It’s the scene where the main character asks Hemingway to read his novel. Hemingway says he shouldn’t want him to read it because:
If it’s bad, I’ll hate it because I hate bad writing,
and if it’s good, I’ll be envious and hate all the more.
You don’t want the opinion of another writer.
It’s the perfect quote to pop into your head just when you’re about to start revising, which is often painful. Even more so when the end result of that revision is to share it with other writers and ask them to critique it and make notes so you can revise it again.
Yes, them doubts sure do know how to kick. If they played soccer, they’d win the World Cup.
So I turned to music, which is said to have charms to soothe the savage breast. People often misquote that as beast, which, when describing an artist’s self-doubt, may be truer than the actual quote. As in, self-doubt is that evil monster that lives under your bed and occasionally hides in the dark recesses of your closet.
Right now, it’s running rampant through my house, smashing dishes and pulling pictures off walls. I’d call the police, but they’d think I was nuts. I’m not, I swear. I’m more like the guy in the song.
Out into the cool of the evening
Strolls the Pretender
He knows that all his hopes and dreams
Begin and end there
I’d continue to whine in your ear, but I need to go buy some new red pens.
That book’s gonna bleed.