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I am beset by a minor, lingering illness this morning. The voice that says “You’ll never.”

You’ll never be published. You’ll never be good enough. You can barely even succeed in getting friends to read you—how do you expect that anyone else will? It’s a small voice, that mean friend in the head. Willful and nasty. But, fortunately for today, it is a voice faint enough to be pushed aside.

I disdain “poor me”; I hate it worst in myself. It is, to be coarse about it, the boil on the butt of emotional well-being, sprouted there through a combination of relentless brain activity and suppressed doubt and…okay this is key…the point where the new book is not sufficiently untangled and I haven’t gathered the strength to start marketing out the old one.

What’s it like, being one of those who are so convinced of their ability that they never stall and always move forward?

You’ve got me.

I am not a member of that tribe. I was not born with that unshakable-confidence-bone in my head. At least, mine is a very malleable one. As I’ve said ad nauseum here, the outside world and I are not altogether on the best of terms.

And so, dear me, let it go. That’s the message of the day. You’ll never is a self-fulfilling prophecy, you know that. You’ll never is always the threshold to some great idea, the pain before the birth. You’ll never is stupid and self-undermining. You know that. You do.

Let it go. Let it go. Let it go. You’ll feel better once you do.

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Woke to the sound of thunder. Went out and stood in the rain, like someone who had never seen the stuff (sadly true.) The grey of the sky is beautiful in its rarity; a sky that is, for a while at least, not a dare.

The day is a metaphor for what I face on the page, that desire to look at a bigger sky; the realization that I can. My own writer-advice has been tough to follow. Look at the bigger theme of the chapter, I tell this blogspace. Use the overall import/impact of the chapter to drive you. Write to the idea, not the individual word.

Follow your own advice, Lynn.

When the ground upon which one walks is uneven, one tends to fix on the space that will receive the next footstep—to stay steady, to keep one’s balance. The page is like life, that way. Losing the greater meaning, the direction, is too sadly easy when one stands on uneven life-ground. And stepping back for a better perspective: impossible.

The character…it’s me. The plot, my life. The perspective, mine to find. For now, there is a small, welcome joy in this grey day. A day different than the one before, different than the one that will come after. The sky as a metaphor for my life.

Don’t know about you. Don’t know whether this is the Condition of All Writers, or just the Condition of Me…but moments of doubt have been leaving messages, lately, on my mental answering machine.

These are the moments of whaaaa’? Moments of what-am-I-doing? Moments of uncertainty. And they are not my friends.

These moments are useful, sometimes. Educational. And wretched. They co-exist with moments of wide-eyed delight and cool-eyed assessment. They make us better writers. And they make us miserable.

“Have confidence in your talent,” came the advice from a cherished mentor, “and keep moving.”

Easy to say. Less easy to do, sometimes.

One wants to be confident. One wants to recognize that what one feels today, is not what one will feel tomorrow. Or even in ten minutes. One wonders how it is that other folks manage that strength that lets them proceed with unquestioned confidence; how others recover from the daily setbacks that are the built-ins of a writer’s life. How does one deal with the “might be” when the “is” is not enough?

Whence comes the strength to cope?

So here are the questions of the day: How do you deal with the writerly downs of yourself? How do you recover?

Let me hear from you.

From a deep and extraordinary conversation last night with the amazing K, some questions raised, some thoughts expressed, some feelings faced.

Back in the day, while studying music at the Henry Street Settlement in NYC, I saw something happen during a recital that has stayed with me for my entire life.

A young man stepped to the stage. A vocalist. Poised, confident—overly so. He set a large tape recorder down at his feet, clicked “Record”, took the microphone in hand, cued his accompanist and began.

His moves were lounge-lizard slick. His voice was completely wrong. He was pitchy; unmusical. Timbre and phrasing completely off. And yet, he was as comfortable and confident as a singer could be. The Frank Sinatra of Bizarro World.

How, I wondered, could that be? How could a person’s confidence be so completely out of touch with his reality?

It is a question that has stalked me for years…in my writing life, not my musical one.  There are so many writers—so much dreck that’s actually getting published…so much that’s actually making the best-seller lists–and so many authors who are utterly convinced of their greatness, their worthiness, their unequivocal talent.

But who knows? Who decides? Who is the arbiter of that judgment?

Dick Marek said to me “Just be confident in your talent and keep going.” Good advice. Great advice. But how do you know that it’s talent and not self-delusion you’re dealing with? Maybe you never do. Maybe you never will. That perfect pitch in the writer’s head that tells us when the words are balanced, evocative and right: Learning to trust that inner sound, creating to it (and hoping that recognition will follow) is one of the toughest tasks a writer faces, I think.

And the greatest fear? Being the singer with an audience, a microphone…and not a clue.

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