Writers Block, Self Doubt & The Hydra.


Last night, I suffered, oh how I suffered. My writing was banal, trite cods wallop. Who the hell was I kidding, why was I deluding myself that I could write? Last night I would have found it hard to compile a shopping list let alone a short story. As for a full length book….HA! Forget it.
With my confidence at carpet level and self doubt swinging from the lamp shade, I searched the Internet for anything I could find which would help ease this wretched feeling.
And there I learned about THS…….

THS, The Hydra Syndrome. This is what writing guru Rob Parnell calls those periodic moments of chronic self-doubt which most, if not all writers suffer from time to time. You know the feeling. One day, the words are flowing, you’re writing is eloquent, inspired, utterly brilliant. That Booker Prize is just one chapter away. And the next, everything you write sounds dull, trite, contrived; you believe your talent is none existent. And that has to be, for any writer be they published, established or total beginner, one of the ghastliest feelings ever experienced. And lonely. You don’t know where to turn, or who to ask or what to do. PANIC!

And last night I panicked. I was trying to write a short story for this blog (coming soon) and the words just would not flow. It was (is) like pulling teeth. Write a sentence/paragraph/word Delete. Try again, Delete. And again, ad infinitum. Everything sounded like utter crap. It was horrendous, and that was when my self doubt kicked in. Grace, give up, forget it. You’re kidding your self. *sob* (yes, I did)

So I searched the net and found that reference to THS. Relief! It’s so common amongst writers and authors whatever their level of experience.
Apparently, and according to Parnell writers have too many heads. But like the mythological creature The Hydra when one head is cut off another grows in it’s place. So it is with how we see our writing. There are times, when we’re in a good mood, or we’ve just started a new project and it’s fresh in our mind, the neurones are firing and all the synaptic gaps are bridged with ease, and we know we’re bloody good and we are on the brink of creating a work of genius. We’re truly inspired and the words flow like a river.

But then, when we’re tired or midway through our book, story or novel, the other head ‘speaks’ and fills one with those doubts and fears. It’s shite, uninspired, plodding and dull. The plot is rubbish and no publisher will give this bog fodder a first glance let alone a second. Familiar?
Then the friendly head pops up again and it’s back to Booker Prize brilliance. But which head is telling the truth we ask. Good head, bad head. Maybe I am delusional and can’t write, but then again……..but you get the idea.

So that was my evening yesterday. Doubts, fears and tap tap tapping on the delete key. But after reading that article I went to bed mildly comforted that at least I’m not alone in these doubts as to my ability to write. Its the curse of all writers I’m told. But, maybe it’s a blessing in disguise for without these moments of Self criticism, we’d lose objectivity and wouldn’t want to improve if we thought that everything we did was a work of genius.

Maybe then it’s that Hydra Headed Beasty which makes us better writers.

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5 thoughts on “Writers Block, Self Doubt & The Hydra.

  1. onlyfragments

    Hydra Syndrome is a MUCH better term than writer’s block, I believe. I always hate using the phrase writer’s block because it sounds like I don’t have any ideas in my head. That’s not true – I have a bajillion, I just can’t get them OUT. Totally different! And yes, it does definitely feel sometimes like battling a hundred different voices saying a hundred different cruel things. Good to know I’m not the only one. I think that sometimes instead of fighting your way out of the despair, you just have to let yourself roll all the way down to the bottom of the hill, skid a few hundred feet, and then wallow in the self-doubt and pity for a while. Eat too much chocolate. Sleep in late. Go around with a “woe is me” expression. Whatever it takes, you know? Because sometimes it’s the day after you’ve completely given up and decided to never write another darn word again that you write your next masterpiece. …Or something truly terrible. But the point is you’ve written something, yeah?

  2. onlyfragments

    Besides, no one who never questions their writing and themselves can be a good writer. Writing is about taking chances, baring yourself to the world, touching on the dark things inside us all. If you think you can do no wrong, you writing will ooze arrogance. And we all know how irritating THAT can be to read!

  3. Vilipend

    So, you’re saying when you write you turn into a three-headed mythical creature? Awesome. I knew there was a reason I started writing. I’m going to try to write a post and terrorize Japan.

  4. jessielansdel Post author

    Hmm, yes, I Know what I want to write but like you say, it’s writing it so it says on paper/screen how it sounds in your head. And that’s usually quite, quite brilliant. Oh, we do suffer for our art. 🙂

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