We know it so well: that familiar feeling slinking up to assail us as we fight our way through a piece, as we send a hopeful and assertive email to an editor, as we sit down to lay out those first few sentences of a new story, as we watch the whisky fizzle over the ice after the latest rejection. Doubt. Perhaps more than any other emotion, it defines and dogs us. Here, three Vela writers explore it from different angles:
Sarah Menkedick struggles to accept the ambiguity of not belonging to a clearly defined literary niche in “Learning to Float”:
I have always been a swimmer, making clear fervent strides, feeling the water part. I have always marked lanes for myself. But perhaps the reason I decided that what I wanted to do with my life wasn’t precisely to study history or anthropology or any other subject in particular but to write, which isn’t so much a discipline as a medium, was because I like the perpetual not knowing, the perpetual learning, the very openness that now is beginning to overwhelm. I get bored easily, I am endlessly curious, I want not to fill in familiar blanks but always to be pushing out further into new territory. And yet it seems impossible to be successful this way: success mandates niches. Specializing. Doing “your thing.” Having “a voice.” Burrowing into your corner of the publishing world and staking your eager little claim on it. I haven’t figured out how to do this.
Lauren Quinn explores what it means to “make it” via the lens of the Bay Area punk scene in “Making What?”
Some days I look around at my sweaty, smoggy little life on the other side of the planet and wonder what I keep doing it for. I mean, if there’s not a “making it” – or if “making it” entails writing shit I don’t want to write, or allowing myself to be whittled down to a consumable little package – why bother? Why keep going?
Because I’ve come this far, I think some days. Because I’ve never expected to not struggle, I think other days. Because I learned you keep fighting, keep screaming; because the punks did still teach me something, as imperfect of teachers as they might have been, as we all might be.
And Miranda Ward struggles with accountability and negotiating between separate selves – academic, freelance, writer, person-in-the-world – in “On Change”:
Sometimes I wonder if I would be a better, or at least a more prolific, writer if I was a better documenter. But when I try taking photographs of the afternoon light on the living room walls, or listing the names of the plants in our garden, it feels exactly as it is: like I’m pretending to notice my own life in a way I ordinarily wouldn’t; like I’m badly mimicking an aesthetic I don’t quite understand.
The truth is that after I’ve stared at the curtains for awhile, after my walk, or my drink in the pub with my fiancé, I don’t really want to write; I have nothing to write about, I reason, all I’ve done is work and stare and walk and drink.
Doubt on, dear readers, but know that you are doubting in good company. We hope you find here solidarity, insight, or at least a brief reprieve.