Thus far into the interview, Alice has tolerated ruler jokes and my inquisitiveness about she transitioned from card-carrying nun to prostitute-playing civilian. For these details and more, see Part 1.
Jan: You don’t seem to spend much time in self-doubt or in fretting about your worthiness as a writer. (Not to say you don’t work at craft and self-improvement; merely, that you don’t seem to dwell in angst.) Did you work it out as a nun, so that the final showdown around that issue was symbolized by jumping the wall? Were you a decisive person before the convent or did your time there contribute to your robustness?
Alice: I was the image of an introverted wallflower in high school. Acting doesn’t count, because you’re not “you” on stage. You’re a character. But nuns are expected to lead. So, at age 19 with 6 weeks of Methods in Teaching under my belt, I was teaching. It was the ultimate “sink or swim” — and we weren’t allowed to sink!
The convent is a crucible. Picture 95 women in a closed loop, all cycling together. (Apologies to any men reading this.) Also, the training is one long fishbowl experience. People want you to succeed, and could go overboard in their eagerness to “help” the training staff.
Wasn’t that a polite way of saying it? What it means is too many people had their noses in what was none of their business. Trust me when I say that only the strong survive. Thus, I angst like everyone else. I have my times of “My writing sucks rocks. I have no business trying to get published. I’m a big, honking fraud and I should stick to knitting.” But I learned years ago that dwelling in that for more than 24 hours can become a hamster wheel of suckitude. So I trained myself to shake it off by brute force if necessary.
You are a plotter to the nth degree, as I understand. What method do you use? Did you begin this way or become converted?