Self-Doubt and Toilet Bowls: 10 Tips to Climb out of Despair

I recently found myself whirling around the toilet bowl of self-doubt. I know it means I’m on the downward swing of the usual emotional rollar-coaster stuff, but trust me, it still felt pretty awful. This was after, as I tried starting rewrites, it felt like I had bashed my head into a brick wall enough times that said wall had bloodied my forehead and torn away the tips of my fingers. This led to the whole floundering around in toilet water.

There are some writers who claim to never experience this downward swing – or in fact, any emotional rollar-coaster of confidence (or lack thereof) and emotion throughout their career. If you are one of them, congrats to you, but this post is not for you.

For the rest of us, pop your head out of the toilet-bowl long enough to read this. I’m hoping it will help.

The quote, by the way, of spiraling down the toilet of self-doubt is not mine – but unfortunately I don’t know exactly who said it first to attribute it to them. Suffice it to say they did a great job of accurately assessing the feeling. Here’s the thing: writing – especially if your goal is publication via traditional means – can get frustrating and disheartening. And most of us aren’t perfect (none of us, actually, but if you think your different … again, probably not the post for you). Anyway, my point is that as we go through stages in building our career and fine-tuning our craft, it can be easy to fall into pits of despair, and in the worst case scenario, even give up writing or do something likewise drastic – and unnecessary!

Here are 10 tips to help you escape any self-imposed despair (I’ve been trying them myself, and my clothes are almost dry after all that floundering and splashing around).

  1. Separate yourself from the road or path that you’re on. The pitfalls are part of the road – not you. Think about this for a minute. Especially now, traditional publishing is still reeling, and it’s never been easy in any case to get your book in print-form. That’s not your fault. Trends change. The path can be easier for some … and now harder for you. You can’t know how long your path will be – only that it’s yours alone, and that you will never reach the end if you don’t keep going.
  2. Create self-affirmations about you and your writing to keep you going (or get you going again). For me, a reminder to separate myself from the road is a help. Reminding myself that today – or tomorrow – is the day I succeed. Inspiring quotes by other writers. Whatever works for you. Make a jar of them to draw when needed. Sticky-note them in your workspace. Or post them on a wall you see from your work station as I did. Whatever works to help you see those positive thoughts when you have trouble thinking them.
  3. Take an attitude break. Step outside of the current situation and your negativity – maybe by doing something fun, trying to get a bit more objectivity on the situation.
  4. Don’t borrow trouble – or disaster – unnecessarily. Remember that we have a tendency to blow things out of proportion. A small problem becomes a disaster. Step back, assess, or discuss with someone else for greater objectivity.
  5. Ensure that your self-talk and inner voice only says the kind of the things you’d say to you best friend if they were in your shoes. Seriously, the things we’ll say to ourselves are things we’d never say aloud to another living being; do yourself a favor and try and curb this.
  6. Give yourself a tea (or coffee) break. Literally, walk away from whatever is frustrating you for a little while. Lay on the sofa. Go for a walk. When you come back, it might not be as bad as you think.
  7. Read and do things that make you feel good. Check out positive books about success against the odds, watch a favorite funny movie, go spend some time with friends – do things that will make you feel better, and allow yourself to feel better.
  8. Don’t do things that will hurt you. Did you just read a terrible review? Why? Who says you have to? Do you search for disasters in the news posts? Don’t do things that make you more upset or confirm your gloominess; it’s useless.
  9. Share love and kindness. Make eye contact and smile at a stranger. Give a loved-one a hug. Tell them how important they are to you. Love and kindness has a way of coming back around – and tends to make us happier (go figure).
  10. Remember that YOU are the only one who can write your story. Your writing may not be perfect. The manuscript and plot may be a mess, and others have told you they’ve heard a werewolf / mystery / [insert your story idea here] before – but your take on it will be completely different than someone else’s because it comes from you. And unless you hold true to your vision, keep to your path, it will never get shared with the world.

Thanks for reading. Climb on out of that toilet, and have a great week.