The Journey to Publication, Writing

Fight the Self-Doubt and Fear

Last night I considered how since becoming a mother, I think I may be becoming a better human being … but a more neurotic writer. And I think I know why.

See, I’ve found the the truth in the notion that you don’t truly understand fear until you become a parent. At this point, if I started worrying thinking about it, I could get sucked into a vortex of mind-shattering “what-if” terrors about the kidlet. The many things I can’t protect her from. The even more perhaps I shouldn’t. What I do right, what I do wrong, etc, etc.

But I can’t go down that path, because that’s the road to crazy town.

And yet, some residue of that fear, of those worries remains, unattached and orphaned energy looking for a home … like, say my writing. And so before, where I prided myself on productivity and rarely found myself ever close to dreaded writers’ block, now it has become a real danger. I worry about how much – or how little – I’m producing. The quality. If I’m improving. If I’m doing the right things to promote my work, to keep growing, if I can ever truly achieve my potential, or if I will be left a dreamer without a dream.

And then you look up and realize, wow! Looks a lot like crazy town anyway, doesn’t it?

Perhaps you are one of those writers or artists who isn’t plagued by self-doubt. If you are, I congratulate you – and seriously urge you to write a “how to” manual for the rest of us out there! Because from what I’ve seen and heard, that self-doubt comes with the job. I suspect it’s because we’re largely self-driven, and the product we produce is so personal that judgment and reception of it is likewise so subjective, how can one ever say for certain what is “good” or “bad”? We’re left to ourselves to create that assessment of our own work. Perhaps too it’s because we’re so used to playing with “what if” that naturally it attacks us when we’re not looking. What if the badguys are just behind the hero … or what if I’ve wasted a year on this manuscript that will never amount to anything?

Good news: I have a couple of solutions for you to rid yourself of those dreaded twins, self-doubt and fear. They’re not perfect, and I assure you, I’m working on these methods myself. Consider it a work in progress.

  1. Ignore the buggers until they wither away. Yes, not easy. Especially when you hear exactly the wrong thing as you’re hip deep in the latest work that “will never sell” because “it’s out.” But the more energy we give fear especially, the stronger it becomes, and potentially, the more paralyzing.
  2. Let fear feed you, instead of eat you. Fear can destroy us because of its internal nature. And not all fear is bad – fearing jumping in front of a semi-truck is a healthy reaction likely to keep me less road-pizza-like. But sometimes, perhaps the solution is to embrace the fear, and attack it. Especially when it comes to our art. Is there something you want to say / create / write? Is it too personal / too hard / too damned scary? Then maybe it’s exactly what you need to say, because if it resonates that deeply with you, isn’t it likely to resonate with someone else?
  3. Improve the positive nature of your self-talk. The clue to self-doubt is in the name: it originates with ourselves, and therein lies the cure, too. Please believe me when I assure you I’m not being facetious, nor do I wish to trivialize what is a serious concern for some people. And yes, sometimes we need help with our self-doubt. But at least part of that needs to come from inside, from editing that nasty little voice in our heads that tells us we’re not good enough. My favorite advice is that we never tell ourselves anything we wouldn’t say to our best friend. So indeed, perhaps we need to improve – but there’s a better and more constructive way to phrase that other than “you suck,” don’t you think? 😉
  4. Hear that worried voice in your head, consider, then dismiss. Sometimes we worry for a reason. But, if you’re a “worrier” like me, than there are lots of times that we just worry cause, well, I’m not sure really. Boredom? A desire to feel miserable? But even I know that worrying never did anyone any good. Instead, get up and make a plan to combat that worry. DO something, since just worrying about isn’t doing anything.

So, that’s my two cents for the week. 😉 What do you do to combat fear and self-doubt?

Thanks for reading, and wishing you a great week free of self-doubt and fear. 🙂

The Journey to Publication, Writing

Zombie Books and On Staying Stubborn

Keep clinging to the edge of the cliff - you are NOT going to fall. (Source: my photo)
Keep clinging to the edge of the cliff – you are NOT going to fall. (Source: my photo)

I am a stubborn individual. Actually, mule-headed, and too damned ornery to ever quit may be more accurate assessments. This is part of why I can’t give up.

I have been in rewrites on the zombie book – that is, the WIP that refuses to die, but isn’t actually healthy, alive and kicking (ie: working out like it’s supposed to). As I dive into yet another round of revisions, I find still more errors in the book that still seem to stick around. It makes me wonder if I can write at all, if I’m just kidding myself.

This is called self-doubt. If you’re a creative sort, I’m sure you’ve met it before.

Nasty fellow. And as soon as you let him start leading you, you’re not heading anywhere good, trust me.

And sometimes, when you’re stuck with a zombie book – a book that refuses to straighten out, and yet it still holds some allure to you, some promise that it could be good – then what you have to be is stubborn. Mule-headed, I-will-work-with-a-patch-over-one-eye-and-a-broken-hand stubborn.

So, here it is. My five ways to keep writing even when things look like crap (how you feel, the WIP, you name it):

  1. Get your butt in that chair, turn on the computer, and start writing. Yes, it will suck. Yes, many of the words will suck. But they will get better.
  2. Stop looking up the mountain at how far you have to come. Looking up and dreading it will not make you feel better. Instead, look straight ahead at the step you’re taking now. Keep at it. Keep moving forward, and you’ll make it up the mountain of whatever workload awaits you.
  3. Take note of what that whiny voice of self-doubt is saying – anything useful in there? Then tell it to shut up and let you get back to work.
  4. Give your fear, your self-doubt to your characters. Let them wrestle with it. And as you do, note how good your writing looks, how sincere. 🙂
  5. Be kind to yourself. Give yourself a break. You are not perfect. Every word you write will not be perfect either. That’s what revisions are for. And remember that this is the bottom of the hill in the creative journey. Things will get better. You will feel better – so long as you hang in there long enough to ride the roller-coaster back up to the top. Treat yourself kindly, but don’t give in to self-pity. Keep at it. Keep fighting.

Okay, so now I’m about to head off to battle the WIP. Today: assessment of the chapter notes and see what lives and what dies, and if any of the structure is right at all.

But first, what about you: how do you conquer self-doubt? How do you keep fighting through when things get tough?

Thanks for reading, and I hope you gave a great week. Oh, and hey! Like the post? Why not follow the blog. 🙂

The Journey to Publication

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.