Sunday, January 8, 2017

Newsflash: Doubt Never Goes Away

Most writers are secretly worried that they're not really writers.

Hey, newbie writer. I see you there, curled up in the corner, cowering and whimpering from a doubt whoopin'. You think just because you didn't land an agent, or sign a contract, or whatever it was that kicked your heinie that you are not a for-real writer. It's also your belief that once you do accomplish those items, not only will you be legit, you'll never have to weep in that corner again.

Uhh . . . nope. Sorry to rain on your pity-parade, l'il pardner, but that just ain't so. You will always feel doubt.

And that is a very good thing.

Why? Several reasons:
  • Doubt keeps you from puffing up with pride.
  • Doubt forces you to keep trying harder.
  • Your doubt gives hope to others, because if you can deal with it in a constructive fashion, it's a model for them to be able to deal with it.
  • Doubt makes you question things, like why you're writing, which is always a good core value to reevaluate.
  • The pain of doubt often prods you to set new goals because it's a motivator.
I know lots of authors, big names, that still deal with doubt even though fame has knocked on their door. How do they deal with it? How should any of us deal with it? There are ways besides rolling over in defeat.

5 Ways to Deal with Doubt

1. Focus on the positive.
Yeah. I know. This sounds like some lame-oh Sally Sunshine type of platitude. The thing is, though, that it really works. What you allow your thoughts to dwell on directly effects your mental health. There is always something good in your life, I don't care how awful you have it. Did the sun rise today? Are you breathing? Start there and work your way up to acknowledging bigger blessings.

2. Stop comparing.
Most often the reason you (or I) feel like a loser is because we're comparing ourselves to others. Stop it. Don't make me come over there. Your writing is not at the same stage of the journey as someone else's -- and never will be. Your stories will sound like you, not Superstar New York Times Whoever.  You are not meant to write like them because you are not them. Write like you because no one else can.

3. Take a break.
Sometimes a doubt fest happens because you're burnt out. Give yourself some time and space to do other things. Experience life and love and sunshiney days. Stepping back has a way of giving you a different perspective.

4. Seek out community.
The flip side of misery loving company is that there is safety in numbers. Other writers have and are going through the same thing as you. There is counsel and comfort in the artist community. Don't shut yourself off.

5. Take baby steps.
When doubt beats you over the head and you're laying on the floor bleeding, it's not so easy to get back into the swing of things. Set small goals then reward yourself for making those goals. And what if you don't? Make the goals easier. It's okay. All you need to do is put one foot forward today. Tomorrow you can worry about another step.

You are not alone. Everyone deals with self-doubt and always will. It's part of the human condition. And remember, when all else fails, reach for the chocolate.

Also remember that this is the kick-off week for the new Writer Off the Leash schedule. I'll be posting Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.


gadhill said...

Thanks for this post, Michelle. Needed the encouragement.

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