Why am I even trying to write? I’m not any good at this. I wouldn’t know a good sentence if it jumped up and tattooed itself on my butt! I’m tired of having to rewrite, rewrite and rewrite. If I was any good, I’d get it right the first time. Besides, I’m too old to learn! How many rejections does it take for the message to sink in! I quit! I quit! I really quit!
They arrive in droves. One will hit me, then before I have a chance to recover there’s comes another. BAM! Oh those negative, piercing, painful thoughts. And sometimes they’re not even just about writing. How about the ones that attack the size of our thighs? Or start criticizing the lines around our eyes? Or those that criticize our parenting abilities? Self doubt can sting.
Have you ever dealt with self doubt? If you’ve never suffered from this problem, you have my permission to stop reading right now. Go scrub a toilet or do something equally important. But if you, too, have been smacked around a time or two by the villainous self-doubt, then listen up.
First, we all must realize that it’s normal for us wacky people who call ourselves writers to be a bit manic depressive. (You don’t even have to be a writer to suffer from it.) I don’t mean for you to run off to the doctor and sign up for some meds. What I’m saying is that that most of us, especially writers, live on highs and lows. We make a sale, write a good scene, discover a new market, and we’re on Cloud Nine. We get a rejection, someone butchers one of our pieces, or we go too long without hearing anything back on our manuscripts and we, like the drama queens and kings that we are, go to the edge of our cloud, close our eyes, release all our negative voices, and commit emotional suicide.
I said it might be somewhat normal, but I didn’t say it was okay—because it’s not okay.
Especially if, after you hit rock bottom, you don’t pick yourself up, wipe up the blood, sweat and tears, (you don’t want to leave the mess around for anyone else to pick up) and go in search of a ladder. Heck! You’ve got clouds to climb. Markets to research, manuscripts to write. You’ve got to make it up to Cloud Nine so you can jump off again!
My point is that, in this business, there’s going to be highs and lows. And most every published author will tell you that it doesn’t stop when you get that call, or the first contract, or the tenth, or twentieth contract. Self doubt plagues all of us.
The first thing you need to do is to accept and know you’re not alone in the crazy ups and downs. Most writers experience it, live with it, deal with it, most of us even survive it. We divorce it. We usually have to keep divorcing it, because just like a bad penny, or a bad (but sexy) man, the moment we let down our guards, it sneaks its way back into our creative souls. The way we deal with it is to start enjoying the climb up the ladder as much as possible. Being on top is fun, Cloud Nine is a nice place to be, so milk it for all it’s worth. But more important is to find ways to enjoy your work—to enjoy the climb, the steps, even the baby steps. Hey, remember writing when you loved it. When it was all about the passion of getting that story on paper? Yeah, that’s where you need to be again.
To help control and divorce those doubts, try these tips.
- Seek out positive people. Negativity is like a bad stomach virus. All you need to do is be in the room with someone who has it, and you’re gonna get it. And generally, it ain’t pretty.
- Get into a competition with another writer. A healthy competition. See who can complete a proposal first.
- Allow yourself to dream, picture yourself getting the call, the contract! Or that positive review.
- Make it fun by dangling a carrot out in front of yourself. A completed chapter warrants a lunch out with a friend, or even a cup of coffee at Starbucks.
- Relieve stress by keeping your focus. Set a schedule and stick to it, you’ll not be near as hard on yourself if you are working on that goal than if you are procrastinating.
- Come up with some positive affirmations to offset the negative self-doubt stuff. Go around singing, “I’m good. I’m really good.” Sounds crazy? Of course it does. It will also sound crazy to anyone hearing you, but it does help. Besides, everyone who knows you already knows you’re a fruitcake.
- Play positive music while you write.
- Keep proof of your successes in front of you when you write—a contest certificate, a positive critique, anything that reminds you that you can do it.
- Never put all your eggs in one basket. Start a new book after the first one has been submitted.
- Laugh at yourself. Laughter really is the best medicine.
- Laugh at your mistakes. We all make them, we might as well have some fun with them.
- Remember: if we don’t learn from our mistakes, there’s no use in making them! Yeah, laughing at them is fine, but you still have to learn from them.
- Take time to play. There can be a fine line between dedicated and obsessed. Make sure you’re on the right side of the line. Skipping baths and letting fuzzy stuff grow on your teeth just because you need to finish a scene, this might mean you’re a little obsessed. But just a little, cause we’ve all done it.
- Try writing something totally different. Sometimes we just need to try a new approach or a new genre to get our creative juices flowing and to chase away those negative feelings.
- Allow yourself to feel challenged. Boredom quickly leads to failure. A quick fix to boredom is to accept a challenge, to try something new, something new encourages you to learn, to push yourself, to grow. And I don’t mean in pant sizes. Watch those calories.
- Face your fear and slap it around a little. Go ahead; admit what you’re really afraid of. Admit it, and then figure out how you will deal with it, how you’ll overcome it, how you’ll smack it around. Show fear that you are no one to be messed with.
- Try meditating. You know why all those good ideas come to us when we’re driving or in the shower? It’s because you’ve allowed your mind to rest. So give your mind a rest, even it means standing in the shower for an extra ten minutes every day.
Oh, you’ll still be doing belly flops and nosedives off a few clouds—the publishing business almost guarantees it—but hopefully you’ll be spending less time on rock bottom, and more time happily tagging clouds as you make your climb upward.
Christie Craig was born and raised in Alabama and now resides in Texas. But she still talks with an Alabama twang. Her humorous romantic suspense novels are published by Dorchester. On the shelves now: Divorced, Desperate and Delicious, Weddings Can Be Murder. Her third novel, Divorced, Desperate and Dating will be released November 25. Christie, with her non-fiction writing partner, Faye Hughes, wrote The Everything Guide to Writing a Romance Novel. To check out Christie’s website go to http://www.christie-craig.com/. To read her humorous blogs go to http://killerfictionwriters.blogspot.com/ where her blogs appear every Tuesday. You can find some more writing articles on her and Faye’s site at http://www.writewithus.net/.
We'll be giving away a copy of Divorced, Desperate and Delicious today! You know the drill.
P.S. Playground Monitor picked two winners from all the recipes yesterday. First is Claire Winston because PM loves cranberries. And second is Terry S because there’s just not a whole lot in the world better than peach cobbler. Please contact PM at firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and snail mail address. And thanks for all the terrific recipes!