There’s a monster hiding under my kitchen table. He lurks there, waiting for the right moment to attack, because that’s where I park my laptop most days to write. If you’ll pardon me saying so, he’s an ugly little bastard, too.
I have quite a few names for him, most of them considered unmentionable in mixed company, but in this blog, I’ll call him by his real name … Self-Doubt.
You might think, after more than four decades of work in high-profile, demanding jobs … and winning book awards I once only dreamed about winning … that I’d have managed to kill the blasted thing by now.
But you’d be wrong.
The sneaky little devil keeps popping up. It’s why my REICHOLD STREET sequel is stuck at 49,000 words.
Self-doubt is something most writers face from the first day they start writing, and the inability to fight it prevents most would-be writers from becoming published authors.
You see, the ugly little troll doesn’t care what you accomplish. All he wants is another tasty bite out of your confidence.
He’ll tell you whatever you’ve written so far in that new manuscript is crap. He’ll whisper in your ear that you’re wasting your time … that cleaning the grout in your bathroom tile (like your wife asked you to do weeks ago) is much more important.
Sometimes he even possesses your family and friends. You’ll know when he does, because they’ll say things like, “How long are you going to put yourself though all this before you find something else to do with your time?”
He can make you believe the one negative review you received out of a batch of twenty really good ones is the only one you should listen to. And if you let him, he’ll not only slow you down, he’ll rob you of the passion you feel for writing.
So how do we slay the ugly little so-and-so, or at least keep him at bay? Below are five tips to keep self-doubt from chewing on your sanity.
Stay Out of Ruts
If you’re not feeling any passion for your writing, try spicing things up by doing something different. Try writing in a new genre, or from a different point of view. Nothing can get you out of a rut quicker than feeling challenged.
Be Aware of Peer Pressure
I preached this to my kids while they were growing up, but it’s easy to forget that the bad habits of the people we hang out with are as contagious as a stomach virus. If you’re around people who’ve lost their ability to chase their dreams, you’re at risk of becoming just like them. Be strong.
You can keep the gremlin from nagging that you don’t know what you’re doing by growing continually as a writer. Read the books of other writers, a lot of them; take classes; attend conferences; and go to those local writer-group meetings to listen to what other writers offer as advice. Then read some more.
Nothing can inspire you more than helping and encouraging another person (it’s one of the reasons I started this blog). Telling others they have to believe in themselves is a sure way to rekindle your own self-confidence.
Accept You’re Going to Fail Sometimes
I hate to tell you this … you’re going to make mistakes. We all do. And if you’re intent on following the “traditional” publishing route, you’re going to get rejections. Probably lots of them.
The sad truth is it might even take years just to accomplish securing an agent to represent you.
Those two well-known facts are part of the reason I turned to indie publishing in the first place.
I completely understood that I wasn’t going to be the first person to get a rejection, or the first to have trouble securing an agent. I knew the number of rejections you receive doesn’t matter … that you’re not defeated until you let yourself be.
Just Do It!
But I was already retired from a regular career … and a long way from a spring chicken. The main thought that kept running through my mind was:
How much time to do this do I really have?
I wanted my work published and available and didn’t want to wait. So, I took that leap of faith. I self-published … and got lucky. Two of my first three books, REICHOLD STREET and ZEBULON, were award-winners.
Is the self-doubt monster gone for me now? No. I don’t suppose it ever will be, and there’s only one thing I can really say about the whole business with any certainty.
Writing isn’t for wimps.