This post came at a perfect time! After just spilling my guts about how I sometimes fake it as a writer, I received the post below from author and editor Sarah Nagel who I’ve been following on Twitter. It gives practical advice to overcome the self-doubt that writers and all creatives face. I’m so grateful to have her here. You’re going to gain a lot from this post.
The first time I saw my name in print, I was ridiculously excited. I yelped and called my sister over to the magazine rack to show her the quiz I had written for a teen magazine. My heart was pumping. I couldn’t stop smiling. We laughed and hugged and danced around like a couple of goofy kids, and then she snapped a photo of me holding the magazine article so we could remember the moment forever. It was a rare thrill, but my excitement quickly faded as doubts crept in. I wondered if the article was really something to be proud of in the first place. If any of my friends read it, would they secretly look down on me? Would editors at other magazines be impressed by the article if I used it as a clip? Was it any good? I’ve written many articles since then and have even worked as a full-time editor myself, and although the highs and lows aren’t always as pronounced, I continue to struggle with self-doubt and worry. Can you relate? It’s tough being a writer! Even when we achieve worthwhile milestones, we can still hear the voice of rejection ringing in our ears. But like so many things in life, it’s a learning process, and there are steps we can take to bolster our own emotional well-being and find glimmers of contentment along the way. I’ve gathered a few tips for overcoming self-doubt from a book I recently put together for Blue Mountain Arts titled How to Be Happy No Matter What! Keep these in mind for the next time you need a positive boost on your writing journey.
Free yourself from worry
Self-help author Susan Patton Thoele describes the act of worrying as “falling into the future hole.” Instead of focusing on the present moment, we analyze all the possible outcomes that may happen well into the future.
Writers are particularly guilty of this. Before we’ve even put pen to paper, we envision our name on the New York Times bestseller list and imagine the witty repartee we will exchange with Jon Stewart when he features our book on the Daily Show.
Although writers fantasize about positive outcomes, we also dwell in negative ones. The thought of facing the rejection and judgment of our peers can be completely paralyzing.
So what’s the solution? Try your best to stay out of the future hole. Focus on this one day you’ve got right here, right now. You can handle it. In fact, you can probably do something pretty fantastic while you’re at it, even if it’s just a small step.
Appreciate the simple things
Being a writer is all about process. It’s not about the celebratory party you have when you reach the summit of your career; it’s about the journey you experience along the way.
One way we can let go of anxiety and self-doubt is to focus on the simple act of writing. It’s a joy in and of itself. Writing is an act of discovery. It’s a chance to map out the way you think about something. It’s an opportunity to say something you care about.
Slowing down and appreciating the simple things — the sense of completion we feel when we build a logical argument, the satisfaction of crafting an elegant transition, and the joy of becoming immersed in the state of creative flow — can help us to continue to enjoy the writing process even as we face self-doubt.
As writers, we need to let go of what we can’t control and focus on what we can control. We can’t control how other people will react to our writing, but we can control our own mindset.
Practicing gratitude is a powerful way to lower the volume of our own self-doubts and worries. When we’re feeling discouraged, gratitude is one of the quickest, most effective pick-me-ups around.
It’s good to remember that other people have contributed to our lives in incredible ways. Just by being alive, we have all been given many beautiful, priceless gifts. When we stop and appreciate them, our writing fears shrink down to size.
Even when we remember to take these steps, our self-doubt may never disappear completely, but we’ll be more empowered to take on our writing goals with a smile.