It slinks in under your skin when you're otherwise preoccupied. Sometimes it lurks there, just below the surface, waiting for the right time to begin the slow torture. And sometimes it consumes you, flesh and bone, before you are even aware of it's existence.
It gnaws at your confidence and shoves a wedge between your will and your dreams. You question your goals and skills. It wraps it's tentacles around your heart, squeezing until all your desire and passion are bled out.
It could be called many things. Parasite. Virus. Monster. Demon. But it often goes by the name "Self-Doubt."
Everyone has encountered the beast while writing. No one is immune.
I'm usually a positive person, but I recently had a knock-down, drag-out fight with the said beastie, Self-Doubt. Sure, as writers, we face self-doubt as often as we write, but this was a full blown war.
I recently had a R&R (revise and resubmit) out with an agent, but not just any agent. My DREAM agent. My hubs, extended family, and friends were excited for me. Inevitably I received the email. Though she loved my writing, my voice, the plot still needed work and she passed.
Naturally, I was upset. Okay, so I was devastated. Humiliated. Embarrassed. It wasn't the agent's fault. It was mine. The next day, I knew it was time to move on. I pulled up my "big girl" panties and turned my focus to my new WIP. I let my CP read my first chapter and rewrote it. I edited and tweaked that first chapter more, continuously reading the other 40 pages I'd already written. Then I froze.
I was paralyzed.
I didn't know where I was taking the story and I was unsure of my characters. I questioned my dialogue. Self-Doubt, masked as a virus, was spreading quickly. I questioned the very premise. I questioned my craft, my skills, my abilities. I kept finding excuses to not write, to not even think about my story.
And one day it hit me. I was scared. My hubs said he thought I was scared of succeeding. I corrected him. I was scared of failing. Again. While everyone watched. I questioned myself as a writer and seriously thought about quitting. At least for a while.
That demon, Self-Doubt, had a leash around my neck and was dragging me lower and lower.
But my damn characters wouldn't let me stop thinking about them. They kept nagging me. And so did my husband.* And when I finally told my critique partner about my problem, the worse-than-writers-block block - Self-Doubt-Block - she talked me off the ledge. She wasn't about to let me give up and she gave the pep talks of all pep talks, basically spanning over two days.*
I, like many of you, have received my fair share of rejections, but this one hurt more than I was willing to admit. That's when Self-Doubt found it's way to me, disguised as embarrassment and excuses. It was strangling my creativity and crushing my heart. But I declared war on that prick, Self-Doubt, and right now I'm winning.
Battling Self-Doubt is different for everyone but this is how I'm defeating the monster:
1. Stay positive. Find the positive in everything. She loved my writing! I was close!
2. Don't stop writing. If you're stuck, try something new or read a craft book.
3. Confide in someone. It's okay to ask for help or admit a struggle.
4. Stay grounded. Don't put all your eggs in a basket and don't get your hopes too high. I'm not saying to not strive to reach your goals/dreams, but keep your excitement in check. This is a tough biz that calls for tough skin.
And, possibly the most important.
5. REMEMBER WHY YOU WRITE!!! I write because my characters HAVE to have their stories told. I write stories/characters I'd want to read. I write so maybe someday someone will not only enjoy my story but will "get" something from it. It lets me be someone else, live in other worlds. It makes me feel ALIVE!
Right now the monster is in hiding. It's always there though. Watching. Waiting.
Do you have encounters with Self-Doubt on a regular basis or during/after major events? How do you fight Self-Doubt as a writer?
*I'll never be able to thank my biggest supporters, my husband and Lynne Matson, my critique partner and friend, enough.