Demons of Self Doubt
Like most writers Iím chased by demons of self doubt from time to time. On the positive side, if I wasnít, I might go on churning out mediocre rubbish for ever. It probably makes me strive to get better. Some of us are geniuses, of course. You know who you are and this wonít affect you. This is for people like me, who are not.
For me, self doubt is a bit like the cobwebs in our house, which my nearest and dearest is so fond of pointing out. They build up until finally Iím forced to sweep them away, but soon the spiders creep back again. Cleaning is never a permanent solution and itís the same with self doubt about my writing. If I get something published or win a small prize, I walk on air for a short time, then things go quiet and I lose confidence again and ask myself questions about my writing.
Doubt, Iíve decided, is just something you have to live with and sort out every once in a while to keep it under control Ė like vacuuming the cobwebs before they take over the house. There are a few things I do to cheer myself up and convince myself to go on.
Firstly, I read down the list I have pinned to my office wall which tells me how long it took for ĎGone With the Windí to get noticed and how many publishers JK Rowling got through before Harry Potter was accepted Ė amongst others.
Next, I get out my Ďpublishedí file of non-fiction articles and take a long look at my name and work in print. Yes, I can do it, I tell myself. Thereís the proof. Then I scan my short story competition file where Iíve listed my humble successes and prouder moments Ė from long listed, short listed, to wins. What I donít do is add up all the entrance fees and subtract my winnings.
Another way I attack my demons is by swapping from one piece of writing to another Ė preferably from non-fiction to fiction, or vice versa. Working on whichever one you find easiest can give you your confidence back.
Better still Ė for me anyway Ė is to go away, take a short break. Try and leave it all behind, which as a writer of course is almost impossible. Have I got my notebook? I ask myself. Then I pick up a wad of files and print-outs. What if I need that? What if inspiration strikes half way across the desert? Usually, I look at none of it but take lots of pictures Ė just in case! When I return, the cobwebs are back in the house but gone is the self doubt. I feel fresh and confident and ready to write.
Being in touch with other writers, like us on Writers Abroad, and reading writing magazines and blogs all help with my confidence and makes me realise Iím not alone with my doubts. Itís good to read that even best-selling authors suffer the malady, unless youíre one of them, of course.
For me, the biggest self doubting issue is the thought of promoting a novel. How will I ever convince someone it is a riveting read? But that obstacle is in the future so for now Iíll concentrate on present demons, and worry about that when I get to it.
How do you get rid of self-doubt? Is it just a case of attacking it head on Ė get to work and write? Do a Monday Muse? Sometimes I think laziness, procrastination and self-doubt stand hand in hand. What do you think?