Saturday, November 08, 2008

Divorcing Doubt

Today I decided to post a blog I wrote as a guest blog for: http://www.writingplayground.blogspot.com/. It's a great site, so pop over there and check it out. While my subject is about writing, the message can be applied to everyday life. And tomorrow, I've invited another writer, Keri Ford, who will post her thoughts on overcoming doubt in her writing career. So . . . I hope you all will enjoy these two posts. Drop a comment on these two posts and I'll include your name to next week's prize drawing.

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Why am I trying to write? 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. How many rejections does it take for the message to sink in?

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? Self doubt can sting.

Have you ever dealt with it? 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 must realize that self doubt plagues most of us. It’s especially true for us wacky people who call ourselves writers. Yup, we’re prone to be a bit manic depressive. I don’t mean for you to run off to the doctor and sign up for meds. What I’m saying is that that most of us 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 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, as there is with most things, 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.

You need to accept and know you’re not alone in the crazy ups and downs. Most of us 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 doubts, I offer these tips: (Most are writing related, but the majority of them can be applied to any situation.)

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—life and 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 onward and upward to make your dreams come true.

So any of you want to share about your own doubts? Come on. You can do it.

CC

11 comments:

Keri Ford said...

Great post, Christie. Everytime I cook something, I get slapped with a load of doubt. I taste EVERTHING to make sure.

Refhater said...

There isn't a day that goes by that I don't doubt myself in someway, shape, or form. But I've been working on only worrying about the the things I can control. The hardest part is letting go of the little things. Those little things will peck you to death like a duck.

I always try to find one good thing about every day. Even if I have to make that good thing up. (For example A good thing could be that I didn't drop my tooth brush in the toilet this morning.) That way I always have that good thing to focus on instead of those self doubts.

Terry S said...

This was a great blog when I first read it at Writers Playground. Thanks for the opportunity to revisit it.

Estella said...

I also read this at Writers Playground.
It is still an excellent post.

Donnell said...

Christie, great insights. Thanks for reinforcing that there's not one of us who doesn't experience down; what's more your suggestions that help us divorce it. Well done!

Christie Craig said...

Keri,

Hmm...Cooking doubts, huh?

Most of the time I really like to cook.

Not that I haven't cooked up some doozies a time or two.

Thanks for posting.

CC

Christie Craig said...

rehater,

You are so right. Sometimes the things we choose to obsess over are the craziest things.

I guess you could say we that duck starts pecking, we have to learn to quack back.

CC

Christie Craig said...

Terry s.,

Thanks! Sometimes I'm amazing at how many people have read my guest blogs other places.

I personally think we need to be reminded about kicking doubt out of our of lives about . . . twice a day. And that's good days and not bad hair days.

Thanks for stopping in.

CC

It can

Christie Craig said...

Estella,

Thanks! I think I remember seeing your name over there.

It always good to run into friends in different places.

So keep on surfing and saying hi!

CC

Christie Craig said...

Donnell,

Thank you so much.

I think we all need to remind each other that being good humans is a work in progress. We constantly have to keep working on being our best. And that goes for everything in life, trying to be a good mom, a good cook, a good wife, a good lover, and a good writer.

Thnaks so much for visiting.

CC

Liz said...

Ah, rejection. That stinks. To think someone didn't like something we poured our heart and soul into. In surfing, I came across a web site that understands that. Author Mary Patrick Kavanaugh got rejected one too many times trying to get "Family Plots" published, so she created a web site in which to have a funeral for it. Surely other writers will understand! Give it a look, if you've ever had your work rejected.