Sunday, November 7, 2010

self doubt sober...

The other day a writery friend said she'd been feeling 'rubbish as a writer' (paraphrased for my younger readers). She is a published author of a fantastic picture book and has more books coming out. She is skilled and imaginative and clever with her writing.

If you are serious about writing it is likely you have experienced doubt about your skills at some point. Someone once said that feeling doubtful about your abilities or the product of your writing was a good sign. They suggested that a good writer will question what they have written, and that those who never ask if their writing could be better are the ones who probably need to question it the most. I suspect this is only true to a certain extent. The supremely confident are not always self-deluded. There are always exceptions to rules and thank goodness there are. If there weren't exceptions to rules I doubt there would be any life forms on this planet, let alone humans. Anyway, I digress, where was I....oh that's right...self-doubt. So there will be a lucky few good/successful writers out there who feel perpetually confident. The rest of us, (far and away the majority I'm sure) have those moments, moments that sometimes stretch out to horrible days, weeks or maybe months, where we feel unhappy with what we have written, where no amount of mental massaging makes the sequence of words any more appealing in our eyes, where we are sure we will never get published/be published again. Or someone reads your most beloved, precious manuscript and says, "well, yes, that was...interesting," (as happened to me the other day) and your heart sinks. We read or re-read our favourite books by the most fabulous authors (hers was Suzanne Collins. I go for Neil Gaiman, Ian Rankin, or JK Rowling or Meg Rosoff or Lauren Child, or the guy who writes the Olivia books or...oh God I'm depressed) and say 'look how good this is, I'll never be able to write this well'. We take to our beds, pull the covers over our heads cos then we're invisible, experience a sharp decline and mutter about never writing again.

So, what to do when self-doubt strikes? First a piece of chocolate. Then, pat yourself on the back a bit and say soothingly, "thank goodness, I'm normal." Then hide all the books by all your favourite authors in a room that you can lock. Hand the key to someone trustworthy and tell them not to give it back until you are no longer 'self-doubt sober'. As soon as you are drunk on confidence the keys can be handed back and you can read anything you like.

But seriously? There is no cure. Self-doubt happens. But remember self-doubt also passes. Remember it is good to question what you have written. It is good to ask, "can I make this better?" It is good to push yourself to work harder and improve what you have written. When you are feeling in the grips of self-doubt step away from the best writers. Go look at the book that always reminds you you can write better then that. Go look at the piece of your own writing you've always liked best. The one that makes you smile, the one that made you think, yes I can write, the one that makes you choke up because the emotions are so convincing. And when your confidence is restored get out a book by your favourite writer and remind yourself what it is your aiming for. Go write people. You can do it!

3 comments:

maureen said...

Thanks for that....
You must be psykik....lol or the vibes from here are really strong...off to find chocolate.
m
xxxx

Chris said...

Great advice..... so true, I'm glad to know other writers suffer like this too! Thanks :)

Imogen said...

This is one of those issues where everyone feels desperately alone when it strikes, and it is so reassuring to be reminded that every creative person gets these attacks of self-doubt. It's a lurgy, but there's no lemsip for it. Your recipe for a treatment sounds about right to me, though!