Don't let self-doubt stop you from achieving your goals

Don’t doubt yourself so much that you cripple yourself as a writer.  This just happened to me.

As most of you know, I am a member of Prose & Cons, a multi-author blog with extremely talented and successful authors…  except me.  The harsh reality is…  I am no one’s favorite author… yet.  I don’t have my books out in the world… yet.  I don’t have an agent… yet.  Although I am waiting to hear about representation.

Monday is my day to post on Prose & Cons.  And it’s a holiday so everyone and their mother will be home and probably tune in.  Ugh!  I didn’t want to go first because I wanted to see what the others were posting before I crafted mine.

Well, let me tell you… with each passing day I read the posts– and my anxiety grew and grew and grew.  How can I possibly compete with these authors? I thought.  Some of these authors are NY Times best sellers!

I wrote something quick, an introduction of who I am and what inspires me, and sent it to the blog’s owner/ creator.  I asked what he thought of it, and then waited.  When I finally received his email my heart sank.  He hated it!  Of course, he didn’t use those words.  I was devastated, but I knew he was right.  He is an extremely nice man, don’t get me wrong, and he WAS sincerely trying to help me.  But…  he ripped apart my writing like an agent would do to a manuscript.  He explained to me that this is what happens once you get “the call” and start working with a literary agency.  It’s a double-edged sword.  On one hand, it helps you grow as a writer.  On the other, no one likes anyone (no matter who they are) tearing apart their hard work.  However, it will only make you stronger as an author.  It was this last thought I hung on to like a buoy in the middle of a choppy ocean surrounded by sharks, and now, I was expected to swim ashore!  He did add that it’s always harder to write about yourself, unless you’re Stephen King or have a huge platform.  Neither of which applied to me.

I cried myself to sleep that night– overwhelmed– then dragged myself out of bed the next morning and, although still a bit down, shook off the negativity.  All Peter wanted was for me to “show” people who I am through my writing, instead of “telling” them.  “Let your work speak for who you are; let them fall in love with you; let them see that you can write.”   No big deal, right?  Wrong!

I had nothing.  No ideas.  A blank screen.  My fears had paralyzed my creativity.

Then a small idea started to flicker in the back of my mind.  “Write a short story about a scrawny, scruffy dog who wants to run with the purebreds.”  While driving I began to write the story in my mind.  However, once home I realized, “I’m not a children’s author!  I’m a crime writer!  Why would I write about a dog?”

I think if I psychoanalyzed why I’d chosen the dog story, I’d have to say I fell back on a comfortable, familiar writing style.  When I first started writing I wrote children stories.  Years ago, like twenty-plus.  (Don’t try to guess my age now.)  So when confronted with a challenge I went to a place that was safe.  This was the worst thing I could’ve done to myself.  Why?  Because if we never challenge ourselves, how can we grow?  If we never do something that makes us uncomfortable, how can we improve?  How can we ever achieve our goals?

I’m happy to say that after a lot of self-doubt a premise revealed itself to me.

A good premise writes itself, a bad premise suffocates your literary juices.

I wrote the short story on Friday.  I wrote it in two hours, so I knew it was the right story.  I took all day Saturday, went nice and slow, and picked it apart.  I added to it, enhance it, chose better words, and all the things a good writer should do; all the things I would do while editing my novel.

Last night I read my story to my husband– and he was blown away!  Yes, he is my husband and my loudest cheerleader, but he’s also a valuable tool for me.  He’ll tell me when something feels off or when a plot point isn’t plausible.  As a matter of fact, he’s almost too critical because I need him to be, and he wants me to become the best writer I can be.  (Yes, I’m ending that sentence with a preposition.  You got a problem with that? :))

For those of you who aren’t following Prose & Cons I will repost my story here on Monday.  I will add one caveat… you really should follow Prose & Cons.  I promise you, you will see amazing prose.  Prose that will inspire you to reach higher; push you to work harder; words that are strung together so beautifully you can only learn from these amazing authors.

Now that I’ve told you this story I feel my nerves jumping again, so please be kind.  Constructive criticism is always welcome, as long as you word it nicely.

Has anything like this ever happened to you (regardless of profession)?

8 Comments

  1. I recently received an assessment of my latest novel from my editor. I know her comments are valid and she did encourage me but I want to turn my back on my manuscript and take up knitting but then a part of me tells me to stick with it. I love my characters and I feel I would be letting them down if I walk away from them.

    • Oh, Gina, that hurts. Been there. *hugs* Sometimes I wonder: Am I good enough? Will I make it? Why did I ever get involved with this crazy business? But then I realize that I’ve just hit a bump in the road, I fell, but I will get up, brush myself off, and learn from it. Because I have to write, as I suspect you do too. It’s in our blood, pumping through our veins. It’s who we are… Writers. It’s okay to feel bad for a short while, I even recommend it to help heal the sting, but you will sit down and take the advice that resonates with you. And you know how I know that? Because you’re a writer. That’s what we do. We write. I have total faith in you, Gina!

  2. In my crime novel my detective is going to overcome his fear of commitment by adopting a greyhound from the dog track (okay, so it’s not a romantic encounter, but hey, it’s a start)…who says crime writers can’t write about dogs?

  3. [ Smiles ] Self-doubt is your worst enemy.

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