Monday, December 9, 2013

Writers & Insecurity

Portrait of author by @Siredodo

Dealing with insecurity and negative self-talk is generally part of the human experience, so I don’t know why we author types are especially known for having this problem. Don’t other artists struggle with the same uncertainties? Don’t musicians wonder if people will like the music they write and/or perform? Don’t painters, sculptors, photographers, weavers, knitters, cooks, actors and others have qualms about the quality of their art? Of course, they do, but it’s become a cliché for writers and authors to feel insecure. We all have an inner critic and our inner critics have a purpose (um…to help us self-assess and get even better at what we’re doing) but, that stern voice in my head telling me that I’ve got a problem with commas and semi-colons must be balanced with the confidence that I’m good enough to make it worth learning, improving and continuing.  The last thing we need is an out of control internal critic that tells us we’re no good, nobody wants to read what we write, and we might as well set aside our writing dreams to pursue interests that have nothing to do with stringing letters and words together. Seriously. I don’t need that kind of self-talk and neither do you.
I’ve seen a number of articles recently, addressing self-doubt and insecurity in authors, and I’ve been surprised at the lack of concrete coping strategies offered in those articles. At times, I’m insecure and, having little patience for it, I use the coping skills I learned in therapy and, later, as a provider in the mental health field. Let’s break the mold, shall we? Let’s show the world that writers know how to take charge of our mental health and work through insecurities to become happier and more productive! Down with crippling self-doubt! Up with insightful self-critique followed by more and better WRITING!

Towards those goals, here’s a list of tried and true strategies for coping with that pesky insecurity.

Affirmations- These babies are nifty statements that you craft for yourself. Write ‘em in the first person and make them present tense, then mutter them to yourself repeatedly to counteract your inner critic. For your reading pleasure, here are a couple of my fav’s.
“I am a good writer getting better.”
“My story is worthy of being shared.”

Reality checking- Just because you think something, doesn’t mean it’s true. If you find yourself thinking, “My essay/blog/article/story/book sucks and I’m embarrassed to have shared it” then it’s time to revisit the tweet, letter, e-mail or review you received about how much your writing touched a reader. This is the very best reason to keep a file of correspondence that includes compliments and encouragement you receive from others. Having concrete evidence that your writing doesn’t suck and is valued by others makes reality checking easier. For those of you who’ve been writing but not sharing your work, YOU NEED TO SHARE YOUR WRITING! Unless you’re really, actually and truly writing for your own eyes only and have no desire to ever let someone share what you’ve created, get thee some readers! Friends, family, beta readers, a critique group, social media pals, whoever. Readers will give you feedback, encouragement, confidence and a sense of community. Oh, and reality checking.

Thought stopping- Pretty self-explanatory. Catch yourself saying nasty things (aloud or in your head), recognize that what you’re doing isn’t productive and tell yourself to stop it. Then, get so immersed in affirmations, writing, or other (productive) thoughts and activities that your out of control inner critic gives up and goes to sleep.

Lean on a buddy- If you’re having trouble breaking through insecurity and doubt by yourself, let someone know. Allow someone to help you. Be open to support. Yes, I do this. I reach out to one or more people in my core group of family and friends, confide that I’m struggling and openly ask for a pep talk. I did this recently, while working on Magic Within and not only did I get several fabulous pep talks, but one wise friend actually helped me figure out what was at the root of my concerns (it was a plotting problem) and brainstormed solutions with me.  

Let go- Let go of worrying. Let go of wondering. Let go of trying so hard to sculpt and shape reality. Let go of imagining the future. Let go of what-ifs. Be present in this moment. Write in this moment. Trust yourself. Trust your subconscious to help you create art from words, and let go of over-thinking it.

I hope you’ll find one or more of these strategies helpful and I also hope you’ll share some of your own strategies for coping with an out of control inner critic!

May your day be wonder-filled.

Magic Within- Kindle