Saturday, October 16, 2010

Combating Self-doubt

This month I’m writing about self doubt, something I know we all struggle with from time to time, but for me, I get this feeling more frequently than you can imagine. If you know me personally, then you’re laughing at my comment because I appear to be the most confident person on the face of the earth. But the truth is, sometimes I’m not feeling what I portray.

There’s no question it’s a very human emotion, but what it does to us internally is another story. It’s times like these that you think you’re the only one. Well, trust me, you’re not.

I’ve been writing for six years. I was one of those lucky authors you love to hate because my very first finished manuscript was purchased by the very first publisher I’d submitted to. Yeah, I know what you’re saying. This writer must be hot stuff. But let me tell you about the after effects.

While my confidence was soaring, I was on top of the world. And then I came crashing down like a torpedo plummeting into the water missing its target when I received the first rejection after the purchase. I thought for sure my next submission would be welcomed with open arms. It wasn’t. It was rejected three times. But what I did afterward was something I’ve promised myself I’ll never do again. I stopped submitting. Yup, that’s exactly what I did. That old self-doubt just took up residence in my body and it wouldn’t let go.

The good news is I didn’t stop writing, and now, I have four manuscripts I’m flooding the market with, one having been sold two days ago!

When I told our children about my sale, they were all very excited for me. One son said, The only difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is extraordinary determination."

Another promise I’ve made to myself is whenever those self-doubts infringe upon me, I will try to focus more on the positive things I have accomplished. I recently read an article on self-doubt by Alexandra Levit, a columnist for the NY Times. Here are some of the things she's suggested when you're trying to beat self-doubt:

Event Journal: I’m a list maker by nature, but this is something that really works. I take a piece of paper and draw a line down the center and keep track of all the things that went well, no matter how menial I think they are. It could be something as simple as a telephone conversation with a friend, had a good meeting, or I wrote a great paragraph in my current story. The good things go in the left column, and the difficult things go on the right column.

If you do this, at the end of the day, you will no doubt notice that the list of things that went well far outweigh the list of things that didn’t. Are you seeing yourself in a different light now? Hmm, I thought so.

Call on the Cheerleader Angels: My hubby is the head cheerleader in my family. And thank God for that. He knows me well enough to sense when I’m feeling insecure. He’ll sit me down and just start chatting about his day, ask about mine, give me positive feedback even if I’m not jumping up and down. And that’s when he reminds me of all the good things I’ve done. Fortunately, he’s not the only Angel in my life. I have lots of other cheerleader angels too, and I’m thankful for each one of them.

Celebrate your successes: I celebrate every success – for as long as the excitement remains. I think it’s important to reward yourself for a job well done. When I sold Cupid’s Web, I went out and purchased a Dooney and Bourke handbag. Now that I’m not working out of the house, I don’t need as many handbags, but I’ve always had a fetish for them. This purchase is a reminder of what I accomplished, and every time I look at it, I smile—even when I’m down.

Hmm, so what should I buy to celebrate my recent sale? Gucci? Vera Wang?


Dawn Marie Hamilton said...

Insightful post, Carolyn. Congrats on your recent sale. :)

Emma Leigh said...

Excellent post, Carolyn. I struggle with self-doubt a lot. It doesn't deter me from writing, but it does at times hinder it. Glad to know we are not alone in feeling that.

Mona Risk said...

What a great post Carolyn. I am copying your son's advice and taping it next to my computer: determination. Your post is coming at the right time as I am hitting a low-time in self-confidence after a rejection of my first paranormal.

CONGRATULATIONS on your sale of Kiss me and Shut up. I love your humoristic style.

Ana Morgan said...

Honest posts like this are so inspiring, Carolyn. The funk-boat is a lonely place until we realize we're tied to the dock and there's a band playing on the shore.

Terry Spear/Terry Lee Wilde said...

Great post, Carolyn!! I have an agent request and I'm struggling to rewrite a mss and all the self doubt creeps in as usual. But I keep reminding myself that everyone has a different opinion and all it takes it one to love what we do. Congrats on another sale!

Owldreamer said...

I agree.i have noticed some days I am full of confidence that I can write,I tell a good story,I can and will be published. I know other people will like my story,want to read more of my work.Then a black cloud descends and I can't write a sentence that works.My characters turn their backs on me and won't say a word.Why? Because I have no real support system in the flesh.I have a lot of support from fellow writer's but no one to give me a hug,tell me I can do this and boost my confidence. So I pour out my self doubt and frustration to my writing buddies in RWA,FTHRW and they always come through.yes I celebrate when I write a great scene.I buy a new book,download a new song or buy a fast food treat.hey we take our small successes seriously until the ultimate success comes along.

Jill James said...

Carolyn, can't advise on the handbag, I'm so not a fashionista. Whichever one makes you feel pretty. LOL

I don't suffer from self-doubt until I read others writing. Then it is like, what was I thinking? Did I think I could write?

But, this business is subjective and I have to remind myself, all writing is different. Some want sweet, some want hot. Some want character-driven and some want plot-driven. There is a story out there for everyone. Mine will be just what someone is looking for. :)

Carolyn Hughey said...

Thank you for the wonderful comments. I hesitated before I wrote this, asking myself if this was something I wanted others to know about me, and decided, yes, it definitely was because we all suffer from the same thing at one time or another. We're all in this boat together, and if it makes others feel better knowing someone else suffers from the same affliction, then it should be shared.

It feels wonderful to be back in the game.

We're a strong bunch of writers who are always ready to hold your hand. Let's try not to let someone's subjective opinion destroy our confidence.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

I think you've hit my nail on the head. I am lucky you are one of my angels and lately I needed those hugs of confidence. Seems I have lifted myself out of the self-pity and back on track as of today. I gave myself permission to fail every now and then as long as I come back stronger. I had to face a couple of life and death situations and know I can accomplish anything as long as I have my friends (and writer friends are the very best kind to have - believe me, they've saved my soul a number of times), my family and not give into doubt. If I can drive LA traffic, believe me, I can do anything!! I missed writing the week or so that I gave my muse a rest and am so glad to be back.

Bob is right - you are terrific and I should know!!!!

Carolyn Hughey said...

I'm glad you're out of 'funk city', Marlene, it's no fun being out there but everyone needs a break in the action sometime, something we all have to do once in a while. I'm sure your week's breather brought you back with more inspiration and even greater ideas.

Thanks for the kudos. :-)

Anonymous said...

Great post. Can’t wait to read the next ones :)