As I watched the Olympians strive to fulfil their dreams of gold in Tokyo, I couldn’t help wondering how many of them still struggle with self-doubt.
My own problems with self-doubt are related to my fear of rejection – the curse of many writers and people who have experienced childhood trauma. And after a decade in the creative industry, I still get the jitters each time I file an article or publish a post. But there is no avoiding the fact that learning to handle rejection is one of the foundations of writing, so it’s hardly a healthy mindset to have in such a competitive field
In their article on the topic, Healthline confirms: “Rejection hurts. There’s really no way around it.”
And I must agree.
However, it is possible to manage those problems of self-doubt
I know, for example, that my own issues are not only related to my experiences as a writer. They are more ingrained – caused by the lack of self-esteem that started in my childhood.
In fact, those issues were what initially propelled me to write after the birth of my first child, when the distraction of journaling my experiences provided me with an invaluable outlet to whinge about my inadequacies as a mother.
Writing served as a therapy of sorts – a cathartic activity that kept me sane during my time in the early parenting wilderness as I sunk slowly under the weight of expectation
The benefits were three-fold. Not only had I discovered an outlet to vent, I made connections with other women – also struggling with a job everyone assumes should come naturally to us – and found a supportive group of other newbie writers.
Eventually, those whinges about motherhood turned into a non-fiction work about my difficulties – a manuscript I called “Maternally-Challenged” which was a kind of Bridget Jones parody about the anti-mother. It was ahead of its time, but sadly, once it was in the shape required for publishing, the idea had been done a million times by much better writers than me. Hence, it would be another decade – on the back of several, stressful career changes, an assortment of mental health issues, and the challenges of raising our ADHD son – before I returned to my computer and my lighthearted musings to friends back home in the UK about our new life in Australian metamorphosed into a blog.
My ramblings about Huntsman spiders, bush turkeys, and the pain caused by Bluebottle stings – that later developed into more serious gripes about the Australian mental healthcare system, women’s issues, and discrimination – had found an audience.
I began to develop my craft
It took months for me to find the courage to unleash my ramblings on the public, but the second I pushed publish on my first post,I was addicted
And in between daily life and my children growing up, I continued to write, squeezing blog posts and pitches into my Sundays evenings, enrolling in writing courses, and trying to read anything I could lay my hands on before I fell asleep at some ridiculously early hour.
And over the past decade my original manuscript has evolved into a novel, I have written the bones of two more novels and the outline of a non-fiction book about ADHD, and I have even found success writing articles for a selection of online Australian magazines.
The voice of self-doubt is never far away, but confidence does grow with experience and I am lucky that my passion for the written word and the coping mechanisms I have developed to help me deal with rejection have kept me committed.
I’ve listed them below:
- I stopped comparing my writing to other, more experienced writers. Instead, I force myself to read their writing and learn from it.
- I try not to “run before I can walk”. I see my writing career as an apprenticeship, with a necessary series of stepping stones.
- I continue to learn about my craft to improve my writing – from other writers, courses and experts.
- I put my failures into perspective. This comes with experience and a greater knowledge of the industry. But I understand now that editors reject pitches for all sorts of reasons, not necessarily because your idea is poorly-crafted. Now, each time I send an article or pitch to an editor, the voice in my head asks what’s the worst that can happen?
- I remain committed. Fortunately, I am self-disciplined by nature. Sure, I have days when I struggle to open my lap top, but I don’t beat myself up about them.
- I know my worth. After my long apprenticeship, I am better at ignoring the negative self-talk and staying focused on the road ahead.
- I am realistic in my expectations.
In his TED talk, speaker and entrepreneur, Peter Sage, recommends his 3 ways to conquer self-doubt in more simplistic terms. He says:
- Stop putting the wrong things in, i.e., negativity or toxicity from your peer group, or doom-scrolling through the media,
- Start putting the right things in, i.e., stuff that supports your greatness,
- And get out the things that shouldn’t be there, i.e, if needs be, work through the problem with a coach or therapist.
Admittedly, I’m not yet signing copies of my books at writers festivals, but each day I see progress in my writing. My “voice” is evolving, I am more succinct, and each year I tick off new writing goals. Most importantly, my approach to the craft is more professional. I see rejections as part of the process, and I can now read the writing of other writers without feeling inadequate.
I won’t lie, I still get nervous about filing articles, and requests for minor changes can trigger weeks of sleepless nights, but…
Writing is a job, and I understand the need for a level of accountability
Writing books is my true passion, and despite my Imposter Syndrome and awareness of the low success rates in traditional publication, I continue to edit my works in the hope that one day I will be a published author as well as a published writer. After all, authors such as Toni Morrison, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and even Tolkien, were published later in life.
And even though self-doubt continues to lurk like a shadow in the room, I am learning to ignore it
As my son loves to remind me, “You have to be in it to win it,” for any chance of success. And this craft is a long game. Understanding your worth as a writer is the first stepping stone to success.
How do you overcome self-doubt?