5 Thoughts That Cripple A Writer

5 Thoughts That Cripple A Writer: So Stop Thinking Them!

(Then teach me how to do the same.)

(Yes. Really.)

(And afterwards, write a more inspiring blog post than this.)

  1. I probably have blinders on, and my writing actually sucks. This one is simple. It’s the, “maybe I stink but can’t smell myself” issue. The solution is to get readers and feedback, yet that’s harder said than done, and I’m not always sure I believe my readers, especially those who are also friends. I have not done a great job of selecting beta readers or CPs in the past, which really concerns and further deters me when it comes to trying to find new ones. 
  2. It doesn’t matter if anyone else reads my work. I could just write for myself. Right? Definitely! Only not, because everyone needs feedback if they want to improve (and I do). Also, deep down inside, I don’t want to only write for myself. I mean, I can and will do that, especially if there’s no other option, but that’s really only what I say to myself to justify a failure to put myself out there. 
  3. I made all these awesome writing friends, and now I’m too afraid to ask for help. Because I’m afraid they’ll hate my writing and they’ll never want to read for me again, which burns a bridge (potentially forever). PLUS: I read all their awesome work and admire them so much that I feel I don’t compare. Then I worry they’ll find out I don’t belong in their cool kid’s club, so even though I have a pool of helpful people at my fingertips, I share nothing with them. Ever. 
  4. What if it’s never good enough? There’s definite merit in the idea of never giving up, working towards your goals and dreams, and improving your craft. I think everyone can improve and grow as a writer. I’ve seen myself do just that all year long. However, while I think everyone can and should reach for dreams, I don’t believe everyone has what it takes to make it to the top. Call me a realist. Call me cynical. I’m not saying I’m giving up or that I don’t believe in my ability to get there one day. I do worry that I could chase the dream forever and never arrive. The part I haven’t reconciled is whether or not that is okay with me. Right now it is, but time changes things. 
  5. There are so many other writers out there today. How can I possibly compete? Realistically, I don’t even want to compete. I want them to do their thing, and I’ll do mine. However, the truth of the matter is that people can only read so many novels. There’s already thousands (maybe millions?) of novels available in any given category or genre. What makes me think I have something to say that’s so different from what the people who came before me said? OR (even worse) maybe I do have something different to say, but nobody else really wants to hear it. If I try harder to bring out what’s different about me as a writer or thinker, does that only make it seem like I’m trying too hard? 
Here’s the part of the blog post where a writer should bring everything back around to a main point, tie up loose ends, and wrap their blog post up with some enlightening, inspiring advice that convinces people to prevail over these five crippling thoughts.

 Currently, I’m not prevailing over these five crippling thoughts.

 In fact, I believe they become worse with every novel I write, despite the fact that I feel my writing improves with each novel (please start again at #1), which means it would be hypocritical of me to try to tell the rest of you what to do to fight down these difficult thoughts. 

Instead, I’ll say that if you’ve ever felt these things, then you’re not alone. Many people will give you unwanted advice for how to handle these thoughts (just get over it, be brave, put yourself out there, cliché after cliché after cliché, etc.), but that’s not my goal today. I believe what you do with these thoughts and how you wield them to either your benefit or detriment is entirely up to you. As with everything in writing (and humanity), there is no one way to reach an end goal.

8 Defensive Poses For Wielding A Sword

Some of you might shrug them off. Others will beat them down. There are those who will drown inside them, and there are others who will use those seemingly “negative” thoughts to force themselves to rise up and be stronger. Whatever way you go, I hope that in the end you do it your way and are happy with your choices and outcomes. 

I may be currently crippled by doubts and fears, but I have to remind myself that I also wrote the better part of 5 novels in only a year. In the thirty-two years prior, I didn’t believe I could write a novel, despite my constant desire to do just that. So you can say I’m not positive enough, that I’m being way too hard on myself, and that I’m crippling myself with doubt. Perhaps those are all true. However, I did face down the monster of self-doubt to write my first novel in this past year, and then I had the determination and courage to follow it up with four more. 

Novel five might be sitting there, unread by all, but who’s to say that’s a permanent state of affairs? Maybe all I need is a chance to breathe and work through the angst, because I’ve found that powering forward despite the fears and doubts does nothing to actually help or ease those fears and doubts. Overpowering them does not resolve anything, and each time they come back stronger. 

This time, I’m trying a new approach. Instead of fighting them, I’m going to attempt to learn to deal with them. Right here. Right now. Because I’m not going to quit writing. This approach definitely goes against my rush forward nature, but I feel I need to manage the thoughts, before they start to manage me. Permanently. And while I sincerely appreciate the encouragement of the writing world around me, a bunch of clichés and idioms simply aren’t my cup of tea. I’m partial to English Breakfast. 
For those of you who prefer encouraging insights and advice, I don’t want you to leave completely empty handed after visiting my blog, so here’s a semi-inspirational quote that I can stomach on your behalf. Mostly due to Yoda. Perhaps if we put all those immediate reaction statements that people say carelessly (and repeatedly) on Yoda, I’d swallow them all better. Or maybe not, but at least they’d be cute. 

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Where Writing Begins And Why It Ends

Nephews are the bomb! Check out what my sister sent. I told her he might turn out just like me, and I think she almost died of a heart attack: 

“I drew some cars. Ian said they needed to be race cars. He drew some fire coming out of their tail pipes to speed them up. Suddenly, one car caught fire. The other car turned into a fire truck and an elephant showed up to help put out the fire. A helicopter is also on the way now. Didn’t see that coming!”

This is where writing begins, which leaves me wondering
about the twenty-seven year gap that grew between my initial desire to write and tell stories and the time at which I let myself write. Yes, I said let myself write, because I wanted to write a novel for many, many years before I actually sat down and typed my first words. There were so many things that held me back, and I wish I could rewind now and start sooner. I can only imagine what I would have learned, in the last ten years alone, that would have helped me be a much stronger writer today. 

The most peculiar part is that my delay was largely self-inflicted. I’ve floated through degrees and career paths. Every single step of the way, I always asked myself: What’s next? What do you really want to do with your life? Every single time, I answered, “I want to write.” Then I quickly shoved that idea down as being ridiculous and irrational, and I dug around for something that might work out as second best. Yet, no matter how many times I squashed that relentless urge, it always spoke first. It filtered through my mind at every turning point, and I would toy with the idea for only a brief moment before shrugging it off as unreasonable. 

I told only a few family members and friends that one day I wanted to write a novel, just to see how they would react, and gasp! They all said, “Do it!” Then I promptly ignored them, because clearly they were also being ridiculous. I couldn’t figure out why nobody would be reasonable or rational. Nobody would shoot down my dream. Nobody would push me to do something “normal.” Nobody laughed. Nobody acted like I was a fool. Nobody said anything snarky, and they didn’t need to. I did all those things myself. 
I’ve always loved that quote, but I never took the time to stop and think who was doing the hating. I always assumed it would be someone outside of myself, which is how I became my own worst enemy. It’s how filling journals with writing and poetry in college turned into having an enormous crate full of empty journals as I entered adulthood. 

This would be a much better blog post if I could point the finger at my schools, which never taught or encouraged creative writing. It would be better if I pointed it at my friends and family who laughed at me or mocked my deepest, darkest desires about writing, and it would be best of all if I could cite an instance where someone brutally and horrifically criticized my writing and stunted my confidence in my abilities to grow as a writer. 

None of that happened. Okay, that’s a lie. Some of those things happened, but they didn’t stop me. It was always less about the outside influences and more about the inside influences for me. The real reason writing stopped, was because I stopped it. I couldn’t believe in myself or the power and joy behind doing something I truly loved, even if I might never be great at it. As a musician, I understood the logic behind practice makes better, but I didn’t realize writers had to practice too. I thought maybe they had some kind of internal magic that I didn’t possess. I thought I needed to stop dreaming, when really, I only needed to start writing. 

It took a very long time to jump my own hurdle, but now, I’ll never turn back. I’m moving forward, and I’m going to write, even if it’s just for me. I’m going to write my daydreams. I’m going to write what inspires me. I’m going to write what crushes me and rips my heart to bloody, tattered shreds. I’m going to write stuff I hate. I’m going to write stuff you hate, and you know what? My writing isn’t going to hurt anyone, but me not writing? That does hurt someone. It hurts me, because I refuse to hate myself for what I am or to love myself for what I am not. 
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To Doubt Or Not To Doubt

Update: Check out all the Pitch Wars teams here: http://www.brenda-drake.com/2013/12/pitch-wars-mentors-picks/  Go TeamBWords (Team Jessie)!!!

Hello Bloglings! Tonight I’m addressing the persistent issues of doubt and self doubt that have been invading our minds, hearts, and Twitter feeds this past week. By no means do  I know the Universe’s answers for dealing with these issues. No, wait! Don’t click away! I need you here with me! Please don’t go yet! (note to self: next blog post should address emotional neediness in writers). However, despite my uncertainty, I’ve prepared
a journey through doubt that I hope will help us all contemplate this often dark, complex, and twisty emotion.  

Please note: Those who do have all the answers (congrats!) are welcome to post in a blog comments section. Simply seek out the blog of a steadfast narcissist and post away to your heart’s content!

Before we get too deep into this discussion of doubt, my inner-librarian wants to ensure we all have a good, solid understanding of what doubt really is, so I did some checking. Surprise! I didn’t have a great understanding of what doubt really was. I wanted to shrug it off as a very simple emotion that people can feel and then quickly suppress, like: touch my coffee or chocolate and you die OR good lord, you are the stupidest person on the planet.

Alas, dear bloglings, it is not quite that simple. Check this out, and don’t let the part about “delaying or rejecting relevant action” or “unable to assent to either” strike any fear into your beautifully angsty hearts. 

Fine. I admit it. Those struck fear into my heart. Join me?

Doubt, a status between belief and disbelief, involves uncertainty or distrust or lack of sureness of an alleged fact, an action, a motive, or a decision.

Ah, distrust… Yes, I’m very adept at that.

Doubt brings into question some notion of a perceived “reality“, and may involve delaying or rejecting relevant action out of concerns for mistakes or faults or appropriateness.

Yes, it did just suggest that I brought the doubt on myself by not acting, due to

fear! Gasp! Wikipedia, how can you blame me for this? I thought I was an innocent victim. . .

Some definitions of doubt emphasize the state in which the mind remains suspended between two contradictory propositions and unable to assent to either of them

I’m not even going to address this one. I took adolescent psych ten years ago, and I’ve had secret, internal fears about minds being suspended ever since. I included it though, so you could all be appropriately terrorized.

Now let’s examine the history of doubt and people’s perceptions of it: 

Yes, that would have been a very disappointing find had I wanted to argue for persistence in the face of doubt, but I really don’t . . .or do I? Some have argued that Franklin was blessed with very little self-doubt, but I don’t believe that either. The very nature of his experiments suggest otherwise, but I do believe he knew when to trust his intuition, which helped him relieve feelings of doubt and persist where others hadn’t, didn’t, or couldn’t.

What do you do, then, if you’re not sure you can trust your own intuition?

Remember that brilliant, quirky guy you dated who had more issues than National Geographic and ripped your heart to bloody shreds? No? What about that time you thought you should call him back after you had just one more drink? What? You don’t remember? Oh, wait, that was me…

Thank you for that wisdom above, but it really came a decade too late to help me.

Here’s why:

Ah, yes. False hope is the worst. Many people seem to learn this lesson in the hardest of ways, which leaves us asking ourselves: am I just lying to myself again? If so, how long will I continue to deceive myself this time? How long am I willing to hold on, just in case?

Now, I know all the dreamers are internally screaming, “Forever! You have to hold on forever!” but when people struggle in personal relationships or with a job that that has gone downhill over time, everyone shouts the complete opposite.

“Get out now! Suck it up! Move on to something better!” In fact, we frequently encourage people to remove themselves from bad situations, so that they can better protect themselves.

Honestly, those are double standards that have always  confused and bewildered me. How do I know when to fight off my doubt and when to give in to it and walk away?

Clearly, I don’t, and I think that is why this next one is so scary: 

I’m afraid. Yeah, I said it. I’m afraid that I’ll end up being a stupid person, putting too much faith and hope into something that really isn’t good enough.

Last night, I started to read a sample from an Indie book that was published on Amazon by a local woman. Desperate as I was to love it and be proud of a fellow writer in my area, I ended up hating it to the very depths of my soul. The novel was so horribly written, I wanted to poke out my own eyeballs. I was barely able to skim through the first chapter without wanting to scream, and I teach middle school. You should see the kind of work they turn in. 

In one, exceedingly long 12 sentence info dump of a paragraph, full of passive voice, there were nineteen grammatical errors (No, people. I’m not perfect. I make tons of mistake. I have to edit constantly. I know my writing needs to be stronger), but I also didn’t send my baby out into the world, under-prepared for a harsh reality. 

I sat in my chair, after surviving chapter one, and I felt completely and utterly miserable.  How did this poor woman not know? Why did those 9 family members and friends who gave her 5 star reviews not tell her the truth, even just a little bit of truth? Why would they set her up for complete embarrassment and failure? Why didn’t they encourage her to improve her writing first and worry about publishing later?

….and then the worst of all questions came:

What if I’m just like her, and I can’t see it?

What if my writing is incredibly awful, and I’m completely blind to it, like those poor schmucks on American Idol who actually think they can sing? 

This week, we have all angsted together over the excitement that is Pitch Wars. I’ve been full of doubt and sure of nothing except how many horrible mistakes I made (ack!). That being said, I’m excited for any feedback that comes with any of the rejections, because:

Now, I know this is a subjective industry, but sometimes, it’s so much easier to hear what you’re actually doing wrong, than to have one more person say:

  • Everything looks great! (Clearly, it doesn’t, if even I feel it could be improved).

  • It’s not you, it’s me.  (Sure, but let’s call it like it really is. It’s also me…)

  • Keep trying! (Wait! Do you mean on this novel or write something new?)

Now, if any of you actually had the energy to read this far (drop me a line if you did!), here’s what my head says to me on my worst days:

What if I do believe in myself, and it turns out that I’m just wrong? What if I’m fooling myself about who I really am and what I might be capable of?

Then again, what if I’m not?

At the end of the day, I only really know one thing.  If I don’t feel like this about my novel (any of them) on a regular basis, then I’m doing something wrong. Then, it’s time to take a big step back and reevaluate:

When this feeling goes away, that’s when I will have no more doubts. That’s the day I’ll be absolutely sure that I need to step away, set it aside, and start over with something new.  I hope I never see that day, but if I do, at least it will be some kind of answer to my doubts.

Until then, let the angsting continue, within moderation, of course.

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