Alternately titled: ELISA LEARNED A THING.
You have no idea how badly I’ve been waiting for a good moment to use that gif. Also I realized my Tumblr gifs totally work on this blog. You will now be bombarded with them because that’s how I roll.
Ahem. So yeah, I learned how to deal with my self-doubt with writing. Finally.
Anyone that’s talked to me knows that I’m a giant ball of nerves, constantly trapped in a glass case of emotion. Mainly a glass case of self-doubt. With a whispering voice that says “you know you’re a hack.” It’s not pleasant.
This secret isn’t exactly hidden. If you’re like me, it’s right in front of you. No biggie right? Except there’s a giant, seemingly impassable wall of voices telling you it’s impossible to move forward. If you don’t have the same, crippling anxiety and self-hate, this doesn’t really apply to you. Especially if there’s legit chemical imbalances/medication involved, or depression. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that writers (and creative type people in general) are neurotic as fuck. Odds are you’ve been struggling with this, too.
So here’s what you do: step forward anyway.
Okay, okay, it’s not nearly as simple as that sounds. This took me years and years to figure out. Because I was too busy going WHY CAN’T I BE LIKE ALL THOSE OTHER PEOPLE WALKING FORWARD LIKE IT’S NO BIG DEAL. That thought process seriously becomes a circle of self-doubt. A spiral, even. It got so bad for me that I hated writing for a good while after I realized Dominant Race needed a rewrite.
It wasn’t that I DIDN’T want to write. Every time I sat down and looked at my words, that voice would say “No one will like this. This is terrible. You already fucked it up, and no one wants to read your stupid ideas anyway.”
And I believed it. One hundred percent. I didn’t question the logic, even when everyone around me said they thought the original was a good first attempt. They saw the potential story and saw that I COULD do it. Except to me it was obvious that wall was impassable. I was a loser, a no-talent dumbass trying to pass off as a normal person.
Finally I got the courage to start rewriting it as a full-length novel. I got to chapter 3 and froze on a transition scene. It’s been at *** for a month. Every time I look at that blank space, that voice whispers, “Nothing you do will be good enough to make anyone care to keep reading.”
In the meantime, other friends are moving forward. Books are being published, bestseller ranks, all this success. I can’t reach publication. I can’t write. Then I realized that I was looking at this all wrong. One night I ranted to my husband about all this, and I said, “It’s like I’m trying to climb a cliff with a weight attached.”
To which he asked, “So why not remove the weight?”
But then I thought about it. Climbing up a cliff is HARD. I mean, I’ve never tried it, but it looks hard and complicated. That’s weight enough as it is. I thought some more and looked at all the people I look up to, successful artists and writers I want to be like. They ALL say they struggle with self-doubt a lot. It never stops. Ever.
They just don’t let it become a weight around their ankle, either. At least not to the point where it keeps them from climbing, slowly but surely, towards their goal. Becoming an established author is going to be hard enough. I’m going to have to prove my writing IS worth it. But that involves WRITING. Instead of looking up, getting disheartened at the climb so much that it actually keeps me from moving, I need to move. I need to push myself.
I can’t ignore those voices. Part of me will always whisper that I’ll never be enough. It’s just a matter of focusing on moving, not focusing on the fact that every single step is painful.
There will be days when that self-doubt goes away, and there will be a lot of days when it doesn’t. But I want to become a writer and an artist. Twenty years down the line I want to be relieved that I made it to where I am, not depressed that I let the voices win.
It’s not a matter of knowing you can do it. All you have to do is reach, and keep reaching. Never stop.
That’s the real secret.
How do you defeat the dreaded anxiety and self-doubt?