Like most people, I have an inner monster. He hollers and howls and refuses to leave me for long. He screeches and taunts and tries to keep me from doing what I love.
Maybe you know him too.
I’m certain that all writers have at least met him.
My monster is the demon of self-doubt.
He’s the voice that tells me I’m not talented enough to be a writer, not clever enough to be a writer, not-even-close-to-brilliant-enough to be a writer. He has scared me into holding back, into tip-toeing at the edge of the pool, unwilling to jump in and risk being devoured completely.
We’ve all had those moments when we want to give up, or when we just don’t feel we measure up. So today, I’m going to share some tips on how to conquer self-doubt (or at least keep it at bay).
Tip #1: Join a group (or lots of them). SCBWI, writers groups, critique groups, facebook groups, or any other band of misfit writers. Surround yourself with other people who write. Soon you’ll find that everyone struggles with self-doubt (or at least has at some point). And you’ll have a whole group of peers to guide you and cheer you on. They’ll tell you it’s okay when you stumble, and applaud the loudest when you do something well.
Tip #2: Never stop learning. Enroll in classes (might I suggest the Children’s Book Academy?). READ as many books as you can in the genres you are writing. Go to conferences. Read books on writing. Read blogs on writing. Doing these things will bring the confidence to take risks with your writing. And the more you learn and practice and take risks, the more able you are to write something spectacular (bonus).
Tip #3: Own your passion. At the first SCBWI conference I attended, I mentioned to a woman at lunch that I wasn’t really a writer, just a hobbyist. I was too embarrassed to call myself a writer since I was just starting out and hadn’t been published (I’m still not). She asked me to tell her more about myself, which I did, and then she said simply, “You’re a writer.”
Writing is more about desire and determination than it is about where you are on your road to publication at any given moment. She helped me to see that. I have learned so much since then, and have so much more to learn, but from that day, I’ve owned it. I’m a writer. So are you.
Tip #4: BE YOURSELF. Everyone has something to give. But it can be easy to believe that you don’t. It can also be easy to take everything you’ve learned and try to write something that is not, well – you. If your stories don’t make YOU laugh, or cry, or feel all of the wonderful things you feel when you read a really great book, then take some time to tune into your inner child, and write something that YOU would love! It’s easy to lose your voice in the many rounds of feedback and critique. But allowing yourself to just be you is wonderfully liberating. In the wise words of Dr. Seuss, “Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!”
Tip #5: Just keep writing. When all else fails, write. And do it for yourself. Even if you know it’s something that no one else will ever read. Write new things, write funny things, write sad things. And don’t get too caught up on a project that isn’t working. If something isn’t clicking, put it away, start something fresh, and go back to it when it feels right. But keep writing!
Writing is courageous work. It requires great effort to push that self-doubt aside and keep your pen to paper (or fingers to keys). But keep it up, and together, we can slay that monster.
Maria Oka is a mother of three very busy girls whose reading and writing spans from books for the very young to older picture books. Besides being interested in rollicking laugh-aloud books with her girls, Maria is also interested in children's books with a spiritual element. She reads, writes, and tries to juggle dinnertime, school schedules, and doing the dishes one-handed in Southern California, where she lives with her husband and munchkins.
10/17/2014 05:16:43 am
Maria, this is a wonderful post! I think you're absolutely right about self-doubt and writing. There is so much rejection in our line of work, that it's sometimes hard to feel confident in the quality of our work.
10/17/2014 06:44:34 am
Thank you Kirsti! I so appreciate your words. And good luck in the illustration course, I'm sure it's going to be amazing!!
10/17/2014 06:56:45 am
Thank you for your encouraging words, Maria. Especially love tip # 4. By the way, you are an artist and so are your children!
10/17/2014 07:50:56 am
Thank you Mariana! I haven't quite applied these tips to my art yet. ;) That's my next goal. One monster at a time, right?! I truly appreciate your words!
10/17/2014 07:05:01 am
Maria, thanks for your post, I'll be attending my first SCBWI conference next weekend and I'm beginning to feel I'll be out of place the...."I'm not a writer" monster lurks with in. So needless to say your post is very timely for me. It give's me the shot of courage I need to just go for it. Thank you.
10/17/2014 07:54:00 am
Judith, you are not alone! YOU are a writer (and I've read your work so I know ;). It can be intimidating, but hold your head up high and own it! I used to chant "fake it till you make it" to myself to force myself out of my comfort zone and interact with and learn from other writers. Have SO much fun at your conference!
10/18/2014 04:51:38 am
Love the post! And love your painting! I'm super impressed. :)
10/18/2014 01:42:34 pm
Well thank you Diana!
10/19/2014 12:40:11 am
Thank you, Maria! Often, those monsters creep up and attempt to slay my writing instincts. It's vital that I know others share this "attack" and that with the musings like yourself, we can conquer.
10/19/2014 02:39:13 pm
Yes! We can conquer. Thanks for reading!
10/19/2014 08:02:09 am
Thanks Maria! I realised recently that I never fully believed I could write proffessionally before this course because my inner doubt told me that writers were another sort of species that got automatic success. Now I believe that writers are people who have the courage to write what inspired them rather than just think about writing it. And it takes a huge amount of energy and faith to make that subtle leap...
10/19/2014 02:40:55 pm
I know that exact feeling! It takes a tremendous amount of faith and energy to decide that YOU can do it.
10/19/2014 09:37:10 pm
Enjoyed your blog, Maria. Self-doubt is a huge monster. Enjoyed all the art too. Thanks for sharing!
10/21/2014 07:14:58 am
Thanks Marsha! I tend to write about things that I need a lot of help with...I so enjoy reading all of your posts as well! Your experiences as a seasoned author really help a newbie like me out.
10/21/2014 03:23:11 am
Thank you for the great post, Maria. It's true that self-doubt can be a big obstacle for artist/illustrators, too. For months now, it's been growing and has now taken over. I may need to take a class to break my frozen state. Good advice!
10/21/2014 07:16:05 am
Thank you Gayle! You are a very talented woman, don't let that monster get you down! And classes always break me out of my funks. I wish I were better at self-motivation, but there you have it.
10/24/2014 01:46:07 am
The timing for this is perfect for me. Words, perfectly stated, that I really wanted and needed to hear! Thank You for a great post for me to start a new day!
10/24/2014 11:01:31 am
Thank you Jill! The timing is always perfect for me. ;) We have to be brave to do what we love, right?
10/24/2014 01:52:34 am
Great post! Writing is tough, isn't it? Not only do we battle the inner demon, but also the many subjective voices we hear outside of our writing. WOW! Our job is tough. Let's unite and stick with it. Those who keep going must be some of the strongest souls on Earth. :)
10/24/2014 11:06:13 am
Thank you Carrie! Writing, for me at least, is a real act of bravery. I love your thoughts about sticking together!
10/24/2014 11:08:28 am
Thank you for reading Johnell! Yes, sigh of relief, you are definitely not alone. ;)
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