Resistance And The Writer’s Battle Of Self-Doubt

I’d never encountered writer’s block, or Resistance as Steven Pressfield calls it, like this before. I’ve always put Neil Gaiman’s philosophy to practice – that people won’t be able to tell if you wrote when inspired or not, you just need to get the words out.

But I have to admit I am here. Resistance is winning big time. I delete more words than I put down and no matter how I push against this Wall I can’t seem to move it. My creativity is suffocating.

Have you ever been there – where you just could not stomach the march forward that your book required? Have you ever thought your message had zero impact and no one would notice whether you wrote or not?

The comforting part about these questions is that every writer has been there. From Euripides to Chaucer to JK Rowling to you, every single person that aspired to write has encountered this feeling before.

If the above statement is true, how did they get past the Wall of Resistance?

Brick wall
Courtesy David Playford Freeimages.com

Last week was the dark battle.

Philosophical questions about my worth surfaced.

These questions were enemies I thought I defeated long ago. Turns out they are always there and I was unequipped to face them this time.

Then a thought occurred to me as I sat down to put words on the page again, something I am sure I read but have forgotten the attribution.

Writing is about writing not about who I am or what I’ve done or not done. It’s about putting another word down. All of it is momentum. And momentum can be slow and grueling. It can take an hour to string four sentences together.

I tricked myself into believing that writing would be inspiring every time I put myself in my chair and when I wasn’t enjoying myself and the progress was deleting the bad and not adding the good, I came away discouraged. When that happens too many times doubts can surface, ugly doubts.

There is a saying in our house. When my young children are crying in the middle of the night or won’t go to bed I repeat it to myself or say aloud to my wife  – parents win every time. No matter how long the crying or the number of questions or mess in the room parents win by persisting, by rising above.

If you are here, at the edge of giving up like me, remember that writing is work.

It’s taking punches as much as giving them.

Sometimes you have to wait for your opponent to tire before striking back.

This blog post is my first attempt at a left hook.

What’s yours?

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What To Do When Battling Self-Doubt

These past two weeks at my job have been the hardest I’ve had in years. Not because of a potential job loss or trouble with a coworker or boss but because it’s so busy my brain literally hurts when I leave.

Last week, in the midst of this furious pace, I had a thought I haven’t had in a long time. A little voice stepped up to the podium in my mind and declared that no matter how hard I try I will never be a writer.

It also added, as if one leads into another, that I am a terrible public speaker, I’m not good on video or encouraging people, and my fiction is terrible too so I better just stop and save myself the pain of rejection.

The strange part about this thought process? less than twelve hours before this thought, I shared my 2016 goals with my writers group. I said I was thrilled about the possibilities that this year holds.

Self-doubt is a sneaky little jerk. I know that I am a writer. I know that I did a decent job in my last conference talk, however, I was foolish to believe that I was over self-doubt because it was simply waiting, lurking around the corner, until my guard was down.

Want to know how I stopped that voice speaking in my head? The same way I stopped a goalie that would heckle me during a hockey game.

I went to work.

I became competitive and started writing this post even as the voice grew louder. The surprising thing? I can still hear its voice but I am no longer afraid. It’s like a tiger in a cage at the moment. I am no longer frozen in fear, with the thought I cannot write because I just did. And soon I’ll publish this post and get some edits in on my next e-book.

Self-doubt never leaves us. But it’s what we do in response that says who we are. Sometimes self-doubt is reinforced by a dry spell of writing or in the form of an off handed joke by an uncle or cousin or parent or friend.

Keep in mind that Someone laughed at Disney’s dream, but he kept working anyway. So should you.

 

To Be A Writer You Must Suspend Disbelief

As writers we are bombarded with questions and self doubt.

What was the reason I decided to do this in the first place? Why do I keep going? Am I good enough? Who would read this anyway? I could never afford to write full time, right? A writer’s day is filled with these questions and more as we continue to write. It can be difficult to drown out this noise as we forge ahead.

Have you ever stopped for a moment and thought about how silly that process is? One of believing without seeing? Of doing when the odds are stacked incredibly against us?

Photo Credit: faungg's photos via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: faungg’s photos via Compfight cc

This is the process of suspending disbelief. I heard a great podcast from Michael Hyatt about it the other day. It’s the process of marching forward even though we know in the back of our minds what we desire is near impossible.

He shares a conversation he had with his doctor. He just returned from a sabbatical and she replied that it would be wonderful to do that some day. He challenged to think not about how it is impossible, but what would have to be true in her life to make that very thing happen.

Does this also apply to you in your budding writing career? What would have to be true for you to be a full time writer? Pay off student loans? A house with more space? A job with more flexibility? My guess is that with a little hard work, you can get there.

Don’t believe me? How much could you make if you took a few more shifts at work and then cancel your cable to pay down that debt? What if you did some work on your house to sell it? It’s a great time to do that. Why not look for another job with more flexibility?

This process may not be one that happens overnight. But would one to five years of odd jobs, scrambling, and searching be worth getting to do what you want to do for the rest of your life? Sounds amazing to me.

Today, do not think about what is impossible. Think about how you can own your career, book, dream, etc., and take just one step in that direction. Make sure it is not selfish and self serving but measurable and freeing for you and your loved ones.

Step today.

Are You A Chronic Starter Or A Steady Finisher?

My iphone is filled with ideas. It’s my virtual commonplace book. I keep all of my short stories and blog posts and novels there. I would not be surprised if that list took up more storage than the albums on my phone.

The main reason I have all these ideas is that I get inspired easily. Some might say it’s a focus problem but I like to think I’m just creative.

If I call myself creative I can simply shrug off my inability to stick with one thing for very long. The problem with this? I never give an idea a chance.

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The strange thing about this is that I’ve been married for ten years. I’ve been at my job for almost that long as well. I have commitments that I keep in every aspect of my life but my writing life. I think I might have discovered the reason and I wondering if it is something you struggle with as well.

If I call a piece finished, it can be judged. Someone can tell me it is garbage and I should stop while I have the rest of my life left. No need to continue down this silly little writing path. You have to be great after all, or born with it, right?

Because of this self doubt, I have a hard time hitting the submit button on a blog post not to mention the dozens of drafts I do on a book that lay here and not in some agents slush pile. I am a chronic starter in need of a cure for my disbelief.

Do you struggle with finishing? Why? If not, what are your tips for sticking with it? I’m all ears.

Learning to Write Again

I made an elementary writing mistake these past two months, one that many writers make from time to time. I was entirely drained after work (December and January are horribly demanding) and I didn’t feel inspired to write, so I didn’t. This lull led to suffocating self-doubt and a thousand questions.

I started to question my art and ability to write.

Then the questions left and a certainty filled me.

I am not good.

I cannot do this.

It’s over.

The absurd thing about all of this was that I doubted something I no longer practiced.

I’m an avid hockey fan and I know that when a player suffers a leg fracture or broken foot it can take months to get back to “game speed”. They’ve been off for a bit and need to undergo proper conditioning to attain “game speed” once again. In other words, they have to put in the work to get to a place where skating and playing the game feels natural.

Conditioning is the key word there. It means to break in. Ever run a 5K on a new pair of shoes? Ouch.

This is where I am at now. Learning to walk again. Learning the writing drive again.

Now comes the hard part. Now comes the march onward to becoming an everydayer.

There were times in the past when I could not stop myself from writing. The thrill of it filled me enough that I cast sleep aside and was lost in what I was doing. About the time I finished this post I felt that again. A small flicker of it anyway. A spark. Now I need to figure out how to give it more fuel.

That is what becoming great at anything is. Before you can be great, you must put in the work.

Let’s roll up our sleeves today.

Cheers,

Bob