by Kristen L. Jackson
As authors, we’ve all felt it. The awful self-doubt that creeps up and consumes us, threatening to squash both our creativity and our inspiration; two essential requirements of being a modern-day writer.
Without creativity, there is no story, and without a story … well, you know what that means.
When our inspiration suffers, it’s hard to keep moving forward. Giving up seems much easier, and yes, much safer than continuing to put your heart and soul on the chopping block.
And yet, we do it every day. We’re writers, so we write. We edit. And we submit.
Though our hearts sink with each rejection letter or bad review, we continue to push through the bad days, believing in our work and in ourselves equally even on days that it seems nearly impossible to stay positive.
Robert Frost once said, “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”
If you’re like me, writing is in my blood. It’s not something I have to do, it’s something I need to do. There is a certain kind of enjoyment I can only experience through the written word.
I don’t just like what I do. I love it.
So, here are a few suggestions to help you stay strong in the face of that ugly monster called self-doubt:
“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” –Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss)
It took me a long time to accept that I can’t please everyone. Not everyone who reads my books will connect with them, and it can be hard to hear anything negative about my work.
Remind yourself: You write for you, and for the readers, agents, and publishers who do connect with your story.
Try not to let one person’s opinion bring you down.
Look for the Positive.
Bad reviews and rejections are a part of this business. At some point, every author will deal with them. Everyone. It doesn’t matter how many awards you’ve won or how much your last royalty check was. No one is immune.
Of course you should read the negative write-up with open eyes, and consider what you can learn from it.
Read it once, and move on. Don’t dwell on the bad.
Instead, I challenge you to look for the good.
For every negative, find one of your positive reviews, or pull out the contract with the publisher you did sign with, and move on.
For every one negative, counter it with a positive to balance the scales.
It’s okay to take a day (or two) off from writing.
I know, I know. It seems wrong. Like you’re slacking or taking a sick day.
And everyone agrees that writers need to write everyday to hone their craft, right?
Right or wrong, I disagree with that advice.
I find that I can become so focused on writing, editing, and marketing that I block everything else out.
When it all becomes overwhelming, I think it’s important to force myself to stop. Do something else that makes me happy. It might be as simple as watching a movie with my family, taking the dogs for a walk, or just listening to the crickets chirping in my own backyard.
Taking time to be present in the real world instead of constantly living in my fictional world can be therapeutic and beneficial to my writing in the long-run.
For me, taking that step away helps me re-focus on why I write in the first place, and puts me back in the right frame of mind when I get back to it.
I hope these simple suggestions can help the next time you feel yourself sinking into the quicksand that is self-doubt. I’d love to hear how you cope with the writing blues. Feel free to comment your suggestions to add to this list. Let’s keep helping each other.
Stay strong, and remember you’re a published author!
Kristen L. Jackson lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, two sons, and three large-breed dogs. She loves to write, read, and spend time with her family at home or at their cabin in the Pocono Mountains. She has been a teacher in various capacities for over twenty years.
author of KEEPER OF THE WATCH