Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Crooked Truth . . . About Overcoming Self-Doubt

Anika’s Crooked Truth: Doubt comes for us all.

I’ve yet to meet an artist or writer who hasn’t, at some point, been plagued by self-doubt. Moments when you lean back in your chair, rub your eyes with both hands and wonder, is this any good? Should I scrap it?

The “it” can be a first draft, a sketch, finished art, an entire book, a chapter revision—or your whole career. The size of the it varies. The feelings of fear and frustration do not.

And if you think doubt is the sole domain of the unpublished or inexperienced, pleasereadmylips: It’s not! Spend some time perusing interviews, blogs and conference speeches of established writers—agented, award-winning, published-several-times-over kidlit folk—and you’ll find that some measure of self-doubt is a common denominator.   

In her keynote address to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference in Los Angeles this past summer, Speak author Laurie Halse Anderson admitted to an audience of 1,200+ people, “Once a month I find myself looking at classified ads for x-ray technicians.”


You mean the National-Book-Award-nominated-New-York-Times-best-selling-author-of-nearly-thirty-titles-for-kids-of-all-ages? That Laurie Halse Anderson?


See? At one point or another… doubt comes for us all.

So, what to do, what to do, when self-doubt comes-a-knockin’?  I’m by no means an expert, but here are a few tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way. Try them and then tell me if they helped.

1. Read award-winning books.
It may seem counterintuitive, but I’m a firm believer that when you spend a little time with the masters of your craft, you feel inspired. Don’t compare your work to theirs; don’t even think about your work while doing this. Just be. Just look. Just marvel in the genius and the beauty of this thing that stirs your soul.

2. Read terrible books.
It can be equally helpful (and cathartic) to visit the children’s section of your local bookstore and pick out the duds. The ones that make you think, “Sweet mother of Abraham Lincoln, I can’t believe somebody published this!” Read them, giggle smugly at them, and remember your work is better.

3. Combat self-doubt with knowledge.
I used to be afraid of what I didn’t know. Seriously. I’d avoid going to conferences or attending workshops because I thought I'd find out I was doing it all wrong. I worried that somehow, my being published was an accident. (Self-doubt, super-sized!) But spending time around other writers and learning from experts in the industry has been a great help, and an active, positive way to gain confidence in my writing.

4. Join a critique group.
(See above.) Plus, there's brunch!

5. Affirm.
When in doubt, try some good old daily affirmations. There are many out there to choose from (or you might try writing your own) but if you need some suggestions, try these simple, beautiful affirmations from Amherst Writers & Artists (#5 is my favorite.)

1. Everyone has a strong, unique voice.
2. Everyone is born with creative genius.
3. Writing as an art form belongs to all people, regardless of economic class or educational level.
4. The teaching of craft can be done without damage to a writer's original voice or artistic self-esteem.
5. A writer is someone who writes.

Today's Crooked Truth is brought to you by Cottager, Anika Denise. This is how she looks when in a full-blown fit of self-doubt:

Eventually, it passes. And she gets back to work. Because a writer is someone who writes.

No doubt about it. 

1 comment:

  1. I love this post! Even though I am not a writer I often feel like my work just is not up to par. I have a great group of friends who help critique or simply encourage when I am not sure my work is good enough. But in the end, I go and publish that post anyway and often I get the strongest feedback on the posts I doubted myself most with.