Sunday, July 17, 2011

Combating Self-Doubt

This month I’m writing about self doubt, something I know we all struggle with from time to time, but for me, I get this feeling more frequently than you can imagine. If you know me personally, then you’re laughing at my comment because I appear to be the most confident person on the face of the earth. But the truth is, sometimes I’m not feeling what I portray.

There’s no question it’s a very human emotion, but what it does to us internally is another story. It’s times like these that you think you’re the only one. Well, trust me, you’re not.

I’ve been writing for six years. I was one of those lucky authors you love to hate because my very first finished manuscript was purchased by the very first publisher I’d submitted to. Yeah, I know what you’re saying. This writer must be hot stuff. But let me tell you about the after effects.

While my confidence was soaring, I was on top of the world. And then I came crashing down like a torpedo plummeting into the water missing its target when I received the first rejection after the purchase. I thought for sure my next submission would be welcomed with open arms. It wasn’t. It was rejected three times. But what I did afterwards was something I’ve promised myself I’d never do again. I stopped submitting. Yup, that’s exactly what I did. That old self-doubt just took up residence in my body and it wouldn’t let go.

The good news is I didn’t stop writing, and I’m thankful I did continue because I had plenty to submit when my self-inflicted moratorium was over.

When I’d told my children about my sale, they were all very excited for me. One son said, “Persistence is golden”, and the other said something I’m going to print out and frame where I can see it every day. The only difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is extraordinary determination."

Another promise I’ve made to myself is whenever those self-doubts infringe upon me, I will try to focus more on the positive things I have accomplished. I recently read an article on self-doubt by Alexandra Levitt, a columnist for the NY Times. Here are some of the things she suggested to do to beat self-doubt at its best:

Event Journal: I’m a list maker by nature, but this is something that really works. I take a piece of paper and draw a line down the center and keep track of all the things that went well, no matter how menial I think they are. It could be something as simple as a telephone conversation with a friend, had a good meeting, or I wrote a great paragraph in my current story. The good things go in the left column, and the difficult things go on the right column.

If you do this, at the end of the day, you will no doubt notice that the list of things that went well far outweigh the list of things that didn’t. Are you seeing yourself in a different light now? Hmm, I hope so.

Call on the Cheerleader Angels: My hubby is the head cheerleader in my family. And thank God for that. He knows me well enough to sense when I’m feeling insecure. He’ll sit me down and just start chatting about his day, ask about mine, and gives me positive feedback. And that’s when he reminds me of all the good things I’ve done. Fortunately, he’s not the only Angel in my life. I have lots of other cheerleader angels too, and I’m thankful for each one of them.

Celebrate your successes: I celebrate every success – for as long as the excitement remains. I think it’s important to reward yourself for a job well done. When I sold Cupid’s Web, I went out and purchased a Dooney and Bourke handbag. Now that I’m not working out of the house, I don’t need as many handbags, but I’ve always had a fetish for them. This purchase is a reminder of what I accomplished, and every time I look at it, I smile—even when I’m down.

After I sold Shut Up and Kiss me which is due for release October 4th, I purchased a Shiatsu Massage Mat for my chair and I love it. It really hits all the right spots on my back from sitting so long. And now that I’ve sold three more books under the series title of Romancing the Chef’s Toque, there’s no telling what I’ll buy next with the money. But the key ingredient here is you must reward yourself. You deserve it!

So let’s see, what store should I hit up next? Gucci, Coach . . .?


Lu/Grace said...

I vote for Coach, I'm a sucker for their purses.

Rewarding ourselves for our accomplishments is hard though, isn't it? I pile the praise on my kids when they get an A, toast hubby when he seals a deal, and I toast my friends when they sell a book. But when I finish a tough chapter, all I can think of is, it's still not enough, the book isn't finished, I need to keep going. And the big one - I'll never be as good as *fill in the blank*.

This is where my fabulous critique partners come in, they point out my crappy writing AND praise the good stuff. They remind me that I'm not alone.

Carolyn Brown said...

Wonderful post, Carolyn! Save all those bucks and we'll have something wonderful at lunch in California next year...maybe something as tasty as NYC pizza!!
Keep on keeping on...that's my motto!

Sandy Cody said...

Carolyn, this post hits the mark on so many levels. I'm convinced self-doubt is a writer's worst enemy - in fact, probably the worst enemy of everyone who is trying to accomplish anything. Thanks for the reminder that we are not alone.

Gina/Katherine said...

You? No self confidence? I can't imagine...
Actually, yeah, I can. I swear that in my "real life" I'm actually very shy, but writing friends don't believe me.

Nice to know we're not alone. How about buying some really extravagant shoes to match that bag?

Carolyn Hughey said...

We all have those darn days Lu, but we have to fight them. Have you tried keeping a daily journal listing all the good things you've done during the day and listing the tough ones on the opposite side? That works pretty good for me.

I'm also a strong advocate of reading self-help books for those times.

Carolyn Hughey said...

Carolyn Brown, you're on sweetheart, but California doesn't know how to make NY style pizzas. Thanks for the support.:-)

Carolyn Hughey said...

Sandy, you're right. Right now, I'm flying high, but when I'm not, all those little gremlins come looking for me. I'll keep slaying them with my sword.

Carolyn Hughey said...

Gina, shy? It really is hard to imagine, but you do what I do, and that's just keep talking. LOL

Thanks for posting.

Leigh Verrill-Rhys said...

These are some great ideas, Carolyn, especially anything to do with buying a bag, of any make. I'm partial to LaMarthe. Now, I can claim the two I bought recently (because they wouldn't let me out of the shop without them) as "combat therapy" as well as literary prizes.

Lu/Grace, never let your subconscious hear you say anything like that. Finishing a tough chapter deserves a Coach bag for certain.