QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Monday, September 21, 2009

Overcoming Self-Doubt

Anyone who's ever tried to do something has dealt with that little voice inside. You know the one. The one that whispers, "You're not good enough."

So how do you deal with that voice? How do you quiet it, push it away, overcome it?

Hopefully, you can use these few tricks to submerge that self-doubt and allow you to reach the publishing summit triumphantly.

1. Work hard. I used to ask my class, "Are you working hard or hardly working?" Writing (or any creative process) is hard work. If you're not willing to put in the hard work, I'm of the opinion that maybe you shouldn't start.

So be ready to work hard. Read books on improving your craft. Brush up on your grammar and spelling and punctuation and the basics of what makes a sentence. Research. Read some more books, blogs, or forums on publishing and writing.

Don't be afraid of working hard. There's nothing like feeling confident in what you've learned to squash that little voice that whispers about your inadequacies.

2. Surround yourself with believers. And I don't mean your mom. Although moms and dads and spouses are fantastic cheerleaders, they're not the kind of believers you need. You need other writers in your believer section. You can find them in many places; blogs, forums, critique groups, etc. These people are writers who have read your writing and can help you drown out that voice when it's seems to be shouting. They can offer reassurance, a shoulder to cry on, an ear to vent to, and in the end, they can remind you not to give up.

Everyone needs a believer in their corner. Use your believers when the voice gets too loud. Be a believer for someone else.

3. Persevere. Writing (and anything creative) is all subjective. Think about the books you like. Or the art. It's certainly not the same as what someone else likes. Every person likes certain things and dislikes other things. So remember to persevere through the rejections. Because there's nothing like rejection to make that voice of self-doubt come back twice as loud.

But remind yourself of all the hard work you've done. Then work harder. Talk privately with your believers. And persevere.

I'm not saying that voice will completely disappear. But you'll be able to drown it out enough to keep putting one foot in front of the other on the publishing journey.


Stina Lindenblatt said...

Oooh, another piece of sage advice that's about to be added to my QT-Blog wallpaper currently covering my bedroom walls. Thanks, Elana!

christine said...

Excellent advice!

Amy Tate said...

Great post! Quitters never win, and winners never quit.

Marybeth Poppins said...

Wonderful advice :) Thanks Elana!

Lynnette Labelle said...

Thanks. Perfect timing for this post. :)

Lynnette Labelle

WindyA said...

Thanks, Elana. A great post to read when you get that little whisper in your ear.

the nike nabokov said...

Jay Z says: be your own number one fan.

Mandy said...

That was a great post Elana! I especially agree that having a non-family or otherwise obligated supporter is SO important. It really helps to validate what you're doing and that support system is what ulimately keeps you going.

JStantonChandler said...

Thanks Elana! I would have quit long ago if it had not been for my cheering section :) You picked the top three things every writer and creative professional needs. I'll be copying these down and pasting them to my keyboard!


Regina Milton said...

thank you for this post; i need to work hard today and this will help!

Hardygirl said...

Well said!!!!


Tabitha said...

Yes!! I am ALL ABOUT perserverance, commitment, and working my fingers to the bone. :) Great post!

Crystal said...

Thanks for the reminders on this issue, Elana! It's something I struggle with quite a lot!

magolla said...

Personally, I simply bludgeon that silly little voice in my head, but sometimes I forget . . .
Uh, what was I talking about?

Solvang Sherrie said...

It's hard to fight the self-doubt, especially when you've got the rejections to prove it right!

Marva said...

I'll vote on the side of negativity.

Everybody says to persist; there's an agent out there who will "love" your stuff.

Here are the facts: No, the agents won't love your stuff. No, publishers won't love your stuff. No, even your freaking family won't love your stuff.

Sometimes, you just have to admit that your stuff sucks and nobody wants it.

What's so wrong with that? Sure, keep at it, but at some point you're going to have to face the facts. You're not going to be accepted by agent/publisher/whatever.

Do you give up? That's an entirely personal choice. If you keep trying because others say you should, despite all evidence to the contrary, then freaking go do something else creative to assuage yourself. Face the facts. Agents and publishers make bad choices. Your "stuff" may very well be amongst those bad choices--they won't like it.

Give up? But what do you give up? The dream of being a best-selling author? The dream of even being a published author? Yanno, dreams don't always come true.

However, you should continue to write as long as the muse bites your butt and tells you to continue.

Just don't expect success. It's as elusive as winning the lottery. Face that you won't succeed, but that's no reason to quit trying.

Unless you're me, of course. I have no desire to continue being a loser. Screw it. I'm outta here.

On the other hand, self-pubbing is the wave of the future.

Mary Lindsey said...

Thanks for the post, Elana. I needed this today.

mand said...

We all need reminding of this every so often. I just came across the concept that our consciousness is a garden and we need to keep working on it: feeding, weeding and seeding. Of course then we get to reap the produce.

I'm tweeting this (@mmSeason) for the encouragement of my writer friends. :0)

Anna C. Morrison said...

Yep, you gotta have believers, because sometimes that voice can be pretty loud.

Zoe said...

Lovely post, Elana.

The older I get, the more frequently it seems I have to deal with a parade of daily annoyances punctuated by episodes of heart-rending grief. The people ahead of you on the generation line--the ones you come to love and appreciate far too late--start dropping like flies, and your children morph from affectionate and adorable munchkins into surly teenagers, and then abandon completely, taking your youth and your money with them. So, to persistence and belief and working hard--all worthy and honorable approaches--I would add the technique of DENIAL, which serves me better and better as the years pass. There is nothing wrong with a well-cultivated state of oblivion, as far as I'm concerned. Personally, I'm very happy there. Come join me anytime you like. ;-)