Self-doubt: It's like the least fun thing ever

Saturday, December 10, 2011

I have not blogged properly in such a long while that this makes no sense to me anymore. Sometimes when you look at things too closely it's all very weird, isn't it? Like, what is this blogging thing? Why do people like to read what I write? Do people like to read what I write? How strange it is to write to all of these people I do not know as if I know what they like. And the internet, gosh, what a bizarre beast it is. My desire to broadcast my thoughts into the ether has lessened considerably over the past year or so, hence the lack of posts and reviews and general internet activity. So I am feeling somewhat doubtful of my blogging abilities.

At the moment I am looking at the word doubt very closely, and I am thinking, what is up with that b? Really, nothing makes any sense.

I have this whole blog post/motivational speech composed in my head - maybe not the exact words, but I've got the vibe of the thing - but every time I try and write it, it doesn't come out quite right. I'm finding the same thing with my writing lately, too, but I'm just blindly stumbling ahead and trying to fix things when I go back (something I'm undertaking at the moment with a third round of rewriting of book two.)

I have to say, this entire self-doubt thing seems the most pointless ever. There are plenty of negative emotions I can see some value in - for example, jealousy can be motivating - but self-doubt is not one of them. It doesn't listen to reason ('But I know I'm not the worst writer alive. Some people like the stuff I write!'). It doesn't motivate me at all. It just stops me from doing things because I won't do them well.

Something that occurred to me the other day, is that when someone tells me how much doubt they have in themselves, it makes absolutely no sense to me. Whether I think they're awesome or not isn't even relevant (though I do know a lot of people who are awesome) - other people believing in you doesn't automatically mean that you have faith in yourself, and even people who seem really ridiculously successful and fearless and talented still grapple with this.

Which is kind of depressing: it would be nice to believe that you will someday reach a point at which outside circumstance will mean you will have unending belief in yourself. Like, you will someday have a NYT bestseller and never again will you sit down to write and get the overpowering sense that nothing you write is really good enough. Because, hey! Other people think you're great, therefore you are great, therefore you think you're great!

When I was younger, I built up in my head many ideals of what it would be to be an author, what I would be like. This was my main goal in life, and not knowing any writers firsthand, writers were godlike in my mind. When I was a writer, I would be sophisticated and mature and I would have unfailing confidence in myself as a writer and as a human being. I would walk around all the time, smug with the knowledge that I was a capital-W Writer. I would wear scarves and look terribly chic.

Yeah, the scarf thing never really worked out. Nor the rest of it.

And then of course I met lots of authors and discovered that they, too, were actual human beings. And that even the ones I believed to be the greatest writers ever to walk the earth thought that they were terrible at least some of the time. And that a lot of them can't bear to read their finished novels.

As bizarre as it is to think that the people you believe are amazing do not believe the same of themselves, it's reassuring. I think it's important that people are honest about things like this - I mean, I'd love to delude myself and pretend I am super-productive and super-confident, but this is not the case. I find self-doubt to be absolutely crippling on a daily basis. But I keep reminding myself of how many worse things people are going through than struggling to write that next novel.

There is no easy, five-step process to self-belief. Or at least the quashing of the voice that says, 'Hey! Give up this writing thing! Other people are doing it way better than you ever will!' Which is unfortunate. I would like to be able to cast a spell upon everybody that would make self-doubt disappear and allow us all to be far more productive and fun to be around. At least the knowledge that everyone is going through this makes it easier to deal with the ongoing curse of the writer.

This is not as motivational as I had hoped. I think maybe I should just make a poster of me, with a speech bubble saying 'Steph Bowe believes in you!' and you can print it out? (Gosh, I am such a creative mind.)

Anyway, how do you deal with self-doubt? (Specifically that applying to writing?) Ignore it? Remind yourself of your awesome? Talk to other people about being a tortured artist?
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