As I write this, it’s 38 degrees here in Australia, which got me thinking about bushfires. We’ve had plenty of those this summer.
When we experience self-doubt, it’s like a bushfire has started in our heads.
They’re both hard to control.
All we need is one spark on a dry day.
One thought begins smouldering. It sets other thoughts alight and suddenly our whole mind is ablaze. Soon all we’re left with are charred and barren remains.
That empty feeling of unfulfilled dreams.
But it’s not all internal. Something sets the spark off in the first place.
Self-doubt is strongly linked to the outside world, or more accurately, to our perception of it.
We read the books and posts of others and wonder if our writing will ever match theirs. Reading about other writers’ successes can either be inspirational or self-destructive depending on our outlook.
As writers, we need to read to improve our craft, but if you’re constantly comparing your work to those who are further ahead, it’s time to take a break.
In her book The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron goes as far is to recommend a week’s reading deprivation as a way of refilling the creative well. She claims:
As a massive bookworm, I can’t bring myself to try this, but I can see the value in it.
I know how easy it can be to lose yourself in a good book. Sometimes it seems like the best antidote to a lack of self-confidence your own writing.
Is this something you struggle with?
If you’re like me and can’t bear the idea of not reading for a week, try limiting your reading time.
I do this with social media. When I upgraded my phone last year, I went into every application and turned the sound off. It’s also the first thing thing I do every time I download a new app. When I check my social media accounts, it’s on my terms. I’ll go in when it suits me — not when my phone thinks I should.
My social media time is usually my commute. I know I only have a short window before I arrive at work. Sometimes at weekends, I go for whole days without looking at my accounts.
Social media is not about keeping up with what everyone else is doing all the time. Its real superpower is that we can use it to find kindred spirits and create communities.
I love connecting with other writers and seeing what they’re doing.
But restricting the time I spend in my accounts allows me to do it in a much healthier way.
I don’t feel compelled to read every update that comes through. When I do log in, I can concentrate on the people I’m interested in. I’m less likely to feel overwhelmed by comparisonitis if I’m not being bombarded by constant notifications about everyone’s lives.
You don’t need to be as good as your favourite author. You need to be as good as you.
And sometimes you need to turn everything off to do that.