imposter syndrome

Fighting Self-doubt: I’ll Never Be As Good As <Insert Your Favourite Author> - Post 2

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:

For most blocked creatives, reading is an addiction. We gobble up the words of others rather digest our own thoughts and feelings, rather than cook up something of our own.
— Julia Cameron

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.

Fighting Self-doubt: Why We Need To Go Beyond “Just Write” - Post 1

“Just write.”

It’s the most popular piece of writing advice out there.

It’s honest.

It gets to the point.

But it didn’t help me much when I was new to writing.

I knew I had to sit down and do it.

But sometimes my self-confidence was so low, I couldn’t get started.

How do you apply this advice when you can’t even get yourself into the chair?

There is so much more to working through fear than just forcing yourself to write. That might work for a while, but it’s not sustainable. Self-doubt fluctuates. It’s not only something you have to deal with as a beginner writer. Even experienced authors worry about their writing ability.

That’s why you won’t find quick hacks for getting rid of self-doubt. The best way to manage your fears is to shift your mindset over time. Focus on creating the most favourable environment for your writing. If you combine this with healthy habits, you’ll feel strong enough to tackle your insecurities whenever they resurface.

This is the first post in a series about fighting self-doubt. Over the next few weeks, I’ll share different approaches that have helped me. I’ll also look at some of the strategies other writers use, so you can get back to “just writing.”