For the month of December–with bonus posts on November 30 and January 1!–I am delighted to welcome a wonderful assortment of guest bloggers to take over the helm. Please enjoy their generous contributions to the blog this month. My own bloggery will resume January 2. I wish you and yours happiness and health this holiday season. Please note: comments are disabled until my return.
“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”
— Sylvia Plath
My name is Blake, and I am a chicken—in the Deanna sense and, sometimes, the metaphorical sense. You see, while I’ve written enough to have empathy for some of the challenges writers face, I don’t view myself as a writer. So when Deanna gave me a guest slot, I was tremendously honored and…a bit freaked out.
I’m writing this post during NaNoWriMo, and many of the writers I follow on social media are participating in this annual event. Their goal is to draft a 50,000-word novel in one month’s time. When I see comments on their progress, I’m in awe. For all the fretting and frittering I’ve done over penning this one post, these folks have been putting their butts in their chairs every day, stretching themselves to compose a NOVEL…IN A MONTH.
To create, to bring something new into existence, is not easy. It takes desire, focus, determination, and persistence. As an editor, I feel I have particular sympathy for that. And when tasked to write this post, that malevolent voice of self-doubt immediately began niggling, What am I going to write about? I’m not a writer. What if no one reads it? What if people DO read it? Well, some are bound to read it because, after all, it IS Deanna Raybourn’s blog—and what if they don’t like it?
Ugh, the pressure to say something that could be deemed worthy, interesting, helpful, motivating—to provide words of wisdom. For weeks I tossed around ideas, overwhelmed by the infinite possibilities. Then I noticed a recurring theme—not in the things I’d written, but in my mindset: the presence of self-doubt. Self-doubt is a timeless subject, for sure, and perhaps it has special relevance during this season when we’re contemplating resolutions for the coming year.
“Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.”
— William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure
Self-doubt is something we all experience. Anytime we begin a new endeavor—whether it’s writing a novel, considering a career change, wanting to lose weight, contemplating a new relationship—self-doubt will do its damnedest to keep us from taking that leap. Oh, if we could just banish self-doubt for good and “send it directly to hell,” as my friend J.T. says. Realistically, it will always be lurking in the background. But there are some things we can do to knock it back when it rears its ugly head:
1. Face your Fear. What are you afraid of? Identify it. Call it by name. In the case of creating this post, my fear was of missing the mark. Incidentally, I chose to name that fear Voldemort—KIDDING. See, when you acknowledge your fear, you diminish some of its power. Be willing to take a risk. There’s a moment when your fear of failure is equal to your wish to succeed. Have courage, take a deep breath, step out of your comfort zone and towards success. “Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb. That’s where the fruit is.” – H. Jackson Browne
2. Be positive. Fight fire with fire! For every negative thought self-doubt hurls at you, shoot back with a positive one. Challenge yourself to look at the situation from different angles—that’s called reframing. It’s a technique I learned long ago and use every day. Also, surround yourself with positive messages. Through motivational music, inspirational websites (you’re visiting one right now!), encouraging quotes, and visual art, replace the negatives with melodies, words, and images that make you feel empowered. “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” – Winston Churchill
3. Don’t try to go it alone. Four years ago, I finally lost the extra 55 pounds I’d been carrying around for over a decade. It was my third attempt at getting the weight off. And third time was a charm because, unlike the other times, I was fortified with a network of support. Reassurance from others who believe in you is food for the soul. If they’ve walked the same walk, they’ll have valuable words of wisdom to share. Draw strength and confidence from this community. And, hey, be sure to say thank you and make an effort to reciprocate! “Encourage, lift and strengthen one another. For the positive energy spread to one will be felt by us all. For we are connected, one and all.” – Deborah Day
4. Make the decision to do it, and stick with it. Quit running through the what-ifs; get off that emotional hamster wheel. At some point you have to stop agonizing and just go for it. Believe in yourself! Below is a motivational trick I learned during my weight-loss journey. I used it then, and I used two years later when I considered whether or not to train for my first half marathon:
· What would I to have happen?
· What do I need to do in order to it happen?
· I do that?
· I do that?
I wanted to lose weight. I needed to stick to a plan to make it happen. I knew I could. I decided to try and I followed through on my commitment. Seven months later I was at my goal weight. Two years after that, I decided I wanted to complete a half marathon. I knew I needed to train in order to make it happen. I made arrangements in my schedule to ensure I could do it, time-wise. Despite some challenges, I stuck with it and—in the end—completed my first half marathon. I crossed the finish line just 15 minutes later than I’d hoped to, covering 13.1 miles in 2 hours and 45 minutes. Fait accompli! “Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.” – Anonymous
5. Persevere. So, you know your heart’s desire. You’ve faced your fears and have surrounded yourself with positivity. You’ve made the decision to go for it. Now it’s time to dig in your heels. Nothing worth doing is ever easy. The road ahead will surely have bumps, but you have resources to help you navigate. You’ve taken the risk. Persist until you blossom! “Follow your dream before you have proof that it will work out. It’s full of courage, and passion is the best fuel we have.” – Emily Forst
So there you have it, my fellow chickens. Those five steps have worked for me time and time again. Without them, this post would not have been written! It’s not the post I thought I would write, but, hey, not all things we set out to do end in the results we expect. Sometimes we miss the mark. Sometimes we hit the target. What’s most important is that we give it our best shot—in spite of self-doubt. As you venture forth into a new year and new experiences, remember self-doubt is created. It comes from inside yourself; you conjured it, and you can banish it, too!
Want to say hi? Come find me on Twitter at @BlakeLeyers or visit my blog at www.simplyblake.wordpress.com.