I’ve recently had to look at being a writer from a new angle. I’ve realized that, for me at least, making the choice to be a writer is not about deciding and then clenching my teeth and holding on tight for my lifetime.
Life happens. My writing groove gets interrupted by work, kids, self-doubt, or an honest-to-God pandemic. And then what? When I can’t hold that jaw clenched any longer, do I lose? Do I fail? And if I see it as a failure, doesn’t that make that self-doubt problem worse?
I’m reading a book on writing right now that juxtaposes two quotes about self-doubt:
“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”
In the past, I know I preferred the Plath quote. To me, it inspired a goal of pushing self-doubt away and replacing it with confidence. And of course, the quote is true. If a writer gives too much time or power to self-doubt, creativity and productivity suffer. But, over the years, I’ve discovered that there are a lot of things in life, particularly quirks of my psyche, that I can’t push away and can’t escape. But that doesn’t mean they stop me. I just have to work with them and within them.
Today, I love that Colette quote, because it acknowledges that self-doubt is part of the human condition and particularly the writer’s condition. Losing it doesn’t help us; it potentially ruins us.
Self-doubt and self-questioning are part of our process. They keep us striving to learn more, to be better. They keep us empathetic.
So the question is not so much, “how do I get rid of self-doubt?” as “how do I work through my self-doubt?” or maybe eventually “how do I make this self-doubt work for me?”
From here on (or until the next time I change tactic 😉) I’m going to take on my writing career in chunks. It’ll be like the fairly common technique of writing for four fifteen-minute chucks, rather than writing for an hour.
After all, I think the process of being a writer is a process of choosing to be a writer over and over and over. Choosing it again or re-clenching those teeth every time it gets hard, every time things get complicated. Choosing not to waste time shaming myself for slipping, but getting back into the fight when I can. In this world, being a writer is a fight. I’m rarely winning, but I keep on showing up.