Shannon Dittemore

May15th

11 Comments

You can do it 2I have these moments. They come hard and fast, drops of sunlight peppering my face as I sprint beneath a canopy of leaves.

There and then gone.

In these rare moments, I FEEL like a writer. Like a published author. Like someone who has the enviable job of writing stories for a living. They’re wonderful, these moments. They bring with them a simple, pure, always fleeting feeling of confidence.

I can do this. I can write another story. I can BE this person.

I work hard to respect these moments. To honor them by sitting down in my office chair and dumping words onto a page. Because the truth of the matter is, these inspirited moments are fragile. They dissolve at the very hint of negativity, at the first wind of frustration, at the stink of words like trending and bestseller. It takes very little to scare my muse away. And without that confidence, without the itch of inspiration compelling me to write, it can be a fight to keep my head in the game.

I’m not alone in this, I know that. This isn’t even a problem unique to writers, but the truth is, these battles are fought in a place where you are of little help to me and I am of little help to you. Bloody battles are fought daily between my ears. In the noisy, crowded, aching place where my thoughts churn and churn with little relief. And when I’m losing, my very own mind flips those once sunny moments inside out and uses them against me.

We writers spend so much (too much?) time here. In our own heads. We dissect everything we read, everything we watch, everything we hear. We try to fashion it and shape it and invert it into something usable. Into something we can write about. We pass a man yammering to himself on the sidewalk and, within minutes, we’ve concocted an entire backstory and plot. We know how we’d write this man.

Or we don’t. And that kills us.

We sulk away and claim writers block. We doubt we ever had THAT THING. That spark, that gift, that mojo.

We doubt. We doubt. We doubt.

We’re afraid to fail. So we stop writing. But that only angers the beast inside us and we’re reminded that just because we may not write in practice, we cannot simply walk away from the lens we view this world through. Whether you sit and write or not, your brain will not let you be. And so you have a choice: to write through the doubt or to let it gnaw on your gut as you wait for another passing moment of enthusiasm.

Should you take breaks? Yes, absolutely. Weeks? Sometimes. Months? Maybe. But should you ever let doubt be the reason you walk away? I think, no. Doubt is a monster we should never, ever feed.

I don’t know that there is one answer to the problem of self-doubt. But I think there are things that can help.

1. Redefine success. This word doesn’t have to mean what you’ve always assumed it meant. Redefine it. What is success to you? To me success is mattering, making a difference to someone. That’s success. I’m a Christian so I want to honor Christ. Success. I want to be of value to my publisher. That’s real, that’s success. Your definition of success might not match mine, but you should take a moment to figure out what it is. And be willing to adjust your definition as you grow.

2. Write through the doubt. It’s hard to swallow sometimes, but the only way to chase away the I CAN’Ts is to prove that YOU CAN. So prove it to yourself.

3. Write fearlessly. Being afraid to fail is very real, but if you let it hold you back, fear wins. Want some truth? We’re all afraid. Doing it anyway is what makes us fearless.

4. Look for inspiration. Those of us who write as a career have to learn something early on. Inspiration will not pay the bills. That said, perhaps you’re missing daily inspiration by assuming it will look as it always has. Try this, go outside. Be with people. Scrounge through bookstores and libraries. Go on grown-up field trips. Investigate the world around you. Inspiration may sporadically attack us, but if we go out looking it’ll have to try awfully hard to hide.

And finally,

5. Inspire someone else. Be the wind in someone else’s sails for a while. Put your pride, your competitive nature, your angst, fear, and doubt aside and lift someone up. Give them a sunshine moment. Not because you’re fishing for inspiration from their lips, but because we all need a little encouragement from time to time. And because others need to know just how valuable their contributions to the world are. Tell them.

These are just a few of the things that help me when I’m lost in the darkness of my own mind. What have I missed? What advice would you give? Today, let’s choose action in the face of paralyzing doubt.

YOU CAN do this. You absolutely can.

*And for the record, that picture up there–me with the sign–was taken for a project the lovely Myra McEntire put together. She also has some inspiring words to share on the monsters of doubt and depression. Read them. Be encouraged.

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11 Comments

  • Comment by Sarah Penner — May 15, 2013 @ 1:25 pm

    Thank you Shannon! Having my first book out to beta readers 🙂 I was eager to start book 2… and then I faltered. I started writing and it didn’t go as I expected. The flow wasn’t there and the doubt began to creep in. Nah, who am I kidding… the doubt pounced! I especially needed to hear the part about taking a break. I gave myself a whole 2 days before leaping into book two. Perhaps a bit more time is required for shifting gears. I will not let fear and doubt hold me back!

  • Comment by Mel @ Trailing After God — May 15, 2013 @ 2:21 pm

    So good! I’ve been taking a break. Huge part of it is fear. And just needed a break to process. Thank you for such good advice. It’s good to know I’m not alone in my fear. Gotta get over that hump and do it!

  • Comment by Elizabeth M Thompson — May 15, 2013 @ 2:57 pm

    I can get lost in the darkness of my own mind way too easily! Thanks for the pointers on how to find my way out.

  • Comment by Keli Gwyn — May 15, 2013 @ 4:18 pm

    The Doubt Dragon visits me daily. He’s a real pest. I try to send him packing, but I’ll open the file with my manuscript tucked inside, and there he is, filling my head with self-defeating thoughts. On good days, I employ some of the great techniques you suggested and hold him at bay. On others, I slog onward, doing my best not to listen to him. And all the while I pray, recommitting my writing to the Lord and asking Him to make His voice the one I hear–clearly, loudly, joyfully.

  • Comment by Jane Daly — May 15, 2013 @ 5:35 pm

    Yes you can! I remember an old hymn from my Lutheran upbringing: Take it to the Lord in Prayer. “Do you ever feel discouraged, cumbered with a load of care? Are there trials and temptations, take it to the Lord in prayer.”

  • Comment by Xochi E Dixon — May 15, 2013 @ 8:39 pm

    Thanks for being vulnerable, Shannon. Your transparency blessed my heart. I have been struggling with the negative voices in my head for months, especially after my shoulder surgery. Last week my hubby told me I needed to “get back in the horse and write, write anything!” After much prayer, I wrote as an act of worship and obedience. God used this post to infuse me with courage for the road ahead. Thanks for the reminder that we are on this journey together! May God bless your writing ministry, beautiful woman of God!

  • Comment by Dale L — May 15, 2013 @ 9:44 pm

    Incredible! Thanks for speaking to my soul. I’m touched by these words.

  • Comment by Celeste Holloway — May 15, 2013 @ 9:58 pm

    Yes! Thanks, G-friend! This is just what I needed, and you called it like it is. Tomorrow’s always another day! 🙂

  • Comment by magan bagan — May 16, 2013 @ 1:13 am

    Thank you for putting up these types of posts. They always seem to go up right when I need to hear them.

    It’s so easy to let that self doubt come in and it’s something I’ve definitely been struggling with. What if my idea isn’t strong enough? What if I can’t do it?

    With so much happening these past couple of weeks for me it’s like I didn’t even realize I’d let my guard down in that area. Thank you… For sharing your struggles with us, and for offering encouragement which I’m sure is also just as much to help you as your readers.

  • Comment by Lacey — May 16, 2013 @ 11:25 am

    Love it Shannon. Even though I’m not a writer, this speaks to me soooo much! Love your words always!

  • Comment by Karen — May 16, 2013 @ 10:17 pm

    Love you Shannon…love your words also

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