Since the age of 8 when I began writing in earnest, I’ve lost confidence more times than I can count. Negativity—especially doubt, fear, self-loathing and rejection—sinks and pulls with extreme force. The writers I know (and I know a lot of them!) are exquisitely sensitive creatures, tuned to the tiniest shifts, the widest spectrum of emotion. Writers are people with The Big Array of antennae—open and thin-skinned against the constant signals of the world and its weightiness.
Recently, after publishing my novel to lovely reader feedback, one lousy review kicked my confidence in the teeth. And this time it ran deeper than my writing talent; it pushed all my centers: the fraud center, the despair center, it even barreled over my optimism center, usually so good at helping me rebound. It finally crashed and burned in my self-pity center, where I spent too much time stewing in the slime of feeling like aspects of my writing life were just unfair. Ugh–I cannot get out of that place fast enough.
The first step toward a better mood was to take time away to sink into my garden, where every tiny bloom and shoot, baby tomato and budding strawberry, feels like a personal success. (Funny that I would take pride in the growth of things that have very little to do with me, and feel defeated in the writing that is completely at my hand).
Soaking in the spring sunshine—which this weekend California was in the 90s—I thought: how many times have I coached a writer, client or friend, out of the mire of lost confidence? What are the first questions I always ask?
- What brings you joy as a writer?
- Why do you write?
- What does writing contribute/give to you that makes you feel good/better/whole/purposeful?
Why those questions? They don’t focus on outcome, approval, validation or “performance.” These questions allow you to hone in on the soulful, deep aspects of writing that hopefully drive you. And in reminding yourself of what drives you, you can often shake free of the negative feelings that usually come because you haven’t reached a particular outcome, received approval, validation, or performed as you had hoped.
So today I offer you (and myself) those three questions if you have temporarily lost confidence. Negativity may be heavier, but all it takes is one good powerful lift in the opposite direction to help you up and into confidence again.