Just as blisters emerge from hiking, doubt can be a painful byproduct of the writing process. Even authors anyone would view as successful experience moments where they question their authority, ability and aptitude. Take for example, acclaimed mystery novelist Charles Finch. In his recent Writer’s Digest Guest Blog, he wrote that up until his fifth or sixth novel he still felt like an imposter. He compares a writer to a “…kind of crazy charlatan, trying to trade words out of your brain for money.”
It’s not only doubt about the value of our word-craft, it’s also the comparisons we place upon ourselves. We get caught in a cycle of worry that someone else writes tighter, more descriptive sentences than us or we see the pinnacle of one author’s success and think that we can never reach it. We want to toss the laptop or break all our pencils. Known or unknown, writers are not impervious to moments of failed faith. The question is, how do we keep hiking when blisters make us want to stop?
It was my dog who gave me the answers.
When I published my Elmira Pond Spotter post, “Winter Frog-Hopper,” it struck me how joyful my disabled dog is when she runs. While it is true that running is difficult for her due to a spinal injury, you can’t tell by the expression on her face. She loves to run. And she runs with joyful determination–not gloomy or angry or self-righteous–but joyful.
Taking cues from my dog, here are five ways to bust through doubt and write with joyful determination:
- Remember why you like to write. You didn’t start writing because you hated it. I remember that the writing fervor hit me in seventh-grade when I discovered the joy of telling stories that my teacher and classmates enjoyed. Storytelling is at the heart of why I like to write. What’s at the heart of yours?
- Do it your way. There is no wrong or right way to write, but keep in mind your own definition of success. If you want to publish, then you need to master grammar, book development and research what your target audience wants to read. If you want to journal your thoughts or paint canvas with words, don’t let someone rob your joy with expectations that are not yours.
- Adapt to your circumstances. Don’t wait for more time, better pay or a different laptop, make do with what you have. Do the best that you can with the time and resources available. Create your own space in the midst of everything else that is going on in your life and declare your joy in that space.
- Craft a writer’s statement. When I discovered the power of writing into my truth while on a retreat, I wrote a commitment to my writing. This can include honoring your sacred space as a writer, as well as listing specific goals such as a certain number of pages or words a day (a week or month). This is about you, not another writer or self-help guru. What resonates with you?
- Join the big dogs. That’s right, get out there and write with the best of them. Learn how your favorite authors made it to publication. Emulate their steps. Find a writer you admire and ask if he would be willing to mentor you. Get ideas from other bloggers. Be yourself. Write.
Take it from my dog, joyful determination will overcome the pain of doubt. Blisters heal the more we hike. Write what you love and love what you write.