Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Frozen in Place—Don't Let Negative Self Talk Freeze Your Writing

by Cindy Sproles @CindyDevoted

Fourteen inches of snow had fallen three days earlier. Rain pelted down the fourth day. Yet when I opened the door to head out, it was the most beautiful sight I’d ever seen. After the rain, the temperature dropped, and as the mountains are famous for their beautiful morning foggy mists—the fog had frozen. It was like you could lift your finger and break the air.

I gawked, took pictures and when I came home and sat down to write, I found myself in a frozen fog. It wasn’t writer’s block. My thoughts simply froze as solid as the mountain midst.

It’s crunch time on the novel and as I enter the last 15K words to completion, self-doubt punched at my gut.

It’s probably not good enough. You know folks will compare it to the best seller you had last time. What makes you think you can actually pull off two in a row?

Doubt strikes at the most inopportune times. Without warning we’re plunking away at our work when our fingers grow cold. The confidence we’ve exuberated over the last year, suddenly vanishes.

I know very few writers who can honestly say they’ve never experienced a tad bit of self-doubt. Our work has been accepted by readers. We’ve grow a base of followers who wait anxiously for the next book. The attitude we’ve developed becomes recognized. Why on earth would we let doubt get a foot in the door?

Self-doubt is part of human nature and despite the claims of others, everyone experiences it. Whether it be in your writing or in a personal decision. Everyone questions themselves at one time or another. The key is not allowing it to become a guiding force.

When self-doubt attacks you and your writing take steps to combat the dreadful beast.

*Nix excuses: It’s easy as pie to conjure a hundred reasons why you can’t write. The kids, the car is in the shop, you have a ballgame…yea, yea, yea – anything else? Excuses give us permission to rationalize why we can’t work. We become our own worst enemy. So stop it. Fight the self-doubt you hear in your head, then sit down and write.

*Avoid the “Jobs Friends” in your life: Stay clear of those well-meaning friends who find reasons why you can’t get into the swing of writing. Think of poor Job as his wife and friends kept pounding him with all the reasons that caused him such grief. Surround yourself with a tribe of individuals who, 1) understand writing 2) love you enough to boot your rear when you start to doubt your abilities 3) will serve as accountability buddies.

*Self-assessment: A good self-assessment is good for us. It helps us refocus on the goals we’ve set for ourselves. It allows us to revisit our successes and see that we are capable, able, and smart enough to do the work. Self-assessment acts as a reset button. Just like rebooting the computer clears out the things that causes issues, a fast re-evaluation of yourself, does the same. You’ll see, you’re pretty good at what you do and that you reignite your passion for the work. So occasionally – reboot.

*Give yourself a break: And I don’t mean ice cream and a Coke. I mean, ease up on yourself. Give yourself an opportunity to step back and take a breath. Life does pile up and it takes its toll. It’s easy to have compassion for others, but every now and then, have a little compassion on yourself. You are, after all, human. You need rest, food, relaxation – we all need some respite. You’ll find when you allow yourself some leeway, that you get your feet back under you and work becomes a joy again. Love your job of writing. Don’t dread it. If you need to give yourself a rest. Take one. But remember, once you go on vacation, you do have to come home and work. You can’t come back from a time of respite and kick your feet up to do nothing.

*Trust who you are as a writer: Don’t wait for validation from others. You may never get it. Trust your skill and the talent God has blessed to you. Step out and write. Your validation comes from the completion of your work. That’s a success. Don’t let self-doubt turn to fear and convince you that failure is imminent. It’s not. Trust yourself. Trust in the God who has gifted you. Believe you will make a difference. Because you will.

*Start typing: You can’t write if you allow self-doubt to prevent you from working. Everything you write will not have a home, but if you never write it – you’ll never know. So start American entrepreneur and author, Seth Godin has a great cure for self-doubt. Godin says to “Start shipping!” In other words, do something. Anything. Continue to work at the craft. If you never write the words, complete a project, or make an effort, you have no goods to ship. But when you start to work, that part of you that loves writing, becomes a burning passion. The bigger the burn, the more you produce. Now you can send out those manuscripts and proposals because you have projects to send. Start typing. “Start shipping.”  

Doubt is the seed that becomes weeds in our work. Don’t let it take hold and overtake your writing yard.

By lunch, the beauty of the frozen fog was gone. Water dripped from the trees and the white frosty haze was a memory. I allowed myself thirty-minutes to freeze, then I placed my fingers on the keys and wrote. Don’t let self-doubt be the icy voice that freezes up your writing. Defrost and write.

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Tips to help when you're frozen in place with your #writing - @CindyDevoted on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Cindy Sproles is an author and popular speaker. She is the cofounder of Christian Devotions ministries and managing editor of Straight Street Books and SonRise Devotionals, imprints of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Cindy is the executive editor of www.christiandevotions.us and www.inspireafire.com. She teaches at writers conferences nationwide and directs The Asheville Christian Writers Conference - Writers Boot Camp.

She is the author of two devotionals, He Said, She Said - Learning to Live a Life of Passion and New Sheets - Thirty Days to Refine You into the Woman You Can Be. Cindy's debut novel, Mercy's Rain, is available at major retailers. Visit Cindy at www.cindysproles.com and book her for your next conference or ladies retreat. Also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

15 comments:

  1. Cindy, Thank you. "Trust who you are as a writer: Don’t wait for validation from others." is a great lesson for me. I know not everyone will like my writing. I must look to God for approval. Praying for you.

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  2. We do spend a lot of time waiting for the approval of others. It's called submissions. But the pass our fail of a WIP should not define who we are. Trust in your gift and the God who gifted you. He will use the gifts He has given you.

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  3. It has actually become easier for me as the years go by. I've realized it's okay to move slowly (despite killing myself last year by writing and self-publishing 4 YA novels). This is a wonderful journey. Yes, I get down about it from time to time. But the love of creating something beautiful always draws me back quickly.

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    1. Excellent work. Good focus. And look what you accomplished. Very proud of you.

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  4. We do spend a lot of time waiting for the approval of others. It's called submissions. But the pass our fail of a WIP should not define who we are. Trust in your gift and the God who gifted you. He will use the gifts He has given you.

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  5. True words and good advice, Cindy. And I can't wait for your next book!

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    1. You are the picture of encouragement. Thank you.

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  6. Cindy, thanks so much for this wonderful post. My biggest freeze point is not trusting who I am as a writer. Gotta' stop letting self-doubt turn to fear and convince me failure is imminent.

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    1. Sometimes it gets scary. Doubt can take over. We have to stand firm in our belief in ourselves and in the things God will do through our work.

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  7. Beautiful words to soothe my ever-constant doubts. Thank you.

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  8. Thank you, Cindy. You hit the nail on the head. Hope you and your family are fine.

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  9. Great words, Cindy. Thank you for being in my tribe of not-Job friends.

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    1. Encouragement moves mountains...right?

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    2. Yes, encouragement moves mountains...especially when it's accompanied by a loving boot to the rear. :)

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