I’ve been grappling with self-doubt a lot lately. Perhaps it’s because my book was with beta readers and I was awaiting feedback, perhaps it was because I started to reach out to reviewers, offering up ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) of A Lair of Bones, or perhaps it was due to a million other reasons.
Whether you’re a writer, a painter, a musician, a lawyer or an accountant, it’s a universally human experience.
But what do you do when the doubt stares you down and you can’t lift those hands to your keyboard or paintbrush or excel spreadsheet?
No doubt the answer will be different for everyone, but here are the top 5 things that worked for me…
1. Take a break
I know this sounds counter-productive when you haven’t achieved what you want and believe me, it’s something I find incredibly hard. I’m constantly wondering if it’s just another form of procrastination, if I’m being lazy…
But what d’you know… After taking a much needed break over the weekend, after completely shelving the project I was working on and leaving it alone… I came back to my work a few days later and absolutely nailed it.
2. Change your environment
I can’t be the only one who gets zonked after sitting at the computer for hours on end… Right?
This week I’ve changed my office around, leaving my big desk free for me to write by hand and my smaller desk for all things computer-related. While it’s not as ergonomic, it’s done wonders for my work mind-set.
In a matter of days, I’ve managed to keep the doubt at bay and rework several chapters by hand, all because I wasn’t staring at a screen for once.
I realise not everyone has the luxury of having their own office, but even just changing the set up of your desk, or moving to the kitchen table or a cafe, or even a nearby park can help massively.
I was listening to a podcast recently where the writer did her best work from the car in between dropping kids off at their various activities…
3. Treat yourself
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to feel guilty whenever I indulge mid-week. Whether it’s wine, an afternoon in front of Outlander or a salted caramel donut, there’s this little voice in my head that says, you shouldn’t be doing that!
Sometimes the best thing to do is squash that voice and do the thing you want. Usually I like to use these things for a reward as a job well done. And I like to think I do my job pretty well…
You’ll stop wasting precious energy on guilt, plus – you work hard, enjoy yourself!
4. Tell your friends you’re struggling
Last week was one of my worst weeks in a while. It was one of those, ‘when it rains, it pours’ kinda weeks.
I withdrew from my conversation groups with friends and family back home – I just didn’t have the energy to engage.
But, I did explain to a few people, ‘hey, I’m having a bit of a tough time, I’ll be a bit quiet for the next few days, love you all though!’
It was a relief.
But then something else happened. The next day, I came home from the doctors, tired and frustrated to find a bunch of flowers on my doorstep.
The following day, after coming home from the physio, longing for my heat pack, I found another package – candles and chocolate on my doorstep.
My friends from back home came to the rescue – lifting me up in the most thoughtful ways when I needed it most.
And as a new week began, my office was a bright and happy place for me, with fresh flowers and candles reminding me that I wasn’t alone and I was in people’s thoughts, no matter the distance between us.
5. Read or watch something that inspires you
We all have things we return to when we’re not feeling quite ourselves. During the week or so that I was plagued by self-doubt, I went back to a great love of mine… Outlander.
I’m both re-watching the Starz TV show and reading the book I was up to, A Breath of Snow and Ashes. Why did I ever stop reading this series???
There’s just something utterly intoxicating about the Scottish highlands, or is a particular fiery-haired Scottish warrior? I’m not telling.
Revisiting something I’ve always found great joy and wonder in has helped inspire me, motivating me to get back to my own creations.
Anyway, that’s what has helped me through the last little while. And if you’re struggling, I hope these unsolicited tips help you too.