Think of “doubt” as an actual being.
He is a bulbous green monster covered in disgusting potent goo. He lurks up behind you as you type blissfully away at your work-in-progress, but he doesn’t swarm you all at once. He’s a practiced veteran at breaking down the creative mind, so he begins slowly. With precision, he drips some of his green goo onto your shoulder, and instantly you are doubting the last paragraph you scrambled to put into words.
As your eyebrows stitch together and your typing slows to a stop, he becomes stronger. Bigger than before. He produces more goo, and drizzles it on your other shoulder. Suddenly, you’re scrolling through all 20,000 words that took you so long to craft. You’re picking out pieces that don’t fit, and cliche’s you didn’t catch before. It’s not editing, it’s self-abuse. All at once, you decide you can’t go on. The world is a better place without your adverb-rich prose. If the word document were a piece of paper, you would burn it. It’s all horrible. Not just the writing, you’re horrible. You’ll never succeed at anything that you do, you’ll never find the right adjectives, and you’ll never have matching socks. So, you give up.
What you don’t know is that you’ve let the monster engulf you. You eat, sleep, breathe the monster that is doubt. All because you allowed him to consume you too many times. Getting out of his disgusting grip is harder than avoiding him altogether, but it can be done.
Think of yourself as the protagonist in a fantasy fiction novel.
You are a young strapping warrior princess or prince that is ready to take on the world and defeat the evil doubt monster. You reach for your weapon before you set off to destroy him, and realize that it is not in it’s holster. Your weapon is not a physical asset that you swing around or shoot from a bow. It’s not a magic ring or an Elder Wand. It’s something much more powerful: your mind.
Did you know you can train your brain? What thoughts are you letting run rampant in that clever mind of yours? Are you delegating what happens in your noggin? Probably not. I want you to take a second to sit up straight, put your shoulders back, and say out loud: “I will do this.” Whatever it is that you’re trying to accomplish: writing a novel, working out, getting a promotion. Don’t say: I can, I might, I could. Say, “I will.”
Let’s go back now to that first droplet of green goo on your shoulder. You haven’t completely stopped typing yet, but you can feel the toxic matter creep into the back of your brain. You can hear the nasty voice in your head saying, “Wow, is that the best you can do? No one is going to want to read this. You’re wasting your time. Don’t you have laundry to wash? Shouldn’t you just give up?”
Swing your powerful weapon and slice through the beast: Ignore it.
I heard you scoff through the screen, but hear me out. How hard is it to just ignore the voice? To just keep typing? Even if it’s only 100 more words. Tell yourself, “I will stop when I hit 1,000 words” as soon as the voice chimes. After 1,000 go for 1100, and 1150, and eventually the voice will give up! Consciously change that negative voice into positive affirmations. You are stronger than that voice and the disgusting green monster behind it. Tell him to find a place in the back of your closet, there’s no room for him in your flourishing imaginative mind.
Know this above all else:
Your writing does not need to be perfect to be beautiful. Nothing is perfect in the first draft, but someday you will mold it into something you can be proud of. You will never get to that day if you don’t defeat the green monster right now.
It is as simple as re-training your mind to encourage and not discourage. To push through all the self-doubt and stress and just write. Simple, not easy, I know. But possible. So go write.
Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @NicoleLautore how you handle self-doubt!