Today it’s time for another Insecure Writer’s Support Group, organised by Alex J. Cavanaugh for writers to express their own doubts and concerns and to offer assistance and encouragement to others. We post on the first Wednesday of every month and welcome anyone who wants to join in.
Unfortunately I have missed several of these posts due to my terrible organisational skills, so I’m sorry for that. But that brings me on to what I want to talk about today: judging yourself.
We all make negative judgements about ourselves everyday, we can’t help it. Everyone does it, but often writers and other artists are particularly prone to it because we are often perfectionists who set ourselves extremely high standards. Being self-critical can be a good thing- it can motivate us to challenge and improve ourselves. But it becomes a problem when our self-criticism is not balanced with positive thoughts about ourselves. Once we start to focus on the negative, we tend to give ourselves labels and define ourselves by these percieved weaknesses. Here are some of the statements I have believed about myself over the years:
I’m terribly disorganised
I can’t do maths
I’m not a practical person
Statements like these are reinforced everytime we think them or say them aloud. Eventually we believe in them so strongly that they become self-fulfilling prophecies. Thinking I was bad at maths meant I gave up trying in class. Believing that I’m not practical meant I avoided doing things like cooking and DIY and so I had no practice to improve. Believing I was unattractive made me appear shy and less confident around guys I liked.
The same applies to our writing. If we believe we are not good enough, that we are terrible at dialogue or have weak characters, we will feel anxious every time we have to tackle that part of the process, and that anxiety in itself will make the writing weaker. To break the cycle I would suggest to take a piece of paper and write down all the negative statements you believe about your ability as a writer. Then analyse them properly- are they really true? Would your friends and family and writing buddies say the same about you? Does the evidence really bear it out? You will find that most of them are exaggerations, if not complete fantasies. The next step is to redefine the setence to frame it in a more positive light i.e in a way that your best friend would comment on it. For example, change the judgement ‘I am awful at writing dialogue’ to ‘I am better at writing description than dialogue’. Acknowledge the things you are good at, and don’t exaggerate your weaknesses. Then think about how you can gain more confidence in that area, for example by reading books or attending courses on that or by studying writers who do it well and asking for their advice.
Remember that nobody is perfect. Even worldwide successful authors on multi-million dollar salaries have their writing weaknesses. But that didn’t stop them from working hard and believing in themselves, and it shouldn’t stop you either.