Self-Doubt – How to Stop it From Stealing Your Author Dream
My mother shared a memory with me the other day. Apparently, when I was a schoolgirl around the age of seven or eight, the class had to write a ghost story and mine was so detailed that the teacher pulled my mother to one side to talk about the house fire we’d been in.
There had been no house fire. I just had a vivid imagination and a passion for storytelling. This was the first time I’d heard this memory, and although I couldn’t remember the entire story, I did have a vague recollection of writing about a child rocking slowly on a big, dapple grey rocking horse in the bay window of a large, Victorian house. Perhaps that was the start of my author dream? Who knows? I know I always had a pen in my hand and a notebook nearby. I also kept a Victoria Plum Secret Diary (if you’re a woman of a certain age, you’ll know who Victoria Plum is) and the habit of writing stayed with me until I was in my twenties. Oh, what I wouldn’t give to read those diaries now.
Writing has always been a big part of my life. I had a friend who joined the army when I was around 17 and spent a lot of time writing to him and keeping him up-to-date with our circle of friends’ antics. I had a friend whose job took him all round Europe, and so my letter-writing habit started again. Well, it was the 1980s and ‘90s. We didn’t have mobile phones in those days, so we wrote. There was nothing quite so exciting as finding a new letter on the doormat.
At the age of 25, I secured a job in publishing and was able to play with words for a living. Wow! Now, that was a dream come true. Then when my children were aged two and three, I challenged myself to study for that degree I’d never got and spent six years reading literature, writing assignments, and burning the midnight oil (literally, our cut-off time to hand in assignments was midnight and woe betide me if the blooming dial-up internet kicked me out during my submission).
I spent two years studying creative writing as part of my degree and thoroughly enjoyed it. We learnt how to write a play, create real-life stories based on real people/memories we’d encountered, and my final TMA (tutor marked assessment) was a short story. I found a new passion when creating that story. It was all about a young evacuee who had been sent to live in Wolsingham (where we lived at the time) from Sunderland during World War II. Maybe I’ll revive it at some point. The plot and characters are still vivid in my mind some fifteen years on.
I will write fiction again and I do have a secret dream of becoming a novelist. I’ve never shared that before. but I’ve shared it with you now, so I hope you don’t betray my trust or hold me accountable. Perhaps that’s what I need?
We all have dreams. Each and every one of us. But why do so few of our dreams ever reach reality?
We need to get out of our own way. The main reason why our dreams don’t come to fruition is that we stand in our own way. We become so crippled by a fear of failure that we never take that first step. And when we combine that with a mindset of not being good enough, it makes a futile mix. Self-doubt is a tough place to escape. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Here are five simple tips to help get your dreams back on track instead of pushing them away.
Rewrite Your Story
Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone feels, well, for want of a better word, uncomfortable. But if you cast your mind back to something you’ve achieved before and consider how you felt before you did that thing, I’d bet you were riddled with self-doubt, right? Something inside you made you keep going. All those worst-case scenarios you’d imagined didn’t become reality. And you had the confidence to try it regardless. That’s how you succeeded.
Think about these times when everything fell into place and the universe conspired to help you. Remind yourself that things will work out again too, as long as you are brave enough to make that first move.
Action Step: create a new supportive story. Write down the reasons why you think you’re not good enough to become an author (or whichever thoughts are the strongest) and then rewrite them. Replace the self-limiting beliefs with empowering ones and write a brand-new story.
Start a Journal/Diary
Although I didn’t realise it at the time, my diary played a huge part in helping me to navigate childhood and early adulthood. It gave me a safe, secret space to write down my thoughts, and feelings, and work through my problems. My diary also gave me the opportunity to reflect on my experiences as I grew older and helped me understand that my problems (no matter how big they felt in my teenage-angst brain) were only ever temporary and, more often than not, an opportunity for growth.
You can do the same. It’s like therapy but without the price tag.
Action Step: start keeping a journal/diary. It will hone your writing skills, allow you to empty your mind of the things that aren’t serving you, and hopefully help you embrace a new mindset that supports and empowers you into making your author dream a reality. Writing your thoughts on paper takes away their power. Seeing them in black and white helps you gain a more realistic perspective.
It’s Not Always About You
If your self-doubt stems from someone else’s scathing remark or treatment, then take a step back. Instead of accepting their words or actions as truth, consider the bigger picture, away from the emotional backlash. Their behaviour says more about them than you. They aren’t speaking the truth. They can’t see into the future. Don’t ever doubt yourself because of what someone has said or done to you.
Action Step: if your limiting beliefs were sparked by someone else, take a few moments now to journal them out. Empty all your thoughts of what was said, the circumstances, why you think they said that etc, and release the power these thoughts have had over you for too long. Remember, they are not your truth.
Realign your Expectations
Are you doubting yourself because you feel like becoming an author is the wrong path for you? I beg to differ. I’m a firm believer that if something keeps appearing in your life then it’s because you’re meant to venture down that path. Yes, your author dream may be the ultimate goal, but if that feels too overwhelming then spend some time realigning your expectations. Break it down into small, easily-digestible chunks or tasks (such as researching opportunities for studying your craft or writing each day – even if it’s just some freewriting to empty your head of random thoughts). Realigning your expectations so they don’t feel completely undoable is a great way to empower you into action.
Author dreams don’t come true overnight. You need to embrace a new mindset, take daily steps towards your dream, keep your expectations aligned in a realistic way, and recalibrate when something doesn’t work out.
Action Step: break down the stepping stones of your author dream. Take it from the big picture (ie writing and publishing a best-selling book) to the day-to-day reality of writing 500 words every day, regardless of how you feel or what’s happening in your life. Commit to your author dream, work out the building blocks to help you get there and take regular action. Oh, and ignore the naysayers too. You’re doing this for you.
Celebrate Every Little Win
If there’s something self-doubt hates it’s success. That’s why you should start celebrating every little win when things go right. Enjoy reaching your milestone, no matter how small. Celebrating your wins isn’t just a wonderful act of self-love, it’s also a great motivator to keep going.
Action Step: reward yourself every time you achieve something that moves you closer to your author dream. Rewards can be as simple as an edible/drinkable treat, a sneaky half-hour watching your latest Netflix binge, or a hot bubble bath in the middle of the day. Pretty soon, you’ll create a new positive pathway in your brain that will deter all those negative thoughts about fulfilling your author dreams.
If self-doubt has been hampering your progress for too long now, start acting. Take back control of your dreams. They landed in your imagination for good reason. You were meant to pursue them. Sometimes your journey towards your author dream may need tweaking, especially if your situation changes or you feel like you’ve had a knockback. Sometimes you may need to rewrite your story to get out of your own way. But don’t give up. I promise you there’s nothing quite like that feeling of seeing your name on a book and seeing that book on an Amazon shelf – the biggest bookstore in the world.
5 Top Tips to Help You Stop Self-Doubt
- Don’t quit.
- Keep learning.
- Work hard.
- Be confident in your abilities.
- Don’t listen to what other people think.
Self-Publishing Services for Fiction Writers
Further motivational articles for authors:
- Writing a Book? Tried-and-Tested Writing Tips to Keep You Motivated — Michelle Emerson ¦ Self-Publishing Services UK | Proofreading & Publishing on Kindle
- Breaking Through the Writing Blocks … with EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) — Michelle Emerson ¦ Self-Publishing Services UK | Proofreading & Publishing on Kindle
- 10 Top Traits of Successful Writers — Michelle Emerson ¦ Self-Publishing Services UK | Proofreading & Publishing on Kindle