Monday, August 11, 2014

Conquering the Doubt Gremlins

What do you do when doubt is preventing you from moving forward. We all get self doubt (in fact I blogged about it back in January). That little voice whispering in your mind "this isn't good enough", "how can I top what I did before?", and "why do I even bother?" and on and on. But what do we do when that little voice just wont shut up?
1.) Get a second opinion
Sometimes we just need that extra validation. Whether it's someone telling you if you are on the right track, or if you might be wasting your time, at least then you have some resolution. Hearing we're on the right track is often the kick in the butt we need to keep going. We all need that cheerleader every now and again. And conversely, if we are way off base, we can move onto something else and not have to worry or wonder.

2.) Talk to a critique partner or trusted friend
This feeds directly from number one, but even just talking about a plot can be enough to shut up the doubt gremlins. A good brainstorming session with someone who isn't so close to your project, can often give you options. And once you have options you can can squash that little monster with excitement to keep going on a project. Then suddenly a lot of the doubt falls into the background for a while.

In addition, talking to other writers and critique partners can help us see we aren't alone. There's comfort in numbers and in being able to hash out feelings with someone else who feels the exact same way. Writing is horribly lonely sometimes and we forget we aren't the only ones going through this stuff. So find a friend and commiserate together.

3.) Do some research
A lot of times we can doubt our own knowledge on a topic. Research can help us confirm what we know and also further bolster our stories with new information. When we doubt our qualifications, research can often help tell us we really do know what we are talking about. Or if for some reason we are on the wrong track, it can help set us back on the right one and re-energize our writing. Show that doubt gremlin you know your stuff.

4.) Take a break
Sometimes we just need a break. Don't let the little gremlin win, but take some time off to regroup. Then you can come back rejuvenated and ready to rock that manuscript. In war sometimes you have to give up a battle to win the war, and taking a break is exactly that. It's taking enough time to come up with a new plan and conquer with renewed fervor.

5.) Write something else
Sometimes changing focus is enough to shut up the monster inside our minds. You aren't taking a break, you are just temporarily refocusing your efforts on something else. Something new and shiny just might be what your brain needs to tell those gremlins to go shove it.
6.) Stick it in a drawer
This one is really tough. Unfortunately though, that voice is sometimes right. In our gut we know something isn't working, whether that be plot, characters, timing or we just aren't there skill wise yet. That doesn't mean you are giving into the doubt gremlin, but it does mean that you are tackling it in another way with a new strategy.

The doubt gremlin is evil and debilitating. We've all been there. But the best way to conquer that obnoxious voice in our minds is to keep going. So find what ever it takes to do that and run into it head first. Show that doubt gremlin you aren't going to listen to it, and you will prevail!


Mirka Breen said...

I got advice form a multi-published author years ago: "when the discourager's voice creeps up, talk back to it and tell it to shoosh!"
Sounds a bit like mental illness, but with a difference that we know it's all us. If we can say to ourselves that we can't, we can answer with "says who?"

Jamie Krakover said...

That's great advice. Especially since we are prone to listen to the voices in our heads... Why not talk back to them when they are being mean?

Anonymous said...

All great ways to conquer the gremlins. Second opinions and putting it away for a while usually works for me.

Jamie Krakover said...

Yes second opinions are the best. Great way to chase away the crazies.

Greg Pattridge said...

I'm fairly good with every point except the last. Putting it away for any length of time is grueling. I have found writing a new story has helped my mind focus on something else.

Jamie Krakover said...

yes sticking it in a drawer is tough, but sometimes it has to be done. But as you said when you have to put something away, it's best to distract yourself with something new :)