Overcoming Self-Doubt

Do you often find yourself writing page after page, and then going back and deleting all your work? Do you refuse to let anyone read your writing because you’re afraid of a negative reaction? Do you just think you’re a bad writer overall?

You’re not alone.

It’s perfectly normal to be critical of your own work. Almost everyone feels the same way. We constantly criticize ourselves, whether it’s about things we do, how we look, how we act, or just how we are in general. It’s a natural human trait to be critical of ourselves, but some of us have mastered the ability to suppress such doubts. When you’re able to do that, you won’t be afraid to show the world what you can do.

I’m critical of my own abilities. Every time I write, I think, “Wow, this is garbage.” I spend countless hours going back and rereading and editing my pieces to ensure they’re perfect. I keep thinking, “This could’ve been worded better,” or “This doesn’t make any sense.” I’m pretty sure I’ll be rereading this blog post a dozen times after I publish it, thinking that it’s pure crap. But despite all that, I am still able to say, “The world needs to read this.” My self-doubt might be strong, but my desire to create is much stronger.

Why is it that most of us are so insecure about our writing (or any type of creative expression)? There could be plenty of reasons. Maybe you’ve had experiences in the past where someone had a negative reaction to something you wrote. Maybe you’re just naturally inclined to view you and your abilities in a bad light. At the end of the day, you need to realize something: your self-judgment is most likely off.

When it comes to the arts, we can’t properly judge ourselves. That is because there is no right or wrong in the world of art. What some people consider bad, others consider a masterpiece.

Go to a local art museum and check out a painting of a blue square on a gray background. To you or me, it might look like a doodle that someone made in first grade art class. For art collectors and connoisseurs, it could be an excellent drawing worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Watch Transformers: Age of Extinction. For film buffs and even most average movie-goers, it’s a piece of trash and a disgrace to cinema. For others, it could be a fun, action-packed thrill ride worthy of countless viewings.

50 Shades of Grey. To me, it’s a heap of trash that promotes sexual violence and unhealthy relationship goals. To others, well, you can guess where I’m going with this.

The beauty of art is that it’s subjective. What one person hates, others may adore. As I mentioned before, there is no right or wrong in the world of art. So no matter what you create, you can relish in the fact that somebody, somewhere out there, may think you’ve created something spectacular.

So how exactly do you overcome self-doubt? I mean, it’d be awesome if you could just flick a switch and turn off that part of your brain that harbors negative feelings, but life doesn’t work that way (but it’d be awesome if it did; then I probably wouldn’t still be so sour about the last season of The Walking Dead.)

I can sit here and write “believe in yourself” in five or six different ways, but that’s not going to work unless you actually take action. The only way to beat the self-doubt is to take the leap of faith. Submit your writing to a contest, enter your painting into an art show, try auditioning for a play – do SOMETHING that will get your art seen by other people. At that point, one of two things will happen: you’ll find out if it’s good, or you’ll find out of it’s bad. If it’s good, then great! You had nothing to worry about! If it’s bad, it’s not the end of the world. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of someone being hurt for creating a bad piece of art (if that were the case, then a lot of Hollywood directors would be in trouble).

“But what if they don’t like it?”

News flash: you cannot please everybody. You’re most likely going to experience some negativity in your creative journey. That comes with the territory. I said it before: art is subjective. What one person loves, others may hate. The first few negative comments will sting, but you will develop a thick skin. Even I’ve managed to shrug off some horrible things people have said about my writing, and I’m an emotional dumpster fire.

Despite whatever negativity comes your way, you can still stand up and say, “I did it. I let the world see my art.” You deserve to give yourself credit. There are way too many people who are afraid of leaving their comfort zone, which prevents them from achieving their true potential. Don’t let that happen to you. It may be daunting, but once you take that leap of faith and start to share your work, you’ll find yourself much more comfortable with your abilities.

Your self-doubt is just a small roadblock on your path to greatness. And how do you get over a roadblock? By leaping over it.

Is there a particular topic you’d like me to cover in a future post? Leave a comment, or head on over to my Facebook page and share your thoughts!

 

It’s Been Done Before: Being Original When Writing

First off: my apologies for taking so long to pen a new blog post. I’m pretty embarrassed about waiting almost four months to write again. To be honest, it’s been a hectic couple of months. I’ve been tied up with the new job, I’ve finally published the sequel to Dodger’s Doorway, Return to Storyworld, and I’m moving into a new apartment tomorrow. It’s a crazy time for me. But that’s not much of an excuse. I set up this blog to help out fellow writers who needed advice, and although only a small handful of people actually read these posts, I still think it’s my duty to maintain a steady stream of blog posts. Now that my life has somewhat calmed down, I’m ready to kick off the New Year with a fresh batch of advice!

This week, we’re discussing a heavy topic that hits close to home for me: originality in writing.

Story time!

When I first started writing Dodger’s Doorway, I was so proud of myself. I thought I had created an incredibly original story the likes of which have never been read before. Admittedly, I was borrowing some elements from books such as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and the video game Kingdom Hearts. But other than that, I thought it was pretty original. Who’s ever read a book about a young man going into a fantasy world and interacting with fairy tale characters? My book would be a real game-changer.

Then I started to get worried.

In 2011, a few months before I published Dodger’s Doorway, I started seeing previews for an upcoming television show called Once Upon a Time. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a fantasy series revolving around various fairy tale/Disney characters who are plucked from their own world and thrown into ours. Snow White, Pinocchio, Prince Charming, Rumplestiltskin – all of their stories are woven together into quite the epic modern fairy tale. Does this sound familiar to anyone?

In the beginning, I thought, “Well, so what if Once Upon a Time is similar to my book? Not a big deal.” Then a “friend” told me that my book was basically a rip-off of a comic series called Fables. I haven’t read it yet (though it is on my to-read list), but from what I gathered, it’s extremely similar to Once Upon a Time, in which fairy tale creatures co-exist in their own private community in our world. Okay, still no big deal. That’s just two other stories that are similar to my book.

Then, over the past few years, I started finding out about more book series with a similar premise. I was surprised at how ubiquitous this concept was in fantasy literature. It seems there’s a whole sub-genre featuring fairy tale and literary characters crossing over with one another. I was getting frustrated. And it didn’t help when I tried promoting my book on social media and someone basically deconstructed the premise and told me that it’s been done countless times before. At one point, I seriously considered just saying, “Screw it. I’m done with this series.”

I don’t think anyone can blame me for being mad. I wasn’t so much upset about people being jerks, but the fact that I had this story I had been working on for years and it turns out that it’s been done already. I was so proud of what I thought was an original concept, and then reality hits me with the cold, hard fact that it’s just another run-of-the-mill crossover story. It sucked at first, but it was one of those necessary reality checks that every writer should go through at some point in their life.

I’m going to be blunt: It’s extremely difficult to come up with a 100% original concept nowadays. You could think up the most outrageously unique idea ever for a story, and chances are, there might be something similar out there already.

That’s not to say that there isn’t room for originality. I’m sure you could come up with a unique concept, given enough concentration and brainstorming. But the point I’m trying to make is, you shouldn’t forgo your passion out of fear of people saying it’s not original. Want to write about boy wizards? Go for it. Want to write about elves and dwarves fighting? Do it up. Want to write about vampires and werewolves? Write it! Who cares if the concept has been seen before? Put your own spin on it and make it your own.

Even though my book is similar to Once Upon a Time, I still managed to infuse my own ideas into it so that it distinguished itself. You should do the same with your own writing. If your story is good enough, people will look past the similarities and instead appreciate the originality. Don’t believe me? Consider this: have you ever realized how Harry Potter, Star Wars, and The Lord of the Rings are all essentially modernized versions of the legend of King Arthur? You think most people realize that off the bat? Nope. They’re too busy appreciating the epic tales that are told. Three of the most recognized and beloved series on the planet aren’t as original as you think – that should mean something.

If you think you’ve struck gold with an original idea, go for it. Even if you find out that it shares some similarities to other stories, stick with it anyway. Complete originality isn’t crucial for a good story, but you must add some form of your own personal touch. That is what will distinguish your tale from the rest.

 

Is there a particular topic you’d like me to cover in a future post? Leave a comment, or head on over to my Facebook page and share your thoughts!