This blog post serves as the ninth in a ten-part series based on the wholehearted living guideposts found in Brené Brown’s fabulous book, Daring Greatly! Her book is more general in its aim to help people live a more authentic, “wholehearted” life but I will be taking her principles and applying them to writing. The great news is they make the transition very easily.
If you missed the earlier lessons, feel free to check out the Wholehearted Writing category and you’ll find all the posts there.
So, next to last in this discussion is Lesson Nine - LETTING GO OF SELF-DOUBT AND “SUPPOSED TO”
This one is so much easier said than done, especially when you’re a writer. The evil little voice that lives in all our heads really enjoys taking moments of doubt and ratcheting them up to a level that only ubersadistic sadists would enjoy. So, how to combat this?
Step One: Find some really supportive people in your life that will let you know that you’re not crazy and your work not terrible. Because that’s the truth. That voice in the back of your head that holds the pitchfork and is always at the ready to poke you with it is WRONG. And the more people you have telling you that you can succeed, will succeed, must succeed – the better.
Step Two: Argue/ignore/laugh at that self-doubt. Do anything but listen to it. It’s going to be there. It’s always there, lurking like a creep in a trench coat just ready to flash you with all its dirty bits (i.e. self-doubt speak). You have to realize it’s going to be there, but push through it anyway. I’m not saying you won’t have dark moments. You most likely will. The trick is to not let those moments overwhelm you.
Step Three: To the point of “supposed to”, take those and throw them out the window, too! Do you have well-meaning loved ones that tell you on an almost daily basis what you’re supposed to be doing? God love ‘em but let the Devil take ‘em because their well-meaning talk will only cause you to want to pull your hair out. When somebody pursues “non-traditional” routes of employment such as any profession in the ARTS, friends and family have a tendency to worry. About? Well, your mental state for one. Then, they worry about how you’re going to pay your bills and not become an undue burden on society. Let them keep that worry. It’s not your concern.
When dealing with supposed to, things pop up like this. Like if you’re a writer, you’re supposed to XYZ (wherein XYZ is THE ONE AND ONLY WAY TO PUBLISHING). Brené Brown points out that many people who express their creative outlets through careers feel the need to almost apologize for them. For example, maybe someone’s daytime job is engineering but at night they compose poetry, poetry good enough to be published. When someone asks them how long they’ve been a poet, they say, “Oh, I’m not a poet. I’m an engineer who just rhymes words.” It’s because we as a culture believe that there’s a supposed to way of doing things. If you’re going to write, then it’s supposed to be full-time. I don’t know about you but I still consider myself a writer regardless if I’ve published a book or not. That’s the outward critical success and achievement we may all be looking for but I’m a writer because I WRITE.
I’ll be honest with you guys. These lessons have been as beneficial for me as I hope they’ve been for you. Many times as I’m writing the advice I hope you heed, I myself am struggling with it. It’s tough putting your heart out there in whatever form you do and hope it doesn’t get trampled. It takes courage and perseverance and good Lord so much more. It’s beyond hard. Writing a book is often compared to birthing a baby, and in a lot of ways, that’s true. But you know, people have a tendency to offer leeway to you if you happen to birth an ugly child (although I’ve been told there are NO ugly babies). But write a book and the world descends on you like hungry vultures. Some of them have good things to say, but the point is, they’re not relegated to ONLY say good things. There are times when they say some terrible things, things no one would say about your baby, at least not without getting drop-kicked in the face.
From one writer to another (or human being in general), keep your head up. Keep pushing. Keep making beautiful things for the world to enjoy. You have the heart of a lion and the tenacity of a goat (couldn’t think of anything more regal). You can do it!
Now friends, join me one last time next week for the final installment in this series, which will be Lesson Ten: LETTING GO OF BEING COOL AND “ALWAYS IN CONTROL”