A Writer’s Pep Talk

It is Thursday evening, so I am a bit late with this week’s post, but it is still technically coming out on Thursday. This week, I will walk you through the type of conversation I have to have with myself whenever I have a negative thought about me. This post is based on the quote below and demonstrates exactly what I needed therapists to teach me. This is something I could have never learned on my own. I have started this writing journey, and I am getting closer to feeling that it would be impossible to not finish it, but I still have a ways to go. Enjoy, and put this method to good use if need be.
“Every time I start on a new book, I am a beginner again. I doubt myself, I grow discouraged, all the work accomplished in the past is as though it never was, my first drafts are so shapeless that it seems impossible to go on with the attempt at all, right up until the moment…when it has become impossible not to finish it.”
–Simone De Bevoir, Force of Circumstance
I can really relate to this quote because I feel like a beginner whenever I start a new project whether it is writing, knitting, scrapping or anything else. I look at the supplies and wonder how I am going to put them together into something coherent. I have the core belief that I am not good enough for anything, something so deeply ingrained that I’ve become a source of frustration for many therapists over the years. I don’t know where it came from or how to get around it either. Thinking positively rarely works because I don’t believe any of the positive thoughts I force myself to have. Rational Emotive Therapy comes closest to working as long as I remember to use it. This method forces me to question my thoughts, to ask things such as, “How do I know I’m not good enough to succeed? What evidence or proof do I really have?” It also forces to me to give honest answers to those questions. Let’s walk through it.
I’m on the precipice of beginning to write my memoir. I am reading books about writing and making myself finish them before I begin writing. I tell myself it is self-education. Knowledge is power and knowing things will keep me from writing a disaster. But how do I know it would be a disaster? Am I truly educating myself or stalling? What is the real motive behind all this self-education? Am I ever going to know enough to be a good writer? These are questions I must ask myself and force myself to answer truthfully.
Here are the facts. I do know I was successful in my grad school creative writing class. I do know my short story really connected with my readers. I do know my professor saw potential because I got an A in the course. I do know that only one of the 15 or so students didn’t like my story, but I also know he had no real knowledge of the subject matter. I know that no writing will please everyone all of the time.
So why do I linger on these thoughts of not being educated enough and feeling inadequate in general when I ought to just jump in, start writing and have fun with it? Not all writers feel the need for an MFA in creative writing or any other degree for that matter. Some writers have little college experience at all, so why do I think an MA in English literature doesn’t make me enough of an expert? Good question! I still don’t know the answer, but my hubby has begged me not to return to school, so I’ve begun reading on my own. I have already learned a lot from my reading (which justifies the expense of the books), including which of the 4 paradigms of writing is likely to suit me. So why am I not using it? Because I am afraid of doing it wrong. But there is no correct way to write. These are just suggestions of common methods. Yet I still feel I should immerse myself in knowledge to avoid mistakes. I have news for myself: There will be mistakes. Lots of them. Just when I think I have found them all, a reader will find more. Every writer makes mistakes. In fact, every person makes mistakes. It is ok to make mistakes. It is even ok to fail. What is not ok is giving up or not trying at all.
This mental banter is necessary for me to work through negative thinking and eventually I come up with a statement that I can see as true and work with it, such as the italicized final sentence of the last paragraph. Unfortunately for me, confidence is not in my nature. I have to earn it through battling myself, and it is always hard work. One of my therapists once told me I have the biggest wet noodle with which to flog myself that she ever saw. I have to prove I am worthy of anything and repeat that on a constant basis to believe it.
I wrote this back in January as I embarked on a journey to write my memoir. As I prepared for this week’s blog entry, I came across this and realized I needed to hear it all over again. Once again, I have doubted my abilities as a writer. However, skills I have learned in therapy help me argue with myself when I need a pep talk of sorts. It can help me evaluate the facts rather than rely on what my emotions about a situation may be. Does any of this sound familiar to you? Do you have doubts when you begin any new project about your abilities to complete it? Can you talk yourself out of self-doubt and despair? If so, what is your method? Please comment below and write on!