How many synonyms are there for roller-coaster? Ups and downs, highs and lows, mixed bag, ebbs and flows, peaks and valleys—all of those describe the week I just had.
Something really good happened at the day job… but it was preceded by something worrisome. I started taking Wednesdays off at the afternoon job…but it was marred by a thoughtless phone call. My get up and go was slaughtered by too many sleepless nights and I made some poor decisions regarding diet and exercise, (hello candy and fast food drive-throughs!). I got editor requests for two different manuscripts by two different editors, had a great new YA idea with editor enthusiasm and all that good writing news was suddenly pummeled by waves of creativity killing self-doubt.
Nothing smashes creativity like self-doubt. It’s like a Conor McGregor uppercut to the jaw— creativity just taps out.
A coworker knit me a hat and as she gave it to me, she pointed out the flaws. All I saw was a beautiful hat; all she saw were the mistakes. The experience struck a chord—have I ever offered a manuscript to a critique partner without apologizing for it in some way?
Has any writer?
I’ve been doing a lot of studying lately about default thinking and how it affects creativity. (If you haven’t heard Mel Robbins speak on the topic, you really should check it out. Great stuff) So what is my default? I knew mine immediately- not good enough. “I’m not good enough, my writing isn’t good enough, my work isn’t good enough and nothing I do will ever be good enough.”
So of course, I chose to be an author. Because the industry is just so warm and fuzzy and affirming.
The trick is to change your default mode of thinking. Awareness is key. How many times a day do I tell myself that I’m not good enough? I kept track and was surprised at how often that default mode crept in. Awareness give you a chance to replace default to deliberate with an opposing message. My opposing message is “I am good enough. I am a talented writer constantly improving my craft. I am a talented transition specialist constantly striving and learning to be better. I am a good teacher, mother, wife, daughter, activist, human.”
The amygdala, the emotional center of your brain, doesn’t logic things out. It’s the keeper of your emotional memories and those memories are a part of your default mode of thinking. Its job is to keep you from being hurt—it warns you with anxiety and self doubt. Whenever you do something creative, it goes on high alert because people who create are opening themselves up to criticism and negativity. So in a sense, the very act of creating something triggers self-doubt and that’s a conundrum for those of us who MUST create.
So how can your creativity beat self-doubt down when your own brain is working against you?
- Be aware of your default mode and replace it with positive opposing messages.
- Start a meditation practice. It raises awareness and builds the muscle to replace default with deliberate.
- Start a gratitude practice. Science is showing that the emotion of gratitude gives a sense of well-being… which is a mighty foe against self-doubt. (More blogs about this coming.)
- Power up your creativity muscles by filling the well. (More on this later too!)
- Realize that this is a never-ending battle.
I have never met a writer, (or nonwriter for that matter) who doesn’t battle self-doubt. Realizing that I’ll never vanquish it completely compels me to stay sharp and aware so I can continue to create, no matter how chaotic my week is or how many times self-doubt hits me with a brutal uppercut.