Self-doubt (a.k.a. imposter syndrome, writers’ block and the inner critic) is an experience that all writers have. The question is not how to get rid of it, but how to understand it and work with it.
Hello writers. Welcome to the Let’s Write Your Novel podcast. I’m Stephanie Dethlefs, writer and book coach. And this is the place to be if you’ve got a story on your heart, but you need a bit of clarity, accountability, and support to finally write your novel. In each episode, I’ll give you one skill or strategy to apply to your novel. And we’ll also take a peek into your mindset about the process. I’m here because your story matters. You deserve to write it and you have a reader out there who needs it. I’m so glad you’re here, so let’s get to it.
So, so self-doubt, also known as the inner critic, imposter syndrome. , it’s almost like it has its own mugshot up on the wall with all of its aliases, right? But the truth is self-doubt isn’t a bad thing. In this episode. I wanna talk about where it comes from and about how to keep writing despite it. But first let’s talk about what self-doubt doesn’t mean. I just wanna get this out of the way. Self-doubt doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be writing your book. Self-doubt doesn’t mean that you’re actually inferior to any other writer or they, your story matters less than someone else’s self-doubt simply means that you are human and that you are doing something that’s vulnerable. And I can think of few things that are as emotionally vulnerable as putting a story out into the world, right? Every single writer, every single human experiences
Self-doubt. Biologically speaking, self-doubt is a form of fear. It’s basically the words our mind is saying when we feel fear around our writing. Our bodies feel a bit of fear and our brain searches for the words to go with it. The words we usually come up with sound something like this, who do I think I am? No one is ever gonna wanna read this. I’m not a good enough writer. This is a terrible story. But the problem happens when we assume that just because we’re thinking it it’s true, but guess what? It’s not! Our brains are just trying to make sense of the feeling of fear and vulnerability that we feel in the face of doing something like writing a novel. These feelings come from the same primal part of our brains that would keep us from being eaten by a lion. Now I have to tell you two things. First, I’m not a therapist or an expert on the brain, but this has been a path of understanding that I’ve been on for decades because I experienced tremendous amount of self-doubt and anxiety in all areas of my life.
And I’ve spent large patches of my life avoiding doing things that felt vulnerable because I was listening to this self-doubt noise in my brain and thinking it was true. And what I’ve realized is that this noise isn’t telling me the truth. It’s trying to protect me, but it’s protecting me by telling me things that will stop me from doing the thing that I want to do in this case. These doubting thoughts are trying to stop me from writing because my brain is trying to keep me safe from harm, but there is no harm. I’m just trying to write a story. And so are you. We’re not in danger. We’re just trying to write a story. understanding this is step one. So step two is figuring out what to do about it.
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Okay? So now that we understand that the self doubt we hear in our minds is coming from our primitive brains trying to protect us, we can have some compassion for it. I think this is so much more valuable and self-respecting than like trying to vanquish the self-doubt or shut the door in its face. My goal in life and in writing is to notice the voice of self doubt and acknowledge it. Okay, brain, I might say, I hear you saying that this is scary, but I’m going to be okay. I’m just writing a story. What I would recommend that you do this week is write a sentence or two like that to your self doubt, acknowledge it, let it know that it’s okay to be there, but that you’re going to write anyway. Once you got it written down, you can refer to it anytime you notice those voices creeping in again. It’s like a child who wants candy before dinner, right?
You wouldn’t berate the child or make them feel bad about themselves. You also wouldn’t give in and give them the candy. You just smile and say not right now. The writer, Elizabeth Gilbert has an analogy that I just love in her book, Big Magic. She says that she’s driving the car. Creativity is sitting in the passenger seat and fear can come along, but it has to sit in the back seat and it can’t give directions or touch the radio. It’s really about treating yourself with compassion, but also not letting the fear take control and keeping you from writing. Self-doubt is a very real experience for each and every one of us. But self-doubt does not have to keep you from writing your book. I’ll talk to you next week. Thank you so much for being here. If you like what you heard, would you please take a moment to leave a review on iTunes so that it can reach more writers who like you could maybe use a little support today? I would appreciate it so much. Remember your story matters. Happy writing.