I forwarded a recent blog post “You Are Totally Going To Die” by Chuck Wendig, (my virtual writing mentor unbeknownst to him), to my real-life writing mentor, Patty Kline-Capaldo.
The lines that struck a chord with Patty were:
“Because just as we can as humans worry about the very nature of our existence, we can worry about our existence as writers, too. We worry about how long we’ll be allowed to do what we do. We wonder when someone will figure out that we’re stowaways on this ship, imposters at this party, strangers in our own chosen lives.”
The last line hit home for me. I am a stowaway and an imposter, a poser writer. I have not yet been published. Heck, I haven’t even completed my first story despite having several in the works. So what if I’ve only been writing for a year. That’s no excuse. Chop, chop, Vicki! What’s the hold up???
It all comes down to one thing…CONFIDENCE.
What we writers and wannabes have in abundance are ideas. What we lack in zillion-fold is confidence.
When we learn to ride a bike, we practice balancing, pedaling, finding the right speed. We tip over, fall off, scrap our knees, shins, elbows, get back up and try again. And with each distance we travel, however miniscule, we gain confidence. We push forward. Eventually we get it and boy, does that feel good! That’s confidence.
We gain confidence by practicing a skill and receiving positive feedback, either from others or ourselves. Meeting our own expectations. What we see in our mind’s eye. As a dancer, you learn the dance, practice it until it’s performed as expected. As an athlete, you practice until you run the expected distance or lift the expected amount of weight, or score the winning goal in the game. Each small victory gets added to our confidence bucket. The more victories in the bucket, the higher the confidence level.
But physical goals can be easily measured. Learn the dance, practice, perform…positive or negative feedback. But when you are the choreographer, the composer, the creator, your vision is your goal. You envision a dance or a musical composition or a painting or a story. Your imagination, your creation, your vision. How do you measure success when you create? How do you gain confidence when you first have to live up to your own expectations?
As a writer, how do you gain the confidence to push forward, to not give up when you can’t get the scene from your head onto the paper? When you story turns to something totally different than planned? When you continually try to hammer the square peg of a character into the round hole of your perfect story?
I just had an epiphany. POOF! (a flash of light and puff of smoke)
This must be where mindfulness comes in.
The more you think on it, grip the idea in your brain, the more narrow focused you become. You are hyperfocusing. You become mentally and physically stressed. It’s the same with anxiety. The more you try to control it, the worse it gets. But when you shift your attention by taking a step back and becoming more objective, more accepting, you open your awareness, loosen the grip, and relax both your mind and body.
So, how can we gain confidence in our writing by being mindful?
One thing we can do is change how we think. As Tamar Chansky discusses in her book “Free Yourself from Anxiety“, we must focus NOT on the “What ifs”, but the “What is”. What is is that we have stories to write. Don’t worry about the “What ifs”. What if I can’t finish my story? What if my story is different from my vision? What if I can’t get published? What if no one reads my book? What if everyone reads my story and hates it? Whenever you feel a “What If” coming on, remind yourself “What is”. Self-acceptance leads to self-confidence.
Another way to lessen the grip of self-doubt, is by incorporating meditation and mindfulness into our daily lives. With daily practice, we begin to loosen the grip little by little until we become more accepting of the thoughts, emotions and sensations that flow through our minds and bodies. Trust in yourself. Trust that the story will be what it was meant to be regardless of your expectations. Let your characters grow and your story evolve and flourish in the openness of your accepting mind. (Radiant beams of light streaming down from the heavens and a choir of angels singing)
But it’s not enough to say it or write it. You must practice it. (Oh, practice, practice, practice. You are the bane of my existence…and my salvation.) I’ll be introducing some mindfulness techniques in upcoming posts.
Chuck Wendig has the right of it. All we have is NOW.
Be in the present. Carpe diem! Seize the day! Huzzah!
We do not have the time to sit and worry and wonder if we will ever produce a reasonable facsimile of a story. Whether it will be accepted and praised by others. We have a story in our mind. We have a vision. We have the driving need to tell it and the skills to write it. Those are the “What is”.
How do YOU build confidence to write your stories?