Blogger: Mary Keeley
You know the feeling. You’re plugging along feeling like you’re doing okay, and then a disruptive thought pops forward from the back of your mind, haunting, accusing: This isn’t good enough. What were you thinking? The Bible tells us where those critical darts originate, and their purpose is to defeat. You can repel doubts with good habits.
When doubt niggles, don’t give it a moment of your time.
Self-doubt is an obstacle every writer battles. If you’re an unpublished author, you may be tempted to doubt you’ll ever get an agent, much less a contract. Published authors, even those at the top of their career, may wonder if they can continue to increase their sales to secure the next contract. Let’s talk about three habits writers should adopt to minimize or counter occasions for self-doubt.
PREPARE THOROUGHLY. There’s a reason the old saying, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” endures. Remember when you went into class to take a test, knowing you hadn’t studied adequately? I do, more times than I want to admit. We had just cause to doubt ourselves. Adequate—no, extensive—research minimizes the angst that breeds self-doubt.
- Purchase a book on creating a professional proposal to learn the information you need to include.
- Keep a record of submission guidelines on the agency websites to whom you plan to submit. Which agents want queries first? Which ones want you to start off with the formal proposal? Speaking for myself, I want to see a formal proposal submitted according to our agency’s guidelines, unless I have met you at a conference.
- Time your elevator pitch and the main points you want to communicate to an agent or editor in a 15-minute appointment at a conference. Practice saying it aloud. When you can get it all said in a conversational tone with a pleasant, calm expression on your face, you’re ready and can combat negative self-talk that tends to attack as you walk into these meetings.
BE PATIENT WITH YOURSELF. Many of you attended the ACFW conference recently. Isn’t it strange that often you think of something vitally important after an appointment? Why is that? It’s probably because your nerves have settled down and you have the feedback from the verbal and nonverbal responses of the agent or editor. A re-do isn’t an option, and trying to hunt down the person to proclaim your after-the-fact gem isn’t a professional tactic and won’t be remembered positively anyway. Practice shaking off critical self-thoughts that so often can assault at times like these. Extend grace to yourself: you learned something about being more prepared next time.
In other situations there may be something you can do to overcome a mistake. If the agent you met with at a conference gave you a business card, you have the opportunity to email a revised one-sheet with corrected spelling, grammar, or punctuation. Or, if you realize your manuscript wasn’t your best work when you submitted it to an agent, send a follow-up email acknowledging your flawed work and offer a professional apology. Ask if the agent would consider waiting to review your polished manuscript. It’s a humbling exercise that will require your being patient with yourself. Some agents will view your effort favorably; others may not. These are sure to be instances when doubt niggles, but you may have a chance to redeem the situation if you don’t allow negative self-talk to defeat you.
REMEMBER THESE TWO THINGS.
- The writing life is a perpetual learning process. Grant yourself grace when you make a mistake, and look at rejections as part of your forward growth.
- He, who gave you the passion and the gift to write, will be faithful.
Without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).
Is doubt niggling you right now? What, if anything, can you do to remedy the situation? What can you learn from the experience so you can move forward confidently?
When doubt niggles, practice these three habits. Click to Tweet.
Three habits counter a writer’s temptation to self-doubt. Click to Tweet.