It’s Sunday night and I’m about to inflict professional torture on myself. I don’t realise it at the time but that’s what I’m doing when I head for the blog of a fellow marketer whose writing I admire.
Not just admire – I love her writing.
It’s witty and warm and so engaging as she talks through her successes and her struggles, getting us involved in her family life and late night musings.
I read for hours. At first it’s a delight but then I start to despair because naturally I end up comparing my work to hers.
I don’t, and can’t, write like her. So I start to believe that means I Can’t Write. Because obviously, if my writing isn’t like hers it must be rubbish…
I told you this was about professional torture.
After slurping long and deep from the Koolaid of comparison, I’ve now got to rebuild my shattered confidence.
The best way I know – and the only way that really works – is to stop agonising and start doing something. To take action, as Suzi says in ‘The Confidence Habit’ webinar. I’ve got to start writing and keep going until I’ve written myself out of somebody else’s voice and into my own.
For that to work, there are a few things I need – the support mechanisms that I’ve already put in place. I’ve been here in this writing dark place before, and no doubt I will be here again. So I rely on these three elements to help smooth my path back into the sunshine.
In theory, writing can happen anywhere; but when I’m struggling for confidence, I like to be at my desk where there are fewer distractions, and the view of the garden helps me feel calmer and more in control. Everyone who writes needs a place that helps them get into the zone. For me it’s at a desk but others feel more inspired in less conventional settings. Whatever works, head there when writing is a struggle.
My most valued writing tools are my headphones and my timer. Popping in the headphones and listening to music or natural sounds stops me being distracted by noise around me. I’m most productive when I listen to natural sounds, like waves on a beach, falling rain or the crackling of a fire. It doesn’t drown out other noises but it does help me feel separate from them.
The timer is the discipline I need when I’m struggling to write. I set it for 40 minutes and work. When it goes off I take a break for five minutes then come back for another forty. I do this three times and then either take a longer break or stop altogether. It helps me avoid the temptation to divert myself to something else if the writing isn’t flowing.
My mindset is what got me to this dark place and it’s what I have to use to move beyond it. I start by getting mindful. I take a few deep breaths and on each out breath I silently repeat, “I can do this”.
Then I make sure that I’ve got a response to the negative voice in my head. It’s the archenemy of anyone trying to create something and Not To Be Taken Lightly. So when it tries to tell me, “This is no good,” “I can’t write,” “xxx does it better than me,” I’m going to respond with “I’ll think about that later.” I’m not trying to tell myself that the voice is wrong but I’m giving permission to put it aside and get on with my work.
Finally, I remind myself that I’m not on my own. Anyone who writes also struggles with the feeling that they can’t do it. But they do and so do I. So can you. Use my ideas or work on your own – and don’t torture yourself too often by comparing yourself to others. I’m certainly going to try to resist that temptation from now on.