Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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August 25, 2017

Self-Belief is Hard - How To Do it Anyway

Laura Drake

Y'all know that I'm the Golden Retriever of the writing world. The grandma cheerleader in a skirt that won't zip (no photo, because no one wants to see that. Trust me).

But I had an epiphany today. I wanted to share, in case it helps you, too. 

It was one of those golden days. You know, the one where you left off yesterday in the middle of a great scene, and you can't wait to sit down and finish it. A day later, I sat down and bam! a plot knot that I had unraveled with the perfect solution - and it even fit in with historical reality!

Double boom.

I know, those days don't happen to me often, either.

Then it occurred to me. Two minutes before I sat down on those days, I had no idea what was going to happen. It could have been a typical day of slogging, or even one of those days where you're chipping words out of granite with a plastic spoon.

Golden Retriever or no, most days, I have as hard a time putting my butt in the chair as you do. Don't get me wrong - I do get my butt in the chair - Every. Single. Day. But I don't float to the keyboard on floral flavored farts. 

Just saying.

So, logically, if I don't know what kind of writing day I'm going to have when I plop down, why the dread? I have going on 25 years worth of evidence that there's nothing to dread - after all, I've survived tons of plastic spoon days. And I have eight books to show for it. Eight books I'm very proud of.

So why does my head go to Armageddon, every time? You know the drill: 

  • What makes me think I can do this writer-thing?
  • How could I have thought this was a good premise for a book? It's a monkey-shit sandwich!
  • This plot snarl is a Gordian Knot. Utterly. Impossible. 
  • Even if I flog myself to The End, my editor is going to give me the hairy eyeball - like, REALLY? You spent six months, and this is what you give me?

Do you remember back when you started writing? I mean the very beginning, when all this was new, and you explored. You played. You giggled (okay, maybe that was only me). The point is, you loved it like a first crush.

Back then, you had zero knowledge that you could do this writing thing. You had NO evidence that you could - no The Ends, no published books. 

So, let's recap - when I had no evidence, I thought I could do it. After 8 published books as evidence, I'm pretty sure I can't.

How jacked up is that? What is the difference?

Expectation.

Laura Drake

Dumb, isn't it? Think about this, when you're eyeing the chair with dread. Repeat after me...

My brain lies. I CAN do this.

And if I don't do it perfectly today, the chair will be here tomorrow, and I can fix it.

So, whether you have one almost book, or 100 finished books, instead of dread, try approaching that chair with that beginner's attitude: I'm going to have fun, finding out if I can do this. 

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

You don't believe it? That's okay. You can lie right back to your brain. It'll believe it, just like you believe it's lies.

You're going to sit. You're going to work through the problem. You're eventually going to type The End. How can I be so sure? Because you're a writer, and that chair is a gateway to your dreams.

Laura Drake, Author

Besides, where else are you gonna find a career with such a great uniform?

Am I the only one with 'chair-dread'? What do you do to overcome it?

*     *     *     *     *

About Laura

Author Headshot SmallLaura Drake is a city girl who never grew out of her tomboy ways, or a serious cowboy crush. She writes both Women's Fiction and Romance.

She sold her Sweet on a Cowboy series, romances set in the world of professional bull riding, to Grand Central.  The Sweet Spot won the 2014 Romance Writers of America®   RITA® award in the Best First Book category.

Laura began a video blog for writers, answering their burning questions. You can watch all the episodes HERE. If you have a question you'd like her to address in a future episode, leave her a comment!

83 comments on “Self-Belief is Hard - How To Do it Anyway”

    1. Pollyanna on too much caffeine - that's me. But I'd rather be that than the tons of Chicken Littles running around. I mean, if someone pushes the button, you're just as dead either way, right? Might as well have fun in the meantime!

  1. This: "But I don’t float to the keyboard on floral flavored farts" may just be my favorite line I've read anywhere recently. It made me start my morning with a laugh. And the whole post made me start my morning with some hope. Which hopefully won't die before I get through my long work day and end almost too exhausted to drag myself home. But then I'll just read this again (maybe after a nap, LOL) and get that hope back, because you always, always make me feel empowered, Laura. Which I guess is only appropriate for a Golden Retriever Cheerleader, right? Thank you!

    1. Okay Faith, but at some point, I'm going to have to buy a new cheerleading skirt. I'm afraid to find out they don't make them in my size...

    1. Hahahaha. Not sure the similies and metaphors are 'gorgeous', Tiffany, but thank you!

      You are my favorite person - Fae FINISHED PRISM last night! wooo hoooo!

  2. Thanks Laura. Believing in myself is the hardest thing I have to do. At times I have to be my own cheerleader and say out loud, "you can do this." Having you say it, too, helps.

  3. Thank you for this inspiring post and thank you for being a cheerleader! I nearly snorted my coffee when I read "floral flavored farts"! I've had a summer of distractions that have kept me out of the chair. Recently, the chair dread has worsened as I receive rejections for the short stories I submitted at the start of summer. It's like water torture...

  4. Thank you! I just got comments--mostly nice--from a respected beta reader, and spent a day in a deep hole. So what an encouraging post to read as I start to sift through and answer questions. Questions don't mean the entire book is a lost cause, right?

    1. I'll let Fae answer that one - she just went through 4 revisions on her book (that had already been revised 5,343 times before).

      But it's worth it - it's a kickass book!

    2. Do not despair, Chris. Every change you make strengthens the character arc, the plot, the reader's experience. I'll have to admit there were times I called Laura and said, "Just shoot me," but I knew I would chip away at my editor's (Tiffany Yates Martin! The best!) suggestions. My book—and my vision for the book—morphed into something so much more than its beginnings. And, as a pantser, I understand STRUCTURE so much more now.

      I have to admit, it does help to have a cheerleader writing friend to call. Never fear, Laura is going to get a special designer cheerleader outfit from me. She wore out the old one cheering me on!

  5. Indeed, success sometimes makes self-doubt worse. James Bond creator Ian Fleming was one of the world's best-selling authors, yet his secretary used to hide each page he dictated to her so Fleming could not immediately destroy it!

  6. I love "if I don't do it perfectly today, the chair will be here tomorrow." Perfectly said! I feel like I am an imposter these last few months, "playing" the author at book club events, author talks, etc. Surely I am not a "real author". All thanks to self-doubt.

    I hear it doesn't go away (clearly not, since you have it after eight novels!) 🙂 Maybe this is good? Maybe it keeps us from breezing through the writing stages of a book?

    All I know is, the writing world of authors, writers, book bloggers, book reviewers...they are the most supportive-lift-you-up-group and I'd be lost without them! As you mentioned, writing is a solitary job, but we are not alone!

  7. Laura, yes, yes, yes. Every step of the way is hard--draft 1-10, query, synopsis, etc, etc, etc. Only the strong survive and we need inspiration, like this. Thank you!

    1. Seriously, Densie - you're so right. I know so many writers who are MUCH better than I, who've never published. A TON to be said for strength - and persistence! (Alpha Dog calls it stubbornness, but why would I listen to someone who watches westerns, 24/7?

      1. I think I'm in love with Alpha Dog. 😉 He sounds a lot like my husband (without the western watching, but with the same sassiness and calm observance!) 🙂

  8. My chair dread always occurs about 2/3 of the way through the first draft of a novel, when I suddenly realize that there is NO WAY I am going to be able to pull off another book--it happens every single time. And, every time, I just have to say, as you do: Whatever I hate right now, I can fix it tomorrow. I also remind myself that nobody ever asked me to be a writer. There are no expectations other than my own. Thanks for a great post, as always, Laura!

    1. Holly, me too, only mine is the middle - aka: The Pit of Despair. And I'm worse than you, I NEVER remember it! Thank God for critters who remind me.

  9. I believe in Santa! Always have. Always will. I believe in myself. Most of the time. I've come to realize that I believe in myself most after a book is published. Must be that sense of completion. Of closure. Of moving on. Then come the reviews and ratings. Anyway, thank you, Laura, for being our cheerleader. Now go ahead and twirl around in that unzipped pleated polyester skirt of yours. Go TEAM!!!

  10. Ahhhh, great one, Laura! Just what I needed as I drove to the coffee shop thinking, what am I going to do with that chapter, what's next, how can I work out the dates which don't fit the historical record, how will the characters meet again???? Over and over the monkey-shit sandwich spewed in my brain. And then I read your post. Ahhhh. You really need a costume and megaphone!

  11. P.S. Laura -- I was at the local high school yesterday and the cheerleaders were practicing their routine. They were TWERKING. You might not want to do that. Sounds like a recipe for back pain.

  12. By giving myself permission to write a sequel instead of a brand new world, I'm overcoming chair dread. Some of the first crush on writing feeling is returning, well tempered with hard won experience. Thanks for the great blog!

    1. I know! I heard the quote, but when I saw that photo, I knew it was perfect! 5 weeks? Yikes! Plop it and HOKTAM (hands on keyboard, typing away madly).

  13. Ha ha. Indeed, the brain does lie, so many times! Love this, Laura. There's always that gate to get through, and we must win.

  14. I so needed to hear this today, and every day. Your posts always do that for me, though. I keep the knowledge of your journey in my pocket for inspiration. Thank you, Laura. <3

    1. Shhhh. That's the part we don't tell aspiring authors. Or, at least, I think it must be a secret - because I didn't know, either! Hang in, Carol.

  15. Thanks for the reminders that we don't have to be fabulous every minute of every day.

  16. The struggle is real. I wrestle with my writing demons every day. Thanks for this post, Laura, and your awesome sense of humor. Made me laugh and showed I'm in great company with my struggles.

  17. And thank God we don't, Brenda. It exhausts me just getting marginally okay! Trust me. Keep breathing, and you'll get older, and you'll know what I mean. In the meantime - PARTY!!!

  18. I adore the idea of calling the wanna-be writer at 3 a. m. I'll giggle about that all day long. And probably at 3 a.m. when I'm wrestling with my WIP.

  19. My very first 1st draft waits for me to revise it. Since that time, I have started numerous WiPs only to get stuck someplace along the journey of the story. Yes, I have lost faith in myself somehow. I keep on returning to the chair day after day, 'slogging' along, hoping I will get that spark I had with that first 1st draft. I think one thing that hangs me up is I have the thought, in the back of my mind, about the end all the time instead of just enjoying the journey like I did that first time.

    1. Glynis, when I get to that point, it's because I'm thinking about everything OUTSIDE, not inside. When I'm writing for myself ONLY, I'm happy. Is it that way for you, too?

      Hey, that may be another blog post, right there....

  20. Wonderful post! It's so good to know that other writers have the same dreads that I have. I'm ten books in (three nonfiction ones, and I'm working on my seventh novel), and you'd think by now I'd know that it ALWAYS works out somehow. But, boy, it sure doesn't feel like it. EVER. Thank you for this!

    1. Isn't it crazy, Maddie? I'm in the same place in my WIP - I know it'll get done, because I have a deadline. And because I've been here before - The Pit of Despair...

      But you're right...it sure doesn't feel like it.

      See how strong our brains' lies are?

  21. Laura...This post sounds so much like crap I tell myself. And I am guilty of thinking my writing is chicken scratchings compared to everyone else I read. But tomorrow when butt goes into chair, I'll remember your post and tell the voice in my head to shut up. Keep shaking those pom-poms and don't worry if your cheerleading skirt doesn't zip. That's what velcro is for!! 😉

  22. I am never disappointed when I read one of your posts! Always inspirational. You don't need no darned cheerleader skirt, these days for competition they wear short, short spandex shorts. Did I mention they are short? No zipper, just have to squeeze into them. Does that make you feel better? I think they are so tight your floral farts couldn't even get out.

  23. I just finished a 2400 mile drive, and got a rejection from an agent who had requested my full MS and seemed oh, so excited about it. Double whammy. I'm exhausted and about to host dinner for a friend who lost her husband and her dog within two weeks of each other. And I think I can write? Laura, I'm glad I saved reading this post until my long drive was over. It's exactly what I needed to read today. Thank you bunches!

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