I have big hair. I mean really, super-fluffy big hair. On humid days or when I’m needing a haircut, you can actually see my hair form a perfect triangular shape around my head.
To take care of this mop I own, I usually pull it up in a bun or ponytail. But last week I woke up one morning and discovered that I’d slept just right and my hair wasn’t huge. It was calm and wavy and was allowed to meet my shoulders. When I arrived to preschool dropoff a mom friend commented “I like your hair! The waves are so pretty!” My response? “Oh, thanks, but yeah… it’s all over the place, I usually pull it up because it’s so big and crazy (as I smooshed my hair down) and has a mind of its own, it’s such a pain, I get these headaches from pulling up so much thick hair and today I didn’t want a headache…” blah blah blah. My friend smiled painfully as she listened to me react to her compliment.
I may be unusual with my hair issues, but so many of us writers feel this kind of self-doubt and react to compliments about our writing in the very same way. I’ve heard of so many of my writer friends take a compliment and tear it to pieces because we are constantly doubting ourselves. Even when someone tells us that our writing is good, we often wonder, “Are they just saying it to be nice? Because they don’t want to hurt my feelings?” Isn’t it possible that we actually did write something really well and that others really did enjoy reading it? Have we considered this?
Last week a good friend of mine read my first manuscript and told me that she really, really enjoyed it. I was so excited! For about two minutes! And then that nasty doubt crept in. She’s just being nice, I reminded myself. She’s my friend, what is she supposed to say, it really sucked? And then today I received a sweet note from another good friend that she enjoyed an excerpt of the same manuscript. Again, my first reaction was to celebrate! And then quickly wonder what she really thought…
I’m very tired of my doubting self. I wish I could kick her to the curb and throw mud on her face and, for that matter, tell her she can keep her big hair insecurities as well. But I know that even famous authors struggle with doubt. And I’m slowly learning to deal with it one day at a time, to work through it and keep chugging along because that’s really the only way to get anything done. As writers, we have to ignore the doubt as best we can, side step it when it’s making faces at us (give it the finger if we have to) and then just… keep… going. I guess that’s really how we win; we don’t let the doubt stop us from doing what we love to do.
How do you deal with doubt?