When the Doubts Hit

We all hit these low points, the ones following some sort of disappointment (or sometimes not), where you stare at what you’re doing and wonder if you should just give up.  If it’s worth it to keep going for rewards that may never come.  If you’re wasting your time and that of those people around you.

It happens to everyone.  But it’s never fun.

I find myself in one at the moment.  And it’s different from the more common “Oh no, I got a rejection or a bad review” low.  This is something more insidious.  I find myself feeling the need to examine my entire system of operating, because it’s not working.  Something deeper is wrong, and I don’t know what it is.

Something fundamental to the way I work needs to change.  I’ve had some clues over the past few months, but this fact really hit home this morning.  I’m unhappy with my progress on things, but have been unable to concentrate on actually working.  Something has to change.

I’m unsure how exactly to go about pinpointing the issue.  More likely it is a combination of things – my lack of progress, a general lack of confidence in my own skill, changes and shifts in my support groups, things of that ilk.  I am leaning towards doing a freewrite and seeing what comes out of it.

What do you do when your paradigm needs a shift?

6 responses to this post.

  1. Paradigm shifts are always messy when you are going through them. It’s like we are trying to squeeze ourself through a very small hole so that we can get into a much larger and better reality. What happens is that the things that were not serving you drop away as you go through that hole, and the new ideas/thoughts/actions will be there to greet you on the other side. During the process (where you are now) it just feels like pain and confusion.

    I’d give you advice on how to go through it more effectively, but I find that each paradigm shift requires something different. My only suggestion is to get out of your rut. Do something unusual or unlike you. That will often give you a new perspective and can open you to a new side of yourself.

    You have an amazing, creative mind (sky sharks are brilliant). I have faith that you will find your way again.


  2. Posted by AM on 2011/04/18 at 5:15 PM

    This post really hits home. I’ve been in a writing funk since October because of a change in my own support group. Basically, I was dumped for not being good enough. Talk about a hit to the ego. It was definitely a great thing when you PM’d me during NaNo. I wrote a lot of crap and suffered more self-doubt during that month, so to have someone want to write with me was exciting. Then we started meeting up.

    I can’t say that my writing has improved or expanded during the write-ins, BUT, slowly I’ve been feeling better about my ideas. I’m starting to have a little bit of fragile courage.

    And to speak about your writing for a moment … you can write. Don’t doubt it. And for now, I don’t think you should box yourself into an age-group. You’ve got a unique gift for quirky / fun writing. Even though I prefer dark things, the world needs more light-hearted, funny, happy worlds.

    We all go through low times. You’re not alone.


  3. Posted by scribbles on 2011/04/18 at 6:59 PM

    Yes, yes, yes, and yes. Oh, hon. You’re right: you’re not alone. I think we all know this–and yet, it’s weird that we still end up feeling alone anyway. I’ve said to you before, but I’ll say it again: if you need someone just to bounce off thoughts (I can just listen; no advice or suggestions or even peptalks), I’m there for you.

    You asked specifically, so: go ahead and do that freewrite. I think just letting go, but having it written down is a good way to start.

    For me, I’m still re-evaluating things, trying to figure out what the hell went wrong with me that made me feel so miserable. There’s so much of it, that I honestly can’t point one thing that was the cause–or one thing that has changed that made things better. But stepping back, self-reflecting, re-examining what I want, etc… something’s starting to change… and for the first time in a long while, I’m actually feeling better. Basically, what I’m saying is that: there is light at the end of the dang tunnel.


  4. I shuffle things – rearrange furniture, or change what goes where in the kitchen, or go out in the yard and hack away at overgrown shrubs until I can plant sunflowers. Sometimes I purge, throwing out expired dry goods and plastic thingamajigs that haven’t been used in years, or donating books I don’t expect to read again.

    I almost always feel better (if exhausted) afterwards, and often find a new perspective on what was troubling me in the process.


  5. Add me to the chorus of “me too” voices. *hugs*

    A “Paradigm shift” sounds huge and daunting, but sometimes big changes can come out of little changes. For example, I feel more centered when I walk regularly – even though my usual walks are only a mile long. Fifteen minutes can go a long way towards balancing out my whole day.

    To bring that idea back to writing, you might consider identifying some goals — the smaller and more concrete the better. As you know, I tend to go for time/consistency goals (X hours per month). Other types of goals that might work for you:
    – a page/chapter goal, either daily or weekly
    – ask yourself “What am I going to accomplish for my writing today?” (marketing/networking is separate from this – writing comes first).
    – writing a short story for submission, with a deadline for when you’re going to start sending it around (novels take so long, it can be comforting to know that you have something out there)

    Or you might need to go back to WHY you are doing all this, as I did a few years ago when I got so focused on publishing that I lost the love. I wrote fanfic for a while to get over it. Start outlining or writing a new story, one that has all your favourite elements in it. Write something silly. (Or…I guess your co-writing projects do that. Try something that’s both silly and potentially publishable?) Stop reading up on publishing and marketing for a few weeks.

    …I might have to try some of these myself. 😉

    If you figure out how to shift your paradigm, please let us know!


  6. Posted by Idunno on 2011/04/19 at 2:52 PM

    I’ve been here before, more than once, and it is a terrible place to be. Everyone will have a different approach to climbing out of this hole, so what I’ve done may or may not help for you.

    First, I remember that I am a good writer and that my writing is worthwhile. It’s a tough sell when I’m in a place where I hate everything I’ve ever written, so it helps more to hear that message from others. I go back to feedback I’ve gotten and highlight the good things people have said. If necessary, I BLACK OUT the ‘fix it’ comments so they aren’t legible (if you do that, make copies for this exercise!). For me, every flaw pointed out feels like it has the equivalent weight of ten positive comments, so it doesn’t take many to put me in a funk.

    I revisit something I’m really proud of / pleased with. I try to recapture the moment of creating those words that strike me as beautiful and perfectly formed. If it’s something I had to edit heavily to get to this point, I remind myself that I got constructive feedback on a weak area and I fixed it. Yay me, it can be done, wiping away those less positive comments.

    I go for walks. The act of walking helps me clear my head. I tend to walk fast during these moments. But I’m almost always struck by a valuable insight or unforeseen epiphany when I walk, and I come back with hope again.

    It it’s really bad, I take a vacation from writing. Invariably I get the itch again after some time off. Annoyingly, that’s usually when I start having ‘brilliant’ insights and ideas. It’s like my inner editor is jealous when I go on vacation without him and keeps calling my cell phone, checking up on me.

    I had to accept that priorities change in life. In college, I wrote constantly. Stayed up all night on occasion. Often putting writing ahead of school. I did it for the love of writing. Then I got a job, got a serious girlfriend, got married, had kids. Each of these events made me re-prioritize where writing fell in my life. I wish I could write more than I do, but it’s OK that it isn’t my number one priority now. In fact, especially with kids, it damn well shouldn’t be. Check your life’s priorities and accept them where they fall and where your writing ends up. Or, if it makes sense, change them to move writing up.

    Writing as a business really kills the magic. Trying to find an agent for my novel has been disillusioning at best. Rarely I’ll get a personalized rejection that makes me feel like the agent really means it when s/he says they aren’t a good fit, and that means my writing itself is good. But most of the time it’s the generic rejection, and my imagination and self-doubts fill that silence. This has led me to put my querying ‘on hiatus’ more than once. But I always comes back. (Whether this is smart or foolish remains to be seen.)

    Bottom line, I write for myself. I love getting positive feedback, seeing people laugh at my humorous writing, or puzzle over the mysteries, but I write for me, to exorcise the stories in my head. Getting published is a fringe benefit. A really awesome, dream come true, fringe benefit. I just have to remember that. And if no one else reads my work, so be it. I’ll just force my kids to sit through it as I read to them every night. 🙂

    And in case you need to hear it, your writing is awesome. Your words have made me laugh, smile, imagine places I would never have conceived of myself, and made me glad of the journey. Your words have transported me to magical places and, in the case of Hidden Worlds, reminded me of the joy of losing myself in a story I’ve written. Your work is worthwhile and I have no doubts this will become self-evident to you again soon. Good luck with whatever techniques you decide to try.

    Crickets, this is a long post! Sorry! I hope you find some germs of your own truth in it.


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