The other night I was watching one of my TV guilty pleasures. There was a scene where the lead character, acting upon knowledge sent to him by a future him from the past (don’t ask) is charging his truck towards what looks to him like an open gorge (but isn't). The entire time he’s muttering, “I trust me.” “I trust me.” However, when he gets to the edge he yells, “I don’t trust me!” However, even as he yelled it, he kept going and thusly saved the day.
That got me to thinking, how many times as writers do we not trust ourselves? Self doubt is sadly a major component of what we do. It’s not like in graduate school where you wrote a paper then received a grade and a detailed list of what worked and what didn’t. Here you write and write, never really knowing if you’re good enough. The reasons for rejection are huge, unlimited, and may have nothing to do with your ability. Unless you get a revision letter you will never really know. Sometimes it feels we are screaming into a dark abyss and the only answer back is our own echo.
So what do we do? Do we scream, “I trust me!” and barrel forth into what looks like a certain death? Or do we let the lack of trust in our own skills and thought processes make us hover on the edge?
Now while barreling forward does sound more heroic, it could be argued that nothing will be lost by hovering. Less risk after all.
Here’s why writers have to trust themselves. Lack of trust can destroy the writing. We’ve all seen it, the story where the same point is brought up time and again. Where within three pages the same concepts have been stated and restated numerous times. Those are signs of a writer hovering on the edge. They worry that the reader may not get it. They don’t trust in their own writing enough to take that leap that their craft is strong enough to carry the reader safely to the other side.
Self doubt can affect the writer in other ways as well. If the writer has too many self doubts, they may constantly search for validation. To the point of getting too much feedback on their work and changing it each time. Now don’t get me wrong, I love feedback. There have been many times when someone reading my work has caught things I was too close to see. Or suggested a better way to put something. But for the writer with not enough trust in themselves, this can be devastating to the work.
I read a blog not too long ago where the author said how her agent hated the first three chapters. The ones that had been in contests, crit groups, and polished until they gleamed. All rubbish. The author didn’t trust herself enough to not re-work those chapters after each contact with another person. It turned out fine for her; the agent loved the rest of the book. But the point is that lack of trust could have been fatal for that book.
So the next time you find yourself doubting your skills- find a way to charge forward instead. Find ways to improve your craft through books, conferences, workshops. Don’t give into the mindset of dwelling on a concept or idea repeatedly. Do it once, do it well, and move on.
Be willing to charge your truck into the abyss, you might just save the day.