This Writer's Life · Up Close & Personal · Writing

The Fear of Failure.

Before I begin with this post, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Happy New Year. Here’s hoping it will turn out to be a happy, healthy and prosperous one for all of us!

Recently I read a blog post by Kristen Lamb on the 5 Areas We Need Permission for Success. One of those was to allow ourselves the permission to fail. This is a big one as I believe that for me at least, this one area works like a domino affect as it creates all the others that she mentions.

Being the youngest of three daughters, I was labelled ‘different’ from an early age. I was imaginative, observant and a bit of a loner. The quiet one, or ‘shy’ as some would call it. My mother would call me ‘different’ as if it was a bad thing (yeah, still does). It’s as if there is something wrong with me. I always had the feeling that I didn’t quite fit in because I’d be compared to my sisters. When I started high school, teachers also started comparing me to my elder sisters, but it didn’t last long; I was ‘different’. There was always a level of high expectation. If I didn’t meet them, I was a ‘failure’, causing low self-esteem. I was afraid to try new things.

This fear of failure has resulted in being a perfectionist. I grew up with the belief that everything had to be perfect the first time around. It has become ingrained. During my University studies I would stall at starting any assignments which were all essays. The thought of writing something made me anxious, but I had a deadline to meet and once I began writing, I was fine. It’s the same these days when it comes to writing, only I don’t have any deadlines. Right now, I’m doing this for me. Perfectionism is the worst form of procrastination there is as I use different things to distract me; go on social media, play on the ipad, listen to podcasts, watch Netflix (yeah, I think you get the picture). I fail to try because I don’t want to fail.

The thing is though failure can be good for us. We learn what our strengths and weaknesses are. We learn through our mistakes and in order to make ourselves better, we work on them. We put in the hard yards until we are satisfied with the results. There can be times when mistakes can even take us down paths we never would have tried otherwise. Without making the effort to try, we’ll never know what we are capable of. We may live the rest of our lives with regrets.

I believe that I will be taking the path to self-publishing. That now is my biggest challenge. In all honesty just the very thought of it frightens the living daylights out of me. It is revealing myself to the world, revealing what has been private for so many years. Just writing this post is a frightening prospect, but this is why blogging has been such an enormous help. If I fail, then at least I know I’ve tried. And that’s all anyone can really ask for.

Are you afraid of failure? Has the thought of failure made you a perfectionist? Do you plan to step out of your comfort zone and do something different in 2018?

Side Note: Just a reminder that in 2018, I’ll be spending less time on social media and more time writing. I will continue to blog, although there may be times when my posts may become somewhat erratic, but it’s all in a good cause, so stick with me (pretty please). 😉

Image courtesy of Pixabay

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Writing · Writing Process

What Are Your Pet Peeves When Writing?

This is a question that usually takes me a little while to come up with an answer and it wasn’t until I realised that one pet peeve tended to manifest itself into another, that I discovered there were actually quite a few. So with my answer for this month, I’ve come up with what I’d like to call ‘The Illustrated Guide to my Writing Process’.

1. I’m a perfectionist.

2. Being a perfectionist makes me a slow writer.

3. Being a slow writer means I think about things a lot more.

4. Thinking too much leads to self-doubt.

5. Self-doubt leads to stalling tactics.

6. Stalling tactics eventually leads back to No.1 (no pun intended 😉 ).

Yet, somewhere between pet peeves 1 and 4, I do actually manage to get the writing done (and that includes re-writes), otherwise, there’s not much point. In order to write, one must persevere, despite setbacks.

Realistically, looking at those peeves that I’ve mentioned, these are self-induced. I have allowed myself to believe in the negativity that had accompanied my writing ambitions for many years.

With the writing process, comes a learning process regarding ourselves as writers. And that can be the longest (and hardest) process of all.

Do you have a similar writing process? Are you a perfectionist? Do you have trouble concentrating sometimes? What are your pet peeves when writing?

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

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Life Lessons · This Writer's Life · Writing

Having a Writing Plan.

Giving up work to write full-time I think is every writer’s dream come true. The thought of simply writing what we want to write in whatever hours that suits us, sounds appealing, but that’s far from the reality. I’ve found out the hard way that writing takes a lot more time and energy than what we’ve all been led to believe.

A few months after I got married, I handed in my notice to my employer of almost ten years. It was a decision that was not made lightly, but one I knew had to be made. I had tired of my job and as far as I could see there was no future for me there. It was time I moved on to something different.

Excited by the prospect of fulfilling the writing dream of writing full time, I gathered enough notebooks and pens to last me a good while. I spent time making sure the computer had enough space to accommodate my works, and living in the Blue Mountains at the time, I had an inspiring view of the Grose Valley from my balcony. I was in a perfect situation in which to write.

With so much time on my hands, I began to squander it. Projects I had eagerly begun were tossed aside for the next project, only to see the process repeated. After these ‘failures’, doubts began to fester until I dreaded starting anything new and spent less time writing altogether. It was about this time that my husband landed a job in the country, and we relocated, giving me the chance to have some casual work within the same department. Almost two years later, I became pregnant with my first child. Writing during this time was very much on the back-burner.

Looking back, I realise that although I wanted to write, that period in my life was not the time; clearly I was not ready. Also I did not have a plan. It may sound simple, but in my eagerness, I had no idea where I going. Before handing in my resignation, I should have put more thought into what exactly I was going to do, have some kind of back up plan, consider finances, etc.

These days, I’m working to two different pieces of advice: plan your work, work your plan and finish what you started. Planning ahead can save you a lot of time and effort. It also allows you to focus on the task ahead and gives you the confidence you need to reach those goals.

Have you ever stopped working to pursue writing full-time and it didn’t work out? Do you feel guilty when you squander your time rather than write? Do you have any writing projects that are incomplete? 

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Images courtesy of Pixabay

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Writing

Dealing with Writer’s Doubt.

keyboard-621832_1280For the past few months, I have been doing a fair amount of soul-searching; family health issues have made me question my own mortality and goals in life. This is why last month I wrote about perfectionism and self-criticism; criticism that also comes from those around us, which can sadly include family members. Such criticism leads to you doubting your own abilities, which therefore sets you up for failure.

So, what can we do to fix these self-doubts when it comes to our writing? I have come up with these five ideas:-

1. Become part of a writing community: Being with other like-minded people helps you understand that you’re not alone and they can help you get out of that rut that you find yourself in. Such communication helps to cheer you up, which can motivate you to keep moving forward in your writing goals.

2. Find some beta readers: Finding the right group of beta readers can take time, so you need to be clear in what you want from them. Letting other people read your work helps you to work on your strengths and weaknesses, as well as developing that thick skin.

3. Work to deadlines: If you don’t work to deadlines, you will never get that work finished; having no deadline helps you to procrastinate. If you don’t have a deadline, create your own and make sure that you will be held accountable when meeting that deadline (eg. sending work out to beta readers).

4. Blog: There are many benefits to writing a blog, but the main reasons for new writers to blog are that it gets you writing, you are sharing your writing with the world, creating a community and learning to work to a deadline. You are learning to put yourself ‘out there’ and making a name for yourself which is beneficial for when you publish your other works.

5. Sending work out: This is the big one, but if you really want to get published, you need to bite the bullet and just do it. If you have the support of a writing community and beta readers, this will help ease the fear and after sending your first couple of pieces out, it becomes a habit. As the saying goes, there is nothing to fear but fear itself.

Writing is a pursuit that not only should be habit forming, but one that needs an awful lot of perseverance. It takes time to make any real progress with this writing venture, so you cannot afford to waste that time on self-doubts and listening to those who insist on placing those doubts in your head in the first place (and yes, I’m taking my own advice 😉 ).

Are you too hard on yourself? Have you spent too long believing in the negative opinions of others? What do you do to overcome your self-doubts? Do you believe life is too short to worry what other people think? Have you had a health scare that made you question your own mortality?

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This Writer's Life · Writing

Writing in Isolation.

alone atomic-bomb-966008_1280Firstly Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all have had a peaceful and well rested Christmas/New Year break.

Over the Christmas holidays, I’ve been reading The 7 Secrets of the Prolific: The Definitive Guide to Overcoming Procrastination, Perfectionism and Writer’s Block by Hillary Rettig. It came as a recommendation after reading Veronica Sicoe’s blog post Perfectionism is Murdering Your Muse (thank you Veronica 🙂 ). There was one particular chapter in the book that summed me up perfectly; that was a chapter on the ‘Trouble with Invisibility and Isolation’.

As a child, I grew up within a critical family, hence my desire to escape – be it through books, film or my own imaginative world. I had learned how to hide and now as an adult with children of my own, I continue to hide from the world. I find it difficult to tell anyone I’m a writer for fear of ridicule or sending my work out into the world, feeling that if I am rejected, it is proof that I’m not good enough as a writer and therefore a failure. The ridicule would therefore be justified. This leads to shame, then isolation and an awful lot of procrastination. It becomes an endless cycle.

In this situation it feels a bit like being the Tortoise in the Tortoise and the Hare. Sticking one’s head out every once in a while to see if the coast is clear before moving on. If anyone shows up, then back into our hole. I tend to apply this technique to both my writing and social media.

Perfectionists live with constant, excessive criticism, hence the continual need to procrastinate. I have been sitting on some of my work for years, going over them repeatedly, believing that they’re just not ready to send off. The reality is I’m just stalling, letting the fear and my internal bully control me. The negativity you have been fed for years automatically pops up in your head, constantly shouting down your need to progress and achieve something. It can become a daily struggle to overcome it and can even take many years. If anyone so much as praises me, I become embarrassed, highly sceptical and back into the hole I go; so strong is that internal bully.

The first step to ending the cycle is to acknowledge the problem and know that the internal bully is nothing but a liar. He wants you to fail and if you continue to procrastinate, he has succeeded in his goal. He becomes the winner and you have become the loser that he has always told you you are. Don’t give him that victory; you are the writer of your own destiny.

It has taken me many years and yes, progress has been slow, but I believe I am ready to make the next step. All I need do now is take that giant leap of faith.

Do you suffer from procrastination, perfectionism and/or isolation? What have you done to overcome it? What have you been reading over the Christmas break?

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This Writer's Life · Writing

Writers: Choose Progress Over Perfection.

MushroomsRecently my husband suggested I should start sending my writing off for people to read. He came up with a few names, but I found myself ultimately tensing up and disagreeing with those names he had suggested.

He then raised a very valid point – if I don’t want anyone to read my writing, then I don’t want to get published; I’ll only be writing for myself. As an unpublished writer, at the moment I am only writing for myself. I’m finding out where my strengths and weaknesses are and I want to build up a body of work so that when I do publish, I’ll have more than one book on offer. Sounds reasonable, however, the problem with that is that it could take years, so why wait that long?

During our conversation, a voice in the back of my head screamed ‘I’m not ready!’ Fear took hold of me once again. Why? I then realised that my fear stemmed from perfectionism. I can’t let anyone read my work – it needs to be perfect before I can do that!

The trouble is there is no such thing as perfect. It’s an illusion. We admire other writers – their writing can look so damned perfect, yet we only ever see the finished product. Years of hard work and persistence enabled these writers to reach such a high standard and yet they learned to let go. They knew when their best was good enough. Like any art, not everyone is going to like everything you write. In order to do the best we can at our craft, we need to make mistakes. If we’re not making mistakes, we’re not learning. Participating in National Novel Writing Month  is the ultimate way in which writers can lose all pretence of perfectionism, and author Anne R Allen lists several ways in which NaNoWriMo can help.

Change your way of thinking. Instead of aiming for perfection, think about making progress instead. Learning to progress increases your knowledge, which can make you an expert in certain areas. It broadens the mind; makes you a more interesting person and can become a great motivator. It will also help you decide that, you too, have done the best you can do and can move on.

Aiming for perfection can be crippling as it helps feed those self-doubts. Perfection doesn’t help you to move forward as a writer, instead strive for progress and you’ll never look back.

Do you struggle with perfectionism? Does perfectionism hold you back from achieving your goals? Will you be participating in NaNoWriMo this year?

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Writing

5 Things Preventing You from Being a Prolific Writer.

Mary_Pickford-deskFor as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a writer, yet in recent months I have been doing a lot of soul-searching. I had to ask myself what is my goal? Yes, I want to be a published writer, but I also want to be a prolific writer. I quickly discovered five ways guaranteed not to achieve that goal.

1. Don’t write.

I have a confession to make. Since I stopped blogging back in June, I haven’t written as much as I had hoped. Why? Aiming for perfection can be crippling. And I guess I’m a slow writer anyway. But not writing is hardly going to make one a prolific writer, let alone a writer at all. Writers write – it’s that simple. Find out why you’re not writing and aim to change that. If you really want to be a writer, you’ll find a way to get back into the saddle.

2. Don’t send any of your work out.

Are you writing for yourself or do you want to be published? As writers, we initially start out as writing for ourselves, but are you willing to move beyond that and allow others into your world? Does the thought of someone else reading your innermost thoughts frighten you, or do you have something to say that you wish to communicate to others? Establish who you are writing for, as this will move you forward towards your goal. Don’t let the rejections stop you – this is all part of a writer’s life. It’s a learning curve that all writers face – including the highly successful ones.

3. Spend too much time on the internet.

The internet and social media can be a great time suck. This is where you really need to put your time management skills into practice. Spend too much time on this and the day is gone before you know it – writing time included. Use a timer, unplug your modem or go on the internet/social media after you’ve reached your writing goals for the day.

4. Spend too much time going over the same things you’ve already written.

I have gone over some of my completed works so many times I’m getting pretty sick of the sight of them. My weakness for perfection prevents me from taking the next step. Spending too much time on the same piece of writing stalls the writing process in that new works don’t get written. You lose your motivation. Put the piece aside for a while, give it up all together, or send it off to beta readers/a competition and move on.

5. Fear.

Fear or a lack of confidence in ourselves is the biggest destroyer of our writing. I’ve talked about this issue a number of times before, mainly because it’s something I need to deal with on a daily basis (and I’m sure I’m not the only one). Don’t let others destroy your dreams – be your own motivation.

What are your goals as a writer? Do you hope of being a prolific writer? What prevents you from writing? 

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