Believing in Yourself

With this writing thing and with so many other Life things, the trickiest part is often convincing ourselves that we can do something, that we have the skills, talent, ability to take on a project or a change and succeed at it.

This week, for various reasons, I’m about seeing the positive in change, the exciting in the challenge. So, for today, a quick post about the things that make you feel like you can be creative, that you can write and write well.

  • Praise. Which pretty much means letting other people read your writing. Yes, in a critique group, you’ll be hearing plenty about what you haven’t yet done right. In a good group, however, you should also be hearing about what’s right, what’s good, even what just rocks the world.
  • Accomplishment. Finishing a chapter, writing a poem, plotting out a new scene, kicking A on a piece of dialogue. All these are things we need to do and that, when we’re done with them, we need to celebrate. With something as small as a smile or a self-pat on the back, with something as big as a dance around your writing space or a bowl of your favorite ice cream.
  • Starting something new. Yes, there’s the fresh brainstorming and creativity that comes with a new writing project, but–for me–it’s something more. It’s the fact that I’m doing something for the second or third or fourth time. This week (and, yes, this is partly what today’s post is about), I’m calling “Done” on my first picture book. (Done, at least, unless and/or until an agent or editor asks me to make more changes, obviously!) And I opened up the picture-book folder on my computer and started another one. Guess what? It feels WAY more doable than the first time around, simply because…itisn’tthe first time. I know what I’ve done before, I know the fears I’ve faced and the writing bumps, and they’re more familiar, just a little more friendly this time around.
  • Seeing someone else do it. Again, this is where that critique group comes in handy. Especially one in which you critique multiple drafts for each other. You watch another writer go from that draft about which you gave GOBS of feedback to a draft that is so close to beautiful you find yourself racing through it and barely noting anything. And all of a sudden, you remember that–oh, yeah–this is possible.
  • Magic moments. They might be a word or a sentence, beautifully phrased. They might be a character about whom you write a few notes and then find yourself deep in love. They might be a few lines of that great dialogue; they might be a plot twist that you worked your butt off to figure out. The little bits give you belief that you can do the big stuff. And you keep going.

As I write this list, I’m seeing a common thread. All these things that help us along, all these places where you get the reward of knowing we can do it–they all ask the same thing from us. They required that we put in the time. If we don’t show up, guess what? We don’t believe that showing up will help. But if we actually do put that butt in a chair, actually do open a file and start typing…all of a sudden that belief shows up for the ride.

Which, really, makes everything else worth it.

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