Wednesday, March 25, 2015

How to Slay a Gremlin

There’s a monster hiding under my desk.  He lurks there, waiting for the right moment to attack. He’s an ugly little bastard, too.  I have a lot of names for him, but for the sake of not overusing profanity in this blog, I’ll call him by his real name, Self-Doubt.  

Most of you might think that after two decades in the business, after hitting list that I only dreamed about hitting, I’d have managed to kill the gremlin.  But you’d be wrong.  That sneaky little devil won’t die.  He keeps popping back up. 

I think self doubt is something most writers face throughout their careers.  And by careers, I don’t mean from the point that you become a published author, I mean, from the point you start writing.  I think the inability to fight the gremlin is one of the biggest things that prevent a writer from becoming published.  And it’s probably one of the reasons published writers stop writing.  That’s right, this monster doesn’t care what you’ve accomplished.  All he wants is a big bite out of your confidence.

He’ll tell you that whatever you’ve got on that computer screen is crap.  That you just need to delete it. 
He’ll convince you that no matter how good of an idea you may have, it’s probably already been done.
He’ll whisper in your ear that you’re wasting your time, that cleaning out your grout in your kitchen tile with a toothbrush is much more important.  Sometimes he possesses your family and friends and they’ll say things like, “How long are you going to put yourself though all this pain before you find something else to do with your time?”  He’ll stare you right in the eyes and tell you that your dreams are silly and you’ll never reach them.  He’ll make you believe that the one negative review out of twenty good ones is the one you should listen to.  If you let him, he not only can slow you down, he’ll rob you of the joy and passion you feel for writing. 

Now, that gremlin is always close by, nipping at your toes, giving you moments of doubt.  I think that’s somewhat normal.  But let that creature scramble up your leg, hang out in your lap, or even worse, let him climb up on your shoulder, where you can listen to him all day long, and you’ll soon be playing Russian Roulette with your passion for writing.  Because writing with a self-doubt gremlin sitting on your shoulder is about as easy as brushing your teeth with a brownie in your mouth. 

So how do we slay the gremlin or at least keep him at bay?  Below are five tips for overcoming and preventing self-doubt from chewing on your sanity.

1. Be Aware or Peer Pressure.  
We preach this to our kids but so often we forget that the bad habits of the people we hang out with are as contagious as a stomach virus.  If you’re hanging out with negative people, people who have lost their ability to chase their dreams, you’re at risk of becoming just like them.  Find positive people who validate your dreams and work ethics to share your life and support your journey.

2. Ward off the message that you don’t know what you’re doing by continually growing at a writer.  Read how-to books, take classes, attend those writer meetings and listen to what other writers offer as advice.

3. Mentor someone else.  Nothing can inspire you more than helping and encouraging another person.  Telling others that they have to believe in themselves is a sure fire way or rekindling your own self-confidence.  It also creates karma.

4. Be leery of ruts.  If you’re not feeling the passion for your writing, try spicing things up by doing something different.  Try writing something in a new genre, or try writing something in a different point of view.  Nothing can get you out of a rut quicker than feeling challenged.

5. Accept that sometimes you are going to fail. That you’re going to make mistakes.  That you’re going to get rejections—that it might take you years to accomplish what you want to accomplish. Understand that you aren’t the first person to get fifty rejections, or a hundred, or even a thousand. The truth is, the number of rejections you receive doesn’t matter.  You are not defeated until you let yourself be defeated.

Writing isn’t for wimps.  Chances are, you’ll face those gremlins, not once but many times, so just be armed with good friends, knowledge, Karma, a sense of adventure, and perseverance.  And never, ever lose your sense of humor.  And now that I’ve shared with you my tips for slaying gremlins, I’d like to hear some of yours.  How do you tackle self doubt?

--Christie Craig, AKA, C.C. Hunter

Christie Craig, AKA, C.C. Hunter, author of the New York Times Bestselling Series, Shadow Falls, has had to slay a lot of gremlins on her climb up on the publishing ladder.  After selling her first book in 1993, she didn’t publish book two until 2006.  For thirteen years she listened to the monster tell her she wasn’t good enough—to give up.  She’s since published thirty books, and hit the New York Times and USA Today list with both her names.



Beverley Burgess Bell said...

Hi Jessica,
So many of your points make sense to me. Self-doubt has got to be one of the biggest bogeymen of all time. Thanks for your posts.I always look forward to reading them.

Kaye George said...

Great post Christie! Amazing how we writers all have this in common.

Kate Douglas said...

Even before I read this, I knew Jessica hadn't written it--Gremlins tremble in fear when she enters the room--but I love every word you said, Christie, and it's so true.

The one thing that has helped me fight off the little beasties is that I've framed every one of my Kensington book covers and have them on the walls of my office. I'll be adding my SMP covers alongside them. It took me twenty years of writing, submitting, fighting off the naysayers (my mother was the worst!) and the gremlins before signing my first NY publishing contract. Those covers are vivid, colorful proof that if I could do it once, I can do it again.

I still have days where I think every word I put on the page is crap, but I write them anyway. I go back and reread the next day, and I almost always find the bones of the story under the dross and can rewrite and make it into what I originally intended. It's so hard to have faith in ourselves, especially when there are trolls out there aiding and abetting the gremlins, but the secret is to believe that even when we fail, we've helped build more of a foundation for succeeding.

For what it's worth, that first book with Kensington went into eleven print runs and continues to sell today, nine years after release. I have to admit, though, that a lot of credit goes to my agent. Jessica Faust is a gremlin-slayer extraordinaire! said...

"If you let him, he not only can slow you down, he’ll rob you of the joy and passion you feel for writing."

I think losing the joy is the worst thing that can happen to a writer.

Thanks for your post.

Elissa M said...

"You are not defeated until you let yourself be defeated."

This line resonates the most with me. It emphasizes that we writers are not powerless. We decide when (if) we're through, no one else. Not family, not critics, nobody but ourselves.

I think this post goes well with yesterday's, since gremlins definitely encourage complaints. Ever since I read yesterday's post, I've had a particular song in my head...

"You've got to:
Ac-cen-tchu-ate the positive,
E-lim-in-ate the negative,
Latch on to the affirmative,
Don't mess with Mr. In-between.

Tambra said...

Fabulous post, Christie!

Some days are worse than others when this ugly little troll decides to hang around.

One of the quotes that help me is: "You can write a really, really, sh*tty first draft." Giving myself permission to write crap is a freeing.

Other times I think it's just pure stubbornness on my part to keep going. Like a kid sticking my tongue out and saying, "nana nana boo boo."

The worst days I try to remind myself I should count my blessings because I can write crap, which can be edited.

I'm so proud of what you've accomplished. I remember meeting you years ago and how much you inspired me then.

You're one of my writing heroes.

DLM said...

Another great post - this week is fantastic! I agree with Tambra, and would say that freedom is one of the greatest parts of being a writer. I'm in the crap-writing phase right now - have instilled in myself the belief that anything at this point is strictly sketching, strictly for practice ... and yet, I know too that it's foundational. Reveling in both aspects of this.

Linda Steinberg said...

I just watched a Mike and Molly episode with what I felt was a very quotable quote: "Some days, the pie wins."

We all have days when the self-doubt seems overwhelming. It's okay to let yourself Not Fight for one day. The important thing is the next day, to get back up on the horse. (sorry for the mixed metaphors)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I like what Kate Douglas said about her book covers.

All of my "amazing" (how's that for confidence), published essays and articles fill one binder and my "Enough Said" newspaper columns (hundreds) fill another. My kids framed their favorites and they fill the walls of my office. Even though I am surrounded by over 25 years of effort and success, the sneaky little bastard sometimes rears his head. I hit him over the noggin with my binders, eat a bowl of Rocky Road, and get back to work.

But still, hundreds of by-lines does not a title page make. I'm working on that one as the beast nips at my heels.

Diane Vallere said...

"Because writing with a self-doubt gremlin sitting on your shoulder is about as easy as brushing your teeth with a brownie in your mouth."<--so well put!

Self-doubt has been my co-pilot for a long time. When I hear people say they never doubted that they'd achieve their goals/dreams, I wonder if I'm the only one. Thanks for putting into words that we all (or most of us) feel this, Christie!