Friday, August 31, 2012

Eliminating Doubt

Okay, so I always attend some professional development before school starts. Last week, I had the opportunity to listen to Dr. Craig Manning. He was a professional tennis player in Australia, and he's now a performance psychologist and works with Olympic athletes.

He said that when artists and athletes allow doubt into their minds, that's when they can't perform. It rang true to me at the moment, and I still believe it's true. If I sit down to write and find that everything I've done feels like garbage, that's because I'm doubting myself. My ability to craft a story with an arc, my desire to create three-dimensional characters, even things on the line level.

So how does one get over this doubt?

Craig said something that made sense to me. He said that when he was coaching girl's tennis at BYU, and the match wasn't going well, he'd go out on the court and instead of focusing on all the things the player had done wrong (which they were already obsessing over!), he told them to tell him three things they were doing well.

Three things.

And if they muttered about it, he'd say, "Name three things, or I'm forfeiting the match." (And he has a cool Australian accent, so imagine this threat in that.)

So that's something I've started doing in my writing. If I feel like nothing's going right, and every word on the page should be deleted, I stop. I focus on three things I do well, and use those things to drive the doubt away.

Because I don't want to forfeit the match.

Do you experience doubt? How do you overcome it?

37 comments:

Bethany Myers said...

Love this!

Publishing is full of peek and valleys. I'm in the valley right now.

I usually tell myself to just keep writing, but now I'm definately adding the "3 things."

Excellent exercise to do before starting up the lap top.

Thanks, Elana!

Natalie Aguirre said...

That's a great tip. I usually just ride out those doubting moments by not writing. I'll have to try your tip. Thanks for sharing it.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That's an awesome tip! We tend to focus on the negative and not the positive.

SA Larsenッ said...

That's a great method for forcing us to change our mindset and move into a more positive realm. I'm so starting to do this. Thanks for sharing!

Linda Jackson said...

Thanks, Elana. Great post and a great tip. I was experiencing this recently and decided to simply sit down and write and not worry about it being "good". Instead I'm focusing on writing down the story that's in my head. Making it "good" is what revisions are for. :)

ilima said...

If there's any writer out there who never experiences doubt, I want to ring their neck. Ha! There've been times w/ my CP's where we send a snippet or chapter for cheerleading purposes only. No negative comments allowed, only the good stuff. This helps boost spirits in those doubting times.

Lauren said...

Very good advice. I plan to use this on myself.

Angela Brown said...

Experience doubt? I think doubt would like to be my constant companion. It trails me and pokes me continuously to get my attention. Sometimes I can ignore it. Other times, it sneaks in and I have to let go of whatever it is I'm writing at the moment so I don't let it creep into the work. Is there not some spray to simply keep doubt away? lol!

Kelly Hashway said...

Absolutely! We all do. But I refuse to let doubt take over. I'm doing what I love and I try to focus on that when I feel doubt creeping in.

Julie Daines said...

I'm not usually big on motivational stuff, but I really like this. Thanks!

Martha Ramirez said...

Wow absolutely love this! This is great, Elana. He is so right on. I'm going to start doing this. Thanks!

Jolene Louise said...

My gosh! I really needed to read this. I'm at a writing point where I'm doing this every day. Thank you for giving me encouragement and a way to re-examine my doubt. :)

Robin Weeks said...

So cool! Thanks for sharing.

Lori Ann Freeland said...

I like that. And it's do-able too! Thanks, Elana :)

Heidi said...

I dunno. I've written some pretty bad stuff while being totally sure that I was "in the zone."

Angela Ackerman said...

Great advice! I think a positive attitude helps so much. Too often we focus on the bad instead of the good. We will never be perfect, but we should always be proud of how we've grown. :)

Angela

Jemi Fraser said...

Wow! That's awesome advice. I'm definitely going to be hearing it in my head from now on - and I'm including the accent :)

bethchristopher.com said...

That's great advice, especially in an Aussie accent. ;-) I save "positive" e-mails, even if they're rejections, and read those. Or read particularly glowing, deliberate comments from my crit group or betas. It's so easy to dwell on the negative, but on my fail days, it helps to go back and read comments about what is working.

ExcuseMeWhileINoteThat Down said...

I love Aussie accents - a throwback to my days of having a crush on almost everyone in Neighbours in the 80s... That is sound advice - and lately I've been saying to myself "Oh shut up and just get on with it!" which seems to work, too! :-)

Angie said...

Thank,you, thank you, thank you!

Liesl Shurtliff said...

Bless you, I needed to hear this today. I had an acting teacher in college who would make me do this whenever I got frustrated with a scene or monologue. Performance psychology is for real!

Donna K. Weaver said...

What an awesome thought. And it makes so much sense. We do so much self-sabotage that we don't need other people trying to get us down.

Gail said...

I often feel like I am the queen of doubt. This is why I don't get much written. I belong to a critique group that doesn't like certain things and I am taking a writing class and the instructor seems to hate every part of my story. What you wrote makes sense. Thank you for the post. I so needed to read this today.

June G said...

I think I am at the point of forfeiting the match...maybe I should keep going. Thanks. Again. You're always so timely...

mshatch said...

I experience doubt all the time but I refuse to let it stop me from doing what I love: write! It may be hard, I may get stuck, and I might still be waiting to get my foot in the door but I am NOT forfeiting the match!

Besides, what else would I do every night?

Amy Saia said...

Good advice! I know when I tell myself I can't write something, I don't. But when I tell myself I can, some of my favorite scenes, stories come out.

I love the three things rule. Thanks for sharing it!

Caryn Caldwell said...

Wow. I love this! Just what I needed to hear today, since I've definitely been feeling the fear and the doubt. Am going to make my list right away and then start WRITING.

Marsha Sigman said...

I give myself endless pep talks. And quote Dune...'Fear is the mind killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear.'

Yes, I realize deep down I am a total nerd.

Great post! And just finished Surrender. You have nothing to feel doubt about, completely awesome. But you are killing me with the cliff hangers!!!

Alice said...

So true. This really works. I've tried it before I perform on guitar and sing in front of others. Whenever I start worrying, I tell myself several things I've done well and that I'm going to do great and it helps a lot.

Diana said...

Even when I'm not doubting, it's still hiding around a corner waiting to pounce. On the days it's really bad, I usually take a time out and read a book I know I love to remind me why I write in the first place.

moonduster said...

I think self-doubt is the bane of every writer and I struggle with it myself.

Nichole Giles said...

I have doubt. Having doubt right now, even though things are looking really good for me. There's always something that keeps you awake, makes you wonder if you're doing the right thing, or if you should quit, or do something different, and blah, blah, blah. We are predisposed to doubt ourselves on every level, every step of the way.

That's when I go to the gym. It helps, I swear.

Rebecca Taylor said...

I never reread what I only just written...I look it over the next day before I start back up and usually find that it is better than I originally thought. Of course, sometimes it's total crap and I just need to start over :-)

Nicole said...

Excellent post and advice! I have day-to-day doubts, but I don't let them get me down for the long-term. I know I can work through them. It might take hard, hard work, but I have faith and confidence that I can get there!

Kathryn Purdie said...

I love this and am totally going to start implementing it today. THANKS!!

Christy said...

So simple but effective. Thanks!

maine character said...

Awesome tip. I find that helps with anxiety as well, as when lying awake. I can focus on Radio Worry, or I can focus on Radio Relax. And to do that, I switch my thoughts over to what's good - soft pillow, it's quiet, I exercised today, I ate well...

What you focus on is what comes to the forefront, and so that tennis tip is definitely empowering.

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