At the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers conference I went to a couple of weeks ago, one of the sessions I attended was a talk by Claudia Mills about how to get rid of your demons. (Now, if you write paranormal fiction that is full of demons, by all means, don’t get rid of them.)
The kinds of demons to which Claudia referred were not the embodiment of evil that you might be thinking right now. She meant the demons we bring on ourselves with our negative self-talk. Here is a short list of some of the statements we say to ourselves and her response to them:
“I’ll never get this published.” For almost all pre-published authors, this is a biggie. Who hasn’t had those moments of doubt when you wonder why you even bother? Claudia’s response was that the statement might be true. You might not get this work published, but she said we can reassure ourselves that if we keep writing, keep submitting, and keep going we will eventually get a book, story, or poem published. It might not be the one we’re working on right now. The other response to that is hopefully you love doing this even if you never get published, because the road to publication is long. If you don’t love doing it, then stop.
“I should be doing more productive things with my time. (E.g. housework, tending the children, spending time with family and friends, earning money.)” Claudia’s response to this was to indiscriminately cross housework off the list of things we should be doing rather than writing. To which I give her a big hurrah. I hate cleaning anyway–just drop by sometime and you’ll see. So to be told by a professional that I can just let that go is a good thing. She acknowledged that we do indeed need time to earn a living, spend with our families, and so on. You know, this excuse can apply to almost anything: exercise, cooking, taking a class. I am a champion at thinking of other things I should be doing besides whatever I am doing now. But I heard recently on NPR a really great response to the time argument. (As in, “I should be doing other things with my time,” or “I don’t have time.”) The speaker said we spend four hours a day on the internet, and more than that watching tv. I am pretty sure neither of those has to be done–unless of course it’s one of my favorite shows. Even so, recording tv works really well to keep my time managed. Another response is a rousing chorus of “Yes, you do need to write, because if you don’t, who will say what you have to say?”
“Everyone else is better than I am.” Ah, yes, the classic lament that we will never measure up. Claudia had an interesting take on this one. She said it would be worse if we thought we were better than everyone else. And she also said that being part of a profession that constantly urges you to do better is a good thing. Instead of getting down on yourself that all these other writers are so amazing, commit to working hard and learning your craft from them.
We all have demons, little niggly thoughts that whittle away our self confidence, our desire, our hope. The trick is to reply to them with a firm, positive answer that evaporates them into the air. If you have demons you don’t know how to exorcise, post them in the comments, and I’ll try my best to channel a response a la Claudia Mills.