I touched a little on confidence towards the end of my last post. It occurred to me then, that here was a cross-over between my writing life and my profession.
For my day job, I am a sports professional: competition dressage rider and trainer to be precise. Take a look at my website if you’re interested: debbylush.co.uk
A fair amount of my work depends on sports psychology, and that’s where I spotted the overlap. I’m sure you’ve heard of PMA: Positive Mental Attitude. It’s what gives winners an edge.
For writers, and indeed for everyday life, PMA can help make your life more productive, more rewarding, and just plain more enjoyable!
So how do we go about developing a Positive Mental Attitude if we don’t already have one? It’s not as if you can just ‘pull yourself together’ or ‘have confidence’ when you doubt yourself, but there are several factors that you can learn to recognise, accept and then manipulate to your advantage, whether in your general life, or your writing.
1. State of mind – think back to a specific instance in your life. Let’s say when you showed your latest piece of writing to someone else, like a beta reader. How was your state of mind – negative or positive? Did you worry about what they would think of it? Expecting the worst and preparing for the worst are two very different approaches. Leaving the actual quality of your writing aside for now, there are two tactics you can use to alter your state of mind:
- Visualisation – picture a writer you’ve always admired, say at a book signing. They chat easily with their fans and are proud of their work. Now picture yourself doing the same. It might be a while before you are doing a book signing of your own, but draw a mental image of yourself in that scenario – the mind has a wonderful way of believing its inner vision.
- Recreate feelings – dig out a memory of when you felt really proud of yourself. It can be about anything; just draw up the memory of how it felt, and keep replaying it, particularly when you feel unconfident.
By making a conscious change to your state of mind, you can put yourself in the best position to deal with any outcome. Even if your beta hates your latest work, when you are in a positive state of mind you can take turn that into a ‘what can I do to change your opinion’, instead of being destroyed by it.
2. Self doubt and Losers Limp – you may ask yourself totally valid questions like, is my writing good enough? You may also be a victim of ‘Loser’s Limp’, with good reasons, such as gaps in your education (my spelling used to be atrocious!) If you have either of these, you may be using them to give yourself permission not to improve. This is what I meant earlier about recognising and accepting. Do you have excuses? If you do, your subconscious will tell you that you aren’t going to get better, so why try? Root them out and dispose of them.
3. Self-belief – how do you feel about your writing skills? You may be right or wrong, but whatever you believe, your mind will act as if you are right. Sad to say, if you lack self-belief you may be sabotaging yourself, even if you really are a good writer. If you doubt your ability, try reframing your belief as a challenge: ‘I’m not sure my writing is good enough yet, but I’m working to improve it.’
4. Positive framing – in the same way your mind actions what you think, it will also action what you say. Once you verbalise a thought, it is recorded in your mind. Instead of saying: ‘I’m really nervous about sharing my writing with readers’, try, ‘I can’t wait to share my writing – I’m looking forward to finding out what works and what still needs improving’. Say it aloud to yourself and to as many people as you can get to listen to you, then your mind will start to action your words and you’ll find you really do want to share and get feedback.
5. Learning from your mistakes – you will make mistakes – that’s an inevitable part of the learning process. The important thing is to make every mistake a learning experience. When you put your work out there, people will criticise it. Hopefully they will critique rather than criticise, but there are plenty of negative people out there – don’t be one of them! Take every comment and try to see what you can learn from it. In the end, it’s your work, and however hard you try you aren’t going to please everyone, so if you’ve genuinely tried to deal with a comment and you still disagree with it, just give yourself permission to ignore it!
Do you have any other ways of dealing with confidence issues? I’d love to hear them.