Monday, July 21, 2008


As promised, here are 5 ways of overcoming the doubts and obstacles.

1. Celebrate the victories, big and small.
Each acceptance, each public reading, each note from a reader means the work is paying off. I still get a thrill when an editor takes the time to compliment one of the poems he or she has accepted. Sometimes, when the doubts are there, I look back at my collection of contributor copies to remind myself that others have found my poetry worthy of a public space. Sometimes, I look back at my emails from the folks at Anhinga to recapture that energy.

2. Cultivate supportive friends and family members.
Writing is hard, isolated work. Largely, we writers spend a lot of time inside our own heads. When the doubts arrive, reach out to a good friend, colleague or family member. Let their words remind you that the process of discovery necessary for each new poem, story, essay, or other art piece is worth your time and energy. My dad admits that he doesn't really "get" poetry, but he tells me that he is proud of what I've done, regardless. It might sound sappy, but it helps.

3. Try not to wallow in self-pity or self-recrimination.
This is a take on Megan's comment from the previous post. I do have a habit of wallowing in self-blame. A lot of valuable time can be lost this way.
3 1/2. If you must wallow, set yourself a time limit.
Give yourself one evening with Ben & Jerry or a bottle of wine. Vent. Then get over it.

4. Create a hands-on tool kit for jump-starting new work. The best way I've found to break the cycle of the doubtings is to get back to the page. I'll often ask a fellow poet to give me an assignment and a time limit. It might be a bit contrived, but it gets me back to the work and away from the couch. I also use submissions for this purpose. Sometimes focusing on the business side of things gets my mind off the doubts and back to the work. After all, in order to send something out there, I have to believe it is ready for public consumption. This often leads to revisions, which leads to ideas for new poems.

5. Pobody's Nerfect.
My mother, in all her wisdom, knew from the time I was very young that I have a tendency to beat myself up over mistakes. She once gave me a bookmark with "Pobody's Nerfect" on it. Lately, the phrase has come back to comfort me. Be kind to yourself. Each day offers a new chance to overcome the doubts and jump back into the writing. If you feel like you've let the doubts stifle you, just remember that there's always another chance to get back to the page.

1 comment:

Megan Chapman said...

Great tips! For writers, for all artists, really for anyone struggling with something...

I have an assignment on the horizon for myself, and I can't wait to dig in.. It may not turn out the way I want it to but it will get me moving and out of my head, and that is half the battle.

Thank you Sandy..

Ps. I am so glad you LOVE the painting!! Thank you. I am putting that in my memory banks... : )