Do you hear those voices, too? You know, the voices that attempt to convince your rational self that you’re not original enough or smart enough or talented enough to be a writer? If so, I am deeply empathetic. And relieved I’m not alone.
I sometimes have the unsettling impression that I’m a pawn in a game of chess that exists only in my mind, desperately trying to avoid the squares marked “insecure” so I can safely land on the squares marked “confident” before I get checkmated. Problem is, I suck at chess.
These nagging feelings of insufficiency are not new to me. They didn’t suddenly manifest themselves after I left the corporate world to focus on writing. In fact, insecurity was a character trait I regularly attempted to keep at bay (with decidedly mixed results) when I worked in an office full-time. While I believe my fear of never being good enough often propelled me to do excellent work – convincing yourself you need to work harder and better than everyone else in order to succeed is the ultimate masochistic motivator if ever there was one – I am equally certain my fear held me back. You see, I’ve always had enormous difficulty parlaying whatever confidence I possess into the ability to effectively promote my skills.
So here I am today, trying mightily to ignore the pesky internal voice that’s making me feel sorry for myself. Trying mightily to remind myself of what I’ve accomplished – both professionally and personally – since walking away two years ago from my legal marketing career.
And yet, that voice continues torture me. I’m now one writer in a vast sea of writers. My inner dialogue shifts on a daily – sometimes hourly – basis: “shit, I’m actually pretty good at this” or “shit, no one will ever want to publish my ramblings” or “shit, get over yourself and write that essay and pitch the hell out of it, for crying out loud!”
I confess that I have trouble finding the head space for my personal writing while also managing my paid writing gigs. It’s not that I don’t have the time to do both. I do. But I would do it infinitely better if I was more organized and had more confidence. And now that I’ve started to write professionally, I’m scared that the effort it takes me to produce the paid work will diminish the enthusiasm I’ve always had to pursue my personal writing goals.
You see, before I dove into writing as a job, my personal writing was what I did to escape the challenges of my day job. But now that writing is also my day job, the personal and the professional are more inextricably linked than ever. And frankly, that realization has thrown me for an unexpected loop.
So many of us – regardless of our professions – struggle with the elusive quest for balance. One of the lessons I’ve learned since forgoing a steady paycheck: you don’t suddenly find balance just because you no longer have to spend time in an office every day. Rather, you have to learn to balance other things. For me, some of those things include:
- devoting more time to proactively seeking paid freelance work
- promoting my blog to gain exposure for my personal writing
- overcoming the fear to pitch personal essays
- struggling to write at home when the cacophony made by the dog and the kids (and sometimes my husband) makes me want to pull out my hair – when the going gets tough, I get going to my office at Panera
- advocating for myself so that my friends and family understand that writing is my job and not my hobby, even if most of the writing I’m doing is still unpaid
The biggest threat to my balancing act these days, however, is fear. Fear of not knowing where to start. Fear of rejection. Fear that I have nothing interesting to say. And fear that even if I do have something interesting to say, someone has already said it and said it better than I ever could.
I’ve discovered a lot of wonderful writers over the past year, which has been both incredibly inspiring and overwhelmingly intimidating. On good days, I tell myself that there’s room for me, too. On bad days, I long for a cave.
When you feel yourself succumbing to the voices of insecurity, what how do you banish them from your head?