Viewing time: 4 minutes and 5 seconds
The Write Question is a weekly video podcast about writing that I started in 2017 and that ran, more or less weekly, until April 2022. This is a republication of the fourth issue, on lack of confidence, which ran on Feb. 10/17.
Welcome to The Write Question, the video-podcast designed to answer your questions about writing. I’m Daphne Gray-Grant.
Today I have a question from Rita Montgomery of Toronto, Ontario. She’s an editor and a successful writer who’s suddenly become crippled with a lack of confidence. Let’s listen to what she has to say:
[recording] “Even though I’ve won an award for my investigative writing and I’ve worked as a magazine editor for six years, something has overtaken my thought process and I’m blinded by a profound distrust in my writing ability. I’m at the point I feel like I want to quit. It’s currently taking me a tortuous ten hours to produce what should take me one hour. What can I do?”
Thanks for being brave enough to ask the question, Rita. I have some thoughts for you.
First, let me ask if you’re trying to edit WHILE you write? Your comment about taking 10 hours to write something makes me think that you are. People who edit WHILE they write will put one sentence into words and then start editing it IMMEDIATELY. Then, they’ll write the second sentence and start editing the first one all over again. This is a painful and HORRIBLE way to write. I know, because I used to write this way, too. When I finally quit editing while I wrote, I more than doubled my writing speed. I have some tricks for beating this habit, and I’ll include a link in the description.
I’m also wondering whether you’ve ever tried meditation? Some people might think this sounds flakey but, trust me, it’s not. Lots of scientific research shows there are huge benefits to meditating. I’m convinced you already KNOW how to write. Your problem is your self-confidence. Meditation can help restore it. You can start with just five or 10 minutes per day and increase your time as you feel more comfortable with it. Just sit or lie on the floor and close your eyes, then focus on your breathing. Each time your mind starts to drift — and it will — gently bring it back to your breath. I’m including a link to a post I’ve written on meditation — as well as a link to Dan Harris’s site. I really liked his book on meditation.
The last thing I’d like you to ask yourself is whether your well is full enough? Now, I’m not talking about a real live well, here. I’m talking about a metaphorical one. This is the place where you store your memories of the FUN things you’ve done. Are you seeing enough movies? Meeting enough friends for coffee or beer? Listening to enough music? These aren’t niceties! They’re essential fuel for any writer. If you don’t enrich your life by getting enough exposure to whatever inspires you — something other than work — you aren’t going to be able to write. If you need to, schedule some time for these activities. And maybe start thinking about your next vacation, too.
The late American writer Maya Angelou said, “Every person needs to take one day away. A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future. Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence.”
Thanks for your question, Rita. Good luck with your writing.
Thanks so much for watching. If YOU have a question for me, you can email, tweet, or skype me, details in the description along with any resources I’ve mentioned in the video. And don’t forget to subscribe and like the video.