A Purposeful WIP Unpacks Uncertainty

I really don’t have anything new to report on the novel-writing front as I’m still in the midst of my big final edit, but as I move forward and make progress, approaching the next step in the process, I will say that I continue to be surprised (for lack of a better word) that I have made it this far. One reason for that feeling of surprise is the topic of this week’s ABCs of a Purposeful WIP message. And that is uncertainty.

For anyone—writer or not—who has aimed to reach a goal or make a change or stretch the limits of your comfort zone, feelings of uncertainty, although completely normal, can be downright debilitating. It’s difficult to keep dreaming the big dream, making the plans, and working toward that achievement when we’re not even sure ourselves that we can do it. It’s hard to convince others of our determination when we are terrified to a state of immobility by our own doubts.

I’m here to tell you that I understand. I’ve been there. That state of doubt-induced inertia is one I’ve found myself sinking into time and time again over the last few years. But I’m also here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way. We don’t have to allow our doubts to have the last word, or dictate the direction of our lives, or crush our motivation. Progress is possible despite the regular appearance of doubt as long as we know where it’s coming from. If we take the time to unpack our uncertainty, if we determine to understand the cause, then we can acknowledge it, resolve it, and move past it.

But how do we do that? Depending on your level of commitment for digging into your feelings, this can be both simple and not. It’s as simple as getting out a piece of paper and pen and journaling through some prompts, though your responses, themselves, will likely be complicated. Here are a few things to consider:

  1. What is the doubt that holds you back? Identify it, name it, and be as specific as possible. My biggest doubt is that my words are unimportant. And you can imagine how incapacitating such a belief can be on a writer’s morale.
  2. Where does the doubt come from? Listen to the voice that pipes up when you’re in the throes of uncertainty. Is it yours or someone else’s? Mine is a mish-mash. Snippets of pointed conversations and humiliating experiences from years past, the accumulation of which clings to me and weighs me down if I let it.
  3. Write a letter to your doubt. Tell it that while you’ve appreciated its presence in the past—after all, it did save you from failing because it kept you from even trying—you are no longer in need of its assistance. List all the reasons you won’t be buying into its lies anymore (e.g. you’re no longer the same person), then remind your doubt (and therefore yourself) how awesome, capable, and well-equipped you are to accomplish your goal.

I encourage you to repeat this process anytime your uncertainties come back, and unfortunately, they will resurface. But I can tell you from experience, that if you remain diligent, if you don’t allow them to get the upper hand, then any setbacks you might encounter will be minimal.

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