‘Obstacles’– #AtoZ Challenge

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Today I woke up feeling very different to how I felt at the weekend. Saturday was a fabulous day writing-wise. I did a short story for an online flash fiction course, my regular blog post and a weekly flash competition and I went to bed really feeling like a writer! Today, however I have self-doubt. I’m not working for the next month so have planned to devote much of that time to writing yet I’m doubting whether I have what it takes to succeed, even though this year has been relatively successful for me so far.

My main obstacle has always been self-doubt. It’s plagued me in several areas of my life, but no more so than in writing. Writing is difficult – it’s demanding, competitive and it requires a huge amount of hard work, often for little or no reward, so it’s something you have to want to do very very badly in order to have any chance of success. It makes you wonder why anyone even bothers to try! And yet I know that it’s what makes me happy, what makes me tick. Being shortlisted or even long listed in a competition probably gives me more satisfaction than any other thing in life, and completing a good flash fiction piece or short story is such a wonderful feeling. At times like this, my self-doubt disappears and I feel a sense of connection with the world, a feeling that I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing with my life, and remembering this feeling this morning will go some way towards eliminating the doubt.

Another obstacle is procrastination, although I’m managing it better now. I think as writers, we sometimes wait for the best time to write a story, instead of just putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and getting it down. The worst thing about procrastination is that in the act of putting something off, you end up focusing on it even more to the extent that it preoccupies you, so obviously it makes sense to simply get on with the task in hand. I’ve noticed recently, now that I’m procrastinating less, that I’m much more prolific. I can think of ideas more quickly and once I’ve got a story out, I move onto the next one immediately. This approach will (I hope) eventually result in success!

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Finishing what you started

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I’ve always had a problem with finishing things – books, relationships (!) and now writing. Particularly writing. I  have a whole mass of unfinished short stories, flash fiction and now even a novel thrown into the mix, and when I say ‘unfinished,’ I mean written, but not edited to a suitable standard, a saleable standard, I guess.

I really want to understand the mentality that lies behind not completing something you’ve set out to do. In my case I would say it’s down to self-belief, as the things I truly believed I could do, I persevered with – piano playing, becoming fluent in Japanese and running two marathons.

Writing, however, is a different thing altogether. With the activities mentioned above, there is constant proof you’re improving (passing exams, being able to communicate well and completing races), but with writing, when you’re not winning or getting shortlisted in competitions, you only have your self-belief to tell you that you’re on the right track. Of course you can always depend on your nearest and dearest to tell you how talented you are (my mum is my biggest fan), but they’re probably slightly biased! With a creative pursuit such as writing, you have to dig deep and ignore the little voices that tell you can’t do it.  In my case, it’s getting easier. The more I do it, the more I feel I’m able to do it, so I’ve now reached the stage where it’s easier and more enjoyable to do it than not and that’s a great feeling.

I’m now in the process of revisiting my stories and editing them to the standard where I feel they have a realistic chance of publication, whereas in the past I would have just given up on them and started something new. This not only a sign that my self belief is increasing but also that I’m starting to take my writing more seriously.