“No one cares as much as you do” and other frank advice for self-doubt
By Kat Vella
Writing is hard. I had been expecting, naively, that after years of doing it, it was bound to get easier. I was certain that one day, a moment would suddenly arrive where I would have an idea, sit down with Chopin’s piano strokes dancing in my ears, and words would flood from me into something ground-breaking.
I cannot impress upon you how much of a bullshit fantasy that is.
Writing for me is still as difficult and uncomfortable as the first time I wrote in my diary as an introverted 8-year-old. I ask myself every time I sit down to write, "Why the fuck do I do it to myself?" I haven’t come up with anything particularly enlightening as to why yet. Perhaps I love the drama.
In March, I sat down to write a piece about some reflections and observations I’d had about womanhood from publishing other women’s stories in Mona Magazine for three years. After my initial brain dump of ideas, I seemed to hit what felt quite literally like a brick wall. With every key stroke I experienced physical pain in the pit of my belly as the fire in there extinguished. I hated every clunky, contrived word I was forcing out of myself. My inevitable conclusion was that I was a fraud, of course. That was why it was so difficult. After this ah-ha moment, it was frightening how quickly the fog set in. I sat staring at the screen, fingers poised to type, and, nothing.
This continued for weeks. WEEKS! I thought for sure I had lost my mojo forever (did I mention I love the drama?).
But then I decided to do something I never do, I shared what I was going through and asked for help. What followed was a tidal wave of expert advice, reassurance, and love from women throughout our community. Time-toughened, wise women creatives from all corners of regional Australia very much acquainted with brain fog, shared their insights into battling the beast of self-doubt and reigniting their burning belly-fires.
From simple things like getting out into some fresh air, to more philosophical ones like understanding that some ideas just need time, here are the pearls of the Mona Community’s wisdom for you to apply next time you face your inner fraud!
How do you deal with self doubt and the inevitable brain fog that sets in?
“I listen to grumpy old bags who know stuff, like: It's a phase, it will pass. My efficient friend told me this: the 20 min thing - bash out 20 minutes, do something else for 20 minutes to reward yourself. Repeat.”
“I’m not much of a writer or creative but with my work, I try activities that stimulate other parts of my brain, in playful way, or try something new that takes me out of the comfort zone. Helps me focus on a new ability and be more focused so that my brain becomes unstuck."
“Go towards charm and away from rigidity or resistance. Use your non-dominant hand to scribble or to write back from the part of you that’s struggled. Hear what that part of you has to say and why she is struggling.”
“I’m a professional al procrastinator! It may be obvious but what about a whole day without a phone? Just truly connecting with yourself and your surroundings. Letting your loved people know you’ll be uncontactable for a day, and take a break. It wasn’t until my phone broke that I got to feel present and clear in a long time. I admire you and thank you for being human.”
“Maybe try and get visual. Create a mind map of the story you are wanting to write. The foundational key parts, then the tendrils that spread out from these key themes, then the connecting points between themes and tendrils. Then when you write it out, join and weave together.”
“I’ve tried many methods, but sometimes the mind knows best. Sometimes it’s time that is needed.”
“It happens. I walk and give it space. Often new directions and words come to me when I least expect them. You can’t force creativity. And there’s nothing quite like a good laugh with friends to lift the fog! Your mojo won’t be gone forever.”
“Take a day off if you can and have a complete break! Swim, connect with nature, treat yourself. Running a magazine is challenging and writing on top of that… wow! When brain fog sets in, it’s so annoying for those of us used to juggling all the things. Self-doubt is healthy but don’t forget you inspire lots of people with the work you do so go easy on yourself.”
“Cut yourself a break, kid! Put it in perspective, is it really that big of a deal?”
“Listen to Bob Dylan, Rodriguez, Dead South and Tracey Chapman with alcohol, fairy lights and incense. Repeat after me: Your story is important. Your story is unique. There will be many people who want to read it.”
“Write it for a ten year old. Just to break the ice and then go back to it.”
ISSUE 03 IS HERE!!!
“I swim. Religiously. Something therapeutic about submerging the body in water. Treat yourself to a good massage. Self-care is the utmost of importance.”
“The only way is through! Rest. Declutter. Lie down. I lay down yesterday and finally, after months, found a way through a plot hole in my latest novel. Removal of a whole character! Came to me when I was lying, at peace and quiet, ear plugs in so no noise to make the brain tired.”
“Take care of yourself. Be gentle. Encourage yourself the way you would a beloved friend to help find your way out of the self-doubt hole. You’ve got this!”
“If I have brain fog on a specific piece of writing or art or photography, I write, create or photograph something else completely different. Sometimes that time away spend on something else gives me the aha moment for the piece I’m having trouble on."
“Stuff gin and tonic in the bath!!”
“I try to surround myself with supportive people - meet in person, jump on a Zoom call, and be with people who pick me up. I also find exercise helps bring out those "ah ha!" moments to keep ticking my work over.”
“Take the pressure off, breathe, and remove some expectation. You will always see it as more important than others will.”
“If I get stuck like this (often), I lower my standards and just aim to get ANYTHING down, knowing I can come back and redo if necessary. I mean ANYTHING. Often utter crap. Just anything. But sometimes, I just need to reset and walk away from it and freshen up my brain with unrelated stuff - this could be an hour, a day, a week, or a month. If there's a time line then my ADHD will often kick in just on the 'unlikely to be possible' to 'impossible to complete in x time' timeline and I just have to accept whatever I produce. Generally, I'm still happy with it when I look back after it has been submitted, despite being certain at the time it was an utter pile of shite that will finally reveal the imposter I am! (You know.. that old stupid chestnut self-myth we all seem to be born with) Believe in you and your brain, and enjoy some rest/recharging guilt free.”
“For me it’s about my sacred space - having a beautiful space where I am completely safe to make mistakes and learn and create. That space is often at home in my studio/lounge where all my design decisions/furniture/art/sounds etc. cater for inspiration and clear energy. Self-talk is really important for me to overcome a creative block, but rest is also vital. Walking away from a project - like truly walking away from it and not having anxiety over it - even for just a day to return back to some positive energy. I think my best resource I have though are the women in my life - surrounding myself with people who are real, authentic and kind souls who inspire me to believe in my own strengths and worth. There’s so much beauty in accepting imperfection and embracing wherever we are at as part of the process.”
“Hmm to be honest I haven’t written in a year as I’m trying to focus on my copywriting business and it just takes so much out of me to do both. But when I was just writing poetry, I would just write for 10 minutes a day without stopping. It didn’t even need to make sense, as long as I didn’t stop because I would get ideas from that. But if you’re really struggling I would say, give what you’ve done to another writer and get them to list some ideas for you. I used to be part of a writing group and that was always so helpful as well. They wouldn’t write it for me but they would say “maybe you could mention something about this or that”.”
Have you pre ordered your copy of Mona Magazine Issue 03 yet!