We all know that self-doubt will kill your creativity and your productivity faster than just about anything else. To get books finished and launched into the world, writers need to get past their self-doubt.
One technique that some writers use is to imagine their self-doubt like a troll that sits in the corner and says awful things. This troll can’t die, and it can’t escape your head. The idea is to beat that troll down until he’s barely a whisper, or withhold food and keep him on the brink of starvation; too weak and tired to talk shit. In other words, don’t feed the troll.
I subscribed to this philosophy for a long time, until I started to think about it differently. I still see the nagging self-doubt troll in the corner, no doubt, but I began digging into why he says the shit that he says. Nobody does anything without a reason; not even imaginary trolls trapped in your head.
Eventually, I figured it out. The troll isn’t your enemy.
He’s your friend.
He tells you that you’re not good enough. He says you’ll fail. He says that you’re not smart enough. He says you’re a hack.
He does this because he’s afraid for you.
Think about it. What if you try and fail? What if people write bad reviews about you? What if people think you’re stupid or untalented? What if people don’t like you? All these things are risks when you put yourself out there for others to see–and judge.
He’s trying to protect you by dissuading you from taking risks that might cause harm. Remember, he’s stuck in your head with nowhere to go. He can’t die, not until you die. So whatever you go through, he does too. He takes the punches right alongside you.
He’s not your enemy. He’s actually your best friend, but his communication skills are lacking. He’s blunt. He’s rude. He’s childish. He’s impudent. He’s crass.
Hell, he’s scared all the time; what else do you expect?
So instead of beating him down the next time he starts his shit, maybe you should console him. Pat him on his bumpy little troll head and tell him that everything is okay. Tell him that you appreciate his concern, but you got this. Tell him that if he just chills out and sits quietly, the storm will pass and everything will be okay again. You’ll take the risks and keep him safe.
Like a fussy baby, once he’s calm he’ll shut up. He’ll go back to whispering in the corner, a soft murmur that you’ll ignore while you get things done.
Once you empathize with him, you’ll understand that his words are a misguided effort to keep the both of you safe. Ultimately, instead of feeling resentment toward him, you’ll feel pity.
And as far as feelings go, resentment is a whole lot more expensive to maintain than pity.