Writing a book requires a significant amount of vulnerability. But this vulnerability can open up deeper wounds, feelings of inadequacy, and a feeling that you just don’t belong in the author world. When we heal this mindset block, we receive the key we need to move forward with our books again. I have some tips for you on how to beat the feeling of not being good enough.
Several weeks ago, my family had the opportunity to participate in an all ages, state wide track meet. My husband did long jump and triple jump in college and he had been excited to go. We thought it would be a good event for all of us. So my husband, me, and my four children signed up.
Now, let me explain something to you. I am not an athlete. I have a workout routine that I can stay pretty consistent with, but I am not fast; and I am not strong. Despite this, I signed up for the long jump and the 200 meter. I signed up for three reasons.
First, I thought that I would be more consistent working out if I were training for a specific event. Nothing keeps me more motivated than a deadline.
Second, I thought it would be fun for us to do this as a family, where my husband could teach all of us something new.
Third, I wanted to be an example to my children. I am a huge believer that the best way to teach your kids how to do hard things is to let them see you do hard things. So I signed up.
The meet was hard. It was a lot harder than I thought it would be, and I had a lot of emotions about how I did, the experience in general, and about my performance. I was discouraged. I was embarrassed, and I had a lot of self pity about my kids interrupting my focus and the weather being unpleasant. But the emotions were pretty extreme. And I realized that I was probably not upset about the track meet, I probably triggered some deeper wounds. Since I teach all about how our thoughts and feelings are intertwined and how we can change our feelings by changing our thoughts, I decided I needed to practice what I preach and process my emotions.
Let me tell you. I was not looking forward to it. It is so much easier to avoid unpleasant emotions than it is to sit down and process them, which means to really feel them, figure out how they started and then decide to change them.
This is something I go into detail in in my membership, but I’ll just give you a brief rundown here. When you are processing your emotions you name what emotion you’re feeling, then you are going to back-track to figure out what caused that feeling and what specific thoughts you had about whatever circumstances you faced.
So I thought back on what happened, the specific reasons I was embarrassed or discouraged, and I found the thought causing it; It was: you don’t belong here.
This is something that I have struggled with in a lot of areas of my life. My family moved a lot growing up, I went to three different high schools. My parents got divorced while I was in high school so I even felt like I didn’t belong in my family due to the big changes there. I have awful memories of standing in the school cafeteria with my lunch tray, and not knowing where to sit. I have a lot of memories of being left out from parties or not being asked to school dances and just being the tag along friend. And so these overwhelming emotions from running a silly track meet had triggered all of this old heartache that I try to keep tucked away.
But I didn’t want to be feeling that way.
I had just done something that was way outside my comfort zone. I wanted to feel proud of myself. I wanted to feel joy about our long weekend out of town. I wanted some endorphins from the major workout!
And I knew that I wanted those emotions, then I needed to change the thought that I didn’t belong. I had to process them a little bit more and find the specific reasons I felt like I didn’t belong.
I was bothered about my shoes. There were four women who were running my race And they were all wearing spikes. I was wearing tennis shoes. And not normal tennis shoes. I was wearing my yard work tennis shoes. I was also doing the long jump and I didn’t want to get sand all over the shoes that I typically wear to the gym, so I wore my grass stained yard work tennis shoes to the meet. I was really embarrassed because my appearance was so different from the other women. My specific thought was: You don’t belong. If you were a *real* runner, you’d have spikes. If you were a *real* runner, you’d have nice running clothes rather than your old t-shirt. If you were a *real* runner, xyz.
And this led to a lot of embarrassment.
I was embarrassed that the other women started in blocks. I have never started a race in blocks in my life. I don’t know how to set them up, I don’t know how to get out of them quickly. I don’t know anything. So when the other women got down in their blocks, I just put my toe on the line. My grass stained, ratty tennis shoe toe.
I was embarrassed about my lack of skills. If I were a *real* runner, I’d know how to do blocks. They were practicing their starts, doing warmups, and stretching. I just stood there awkwardly bending down to touch my toes, because that’s all I knew how to do. I felt that lacking those essential skills pegged me as a beginner, as someone with no experience and people who have no experience shouldn’t run in races. – according to my brain.
I was embarrassed about my performance. I knew beforehand that there were only four women. My goal, before I met any of them, was to not get last place. I wanted to beat at least one person. And I didn’t. I got last. Dead last. By like 6 seconds. And that’s a long time to be on the track by yourself when everyone else is finished.
I was okay with being bad. I knew it wouldn’t be good. But I didn’t want to be the worst one. Because at least I could say: well I’m better than her! I set a goal— come in third— and I didn’t reach that goal. That led to a lot of disappointment. And because my place was last, there was a lot of shame involved. Again— it was: what are you doing here? You don’t belong.
Apply It to Yourself
I want to use this as an analogy for authors, because a lot of us feel like we don’t belong. The author world can feel like an elite group where only a few people are admitted, and people have to claw their way in. This sense of not belonging can come in the same ways that I experienced at my track meet.
We may feel our appearance is off, that we’re too old or too young, or that only males or females write a specific genre. We might feel that we live in the wrong state or wrong country. We might feel that we lack the fancy computer we need or the number of followers. An author should look like this________ we say, but I look like this_______.
Another reason is we may feel that we are lacking essential skills. Sure, we could write a book, but we don’t know how to get it illustrated. And we could never write a query letter.
We don’t know how to market it or build a website and these are essential skills we are lacking. If we were real authors, we’d be able to ——xyz. And since I don’t have the same skills as other authors, I don’t belong.
We may be disappointed in our performance. If a famous author writes a first draft in three months, and it takes us three years, we may feel disappointed. We may also feel disappointed if we publish a book but sell very few copies. Sometimes the hardest part of writing is reaching out to friends or a writing group for feedback and hearing that our stories aren’t quite right. This failure in our performance can make us want to give up or the fear of failure can make us want to never start at all. Sometimes we try to avoid these feelings by shaming other authors. Like I did in my race. We’re fine to be bad, we just don’t want to be the worst. I just want to be better than whatever poorly written story is popular at the time. “Yeah, my story is cheesy, but it’s better than _____ . Are we allowed to join a group where we are the worst? Yes. Always yes.
Ask Yourself: Are my expectations real or perceived?
At the track meet, there were two requirements to “belong.” I needed to pay the fee and check in at the starting line 30 minutes before my event. I did that. So I belonged! The other prerequisites were only imagined.
For authors, the only requirement to belong in the world of writing is to have a story and write it down. Every other requirement is made up in your head. And that good thing about that is that you can decide to keep those requirements or reject them. What are some of the requirements you are making up about authors and why you aren’t one or are less of an author than others?
Maybe: authors write every day. Authors are published. Authors make money from their books..
Authors have more than one book. Authors have a college education. All of these are made up!
You can be an author and you can have one poem that nobody has ever read.
You can be an author if you have a half-finished fanfiction.
You can be an author if you dream of stories, but haven’t started writing them yet.
You can be an author if you started a long time ago and then gave up.
You can be an author if you tackle tough stories or simple ones or if all your writing is academic.
You can be an author if you’ve never shared your dream with anyone else and if no one has ever read your writing.
You can be an author if you’re doing everything wrong.
Maybe your feelings of not belonging stem from some of those made up rules about being an author. Or maybe, like me, they stem from something in our past that we haven’t healed from yet.
And not only do you almost belong or kind of belong. You belong 100%. There is a seat for you at our table. And not an extra empty seat that you’re welcome to take if it’s available when you show up, but a seat that has your name on it. We’ve reserved it for you. Because your story matters– no matter what story it is. Your story is a piece of your heart and soul. It is made up of the magic that’s inside of you, and nobody can replicate it. There is value in your story and there’s a place for it in the world. Whether or not you are a real author
So come join us! Share your story, if you want to, learn more skills, if that feels right, write even if there are more words in your soul, but don’t you dare hang back because you think you’re not good enough. Don’t be embarrassed or discouraged about your lack of success or knowledge or skills. Because those don’t matter in the least. I know how hard it is to do something so scary– I felt that in high school, I felt that at my race and I’ve felt that in every step of writing a book, getting it published, and starting a business.
I am proud of ME for trying, and I am proud of YOU for trying, and I’m so glad we get to navigate this writing world together.
My challenge for you is to identify what rules you have about being an author? Decide if they are “real” rules, or if they’re made up, and then take the steps to overcoming them. *That* is how powerful stories are made.