On Self-Doubt

I had a meltdown about writing—the process of—this morning. Simultaneously, my son, a recent computer science graduate, did too—about job hunting.

He emailed me while I’m melting down:

I’m applying for jobs and contacting these people but when absolutely no one contacts me back I feel like I’m sinking. I just feel like a fucking failure.

I emailed him back:

The only thing I know that works for me to shed feelings of doubt is WRITING them down. I’m doing that now. Literally. I had a meltdown this morning so I’m journaling. I will for a page or so, then get on with watching Twitch streamers to educate myself before I continue writing the Power Trip—which is what I melted down about this morning.

From my journal:

‘The absolute hardest part about writing fiction is shutting out the voices in my head that tell me I am not good enough to write this:

  • I’ll never get this right.
  • It’s too complex.
  • It’ll take too much research.
  • I’m too fragmented.
  • The subject won’t be topical if it takes too long to write.
  • I can’t DO this.
  • I keep losing the string.
  • I get too wrapped up in superfluous details.
  • I don’t get to the point quick enough.
  • I’m too heady.
  • Too technical.
  • Too too too…
  • Give it up. Too much work you’ll never finish anyway.
  • This is stupid to pursue.
  • You are wasting your time, not living your best life.
  • You’ve been working at this too long and are still nowhere…’

His email back:

This is exactly what I freak out about as well. Just replace writing with coding.

Me:

Thing is, you have to combat the bullshit voices in your head. They are half-truths. Not lies, cuz there IS truth in our fears, but only HALF truths. I can counter every one of the voices I just wrote in my journal.

Him:

But there’s always these looming feelings that I’ve accomplished nothing, done nothing. Am nothing.

Me:

That’s fear—like you are a failure—because you’re scared you will be. And while the fear is valid, real, true, because there is a vague possibility you won’t find a job you want, the WHOLE TRUTH is you are virtually 100% guaranteed to find a job if you keep looking for one, and likely a coding job you’ll like.

Another truth is you’ve proven you can code as a straight-A graduate with a CS degree, which was your primary goal the last 4 years. And you did it. Well done!”

Him:

I seem to be unable to compartmentalize my feelings.


Me:

This is LEARNING, E.M., applying for your first real job that isn’t a part-time, low-level gig. You’re launching your career, and that’s a big deal. Let yourself feel scared, and frustrated, and excited and every other feeling that arises through this process. And you WILL get a job. Guaranteed, IF you keep working at it!! Just like I’ll get the Power Trip written. See, I’ve already proven I can write with 7 books out, with mostly good reviews… And the voices of doubt gather like locusts as I write the last two lines above:

  • Yeah, you’ve written 7, but they’re all crap. 
  • And the good reviews, well, they were just being nice. 
  • The bad reviews are the truth about your writing. 
  • So GIVE IT UP BITCH. You will always fail at this. 
  • and so on…

But again, I can COUNTER all of these doubts with another POV:

  • Yeah, you’ve written 7, but they’re all crap. BULLSHIT. I’ve gotten mostly good reviews.
  • And the good reviews, well, they were just being nice. BULLSHIT. Just bullshit cuz this is such a stupid thought.
  • Bad reviews are the truth about your writing. NOPE. They are HALF THE TRUTH, or a percentage, and in most cases the greater percentage of my reviews are positive.
  • So give it up bitch. You will always fail at this. FUCK OFF, BITCH OF DOUBT.

Now GET TO WORK, honey, cuz writing is the only way you’re going to become a better writer.

His response:

Emoji smile. Clapping hands. Thank you hands.

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