In academic and professional life, it seems there’s never enough time to get everything done. But now it’s the weekend and your goal is to work on your own stuff—that idea for a new story, essay, or poem. You’ve finished the housework, run the errands—and if you have kids, maybe they’re off at a neighbor’s for the afternoon. In short, you’ve got plenty of time. So what’s holding you back?
If you’re like me, the answer is usually self-doubt. As in: “I’m not going to be able to write this. Not the way I want to. Who do I think I am?”
Sound familiar? When self-doubt sabotages your goals, try giving it a time-out. Here’s how.
1. Set a timer for one hour. Imagine sending your self-doubt to another room and gently closing the door. Now promise yourself—preferably out loud—that you’ll have earned your self-respect and peaceful rest for the night if you work on your piece at least until the timer goes off—whether or not you produce a single word.
2. Invite the muses to come out and play. If they don’t show up at first, here are some ways to entice them:
3. Keep playing until the timer goes off. If you haven’t come up with anything promising, take a deep breath and congratulate yourself for trying. But I think it’s more likely you’ll have filled that hour with imagery, dialogue, plot points, research findings, and insights that give you a firmer, deeper sense of what you’re after. Or maybe you actually wrote a few paragraphs… before deciding you didn’t like the direction they were taking you. Even so, such passages are useful in demonstrating what didn’t work, and what might—which means you’ll have finished the hour with a place to begin next time.
4. Open the door to the imaginary room where your self-doubt has been waiting. And don’t be surprised if it’s gone.
Do you have a strategy for managing self-doubt? If so, share it in the Comments. I’d love to read it.