Self-Doubt is part of our normal day to day writing life. And no, it doesn’t get easier the more you write, in fact woe unto you if you have one really cool idea that hits the airwaves or becomes a best seller, because pressure will now be more to match up to that past great idea.
You may not feel adequate to be the one doing that story, your inner critic might be asking you ‘Just who told you, you are the best to write that story?’ ‘That story is not good enough! You’ll be the laughingstock! That idea sucks!’
I’ll admit that I experience this every time I start working on a new story idea. “Will it be better than the next idea? Will this be the story that damages my entire 13-year writing career?”
Don’t let self- doubt put you down and stop you from being the best you can be.
Below are a few tips I use daily to make sure I stop Self-Doubt right on its tracks, and go forth to become the best I am meant to be. Hope the tips work for you too.
TIPS TO BEAT SELF-DOUBT
Know that NO ONE has it ALL figured out. Everyone is doing it afraid, so join that team doing it afraid and get your script, book or any other work of art out into the world. Take comfort in the fact that we are all putting our work out there afraid, join us.
Boost your confidence by learning as much as you can about your craft, but don’t let that be a crunch. There’s a time for everything, a time to learn and a time to put what you’ve learnt to practice.
Recognize that you are uniquely gifted, not everyone will like your work and that’s okay! You cannot target everyone, so target those who have similar interests to yours. They will find your work and love it.
Recognize that resistance is trying to stop you from being the best that you can be. Sometimes resistance checks in, in the form of self-doubt. Flattening out all your excitement and crippling you with fear to succeed. When I recognized this about resistance, I stopped giving a hoot and went on to do my stuff, my way.
Do you, I do me! Everyone has their own path cut out for them. Don’t compare yourself to someone else, don’t compare yourself to your peer who just landed the best gig of her life to yourself who is still struggling. Don’t let ‘comparisonites’ freeze you on your tracks. Always remember that you are on your own path and if you hang in there, with your discipline and determination, you will make it and get to your goals.
Hope you are feeling surer of yourself and won’t let self-doubt get the best of you. Go out there and be the best version of yourself.
Like to comment on this topic or anything else? Leave a comment at the bottom.
Happy Writing and Happy creating!
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Things are still going slow in Kenya, as I’m sure is the case in most other parts of the world, because of the current Pandemic. But your writing career doesn’t need to be on a go slow, in fact this should be a season to really focus and keep learning the craft of writing. I am encouraged because I know this is just a season and it shall pass. So, I am taking full advantage of the situation and going deeper in my own writing. I’m also thinking more and more about the business of writing and the craft, and how to make sure I don’t go down without a fight in what is said to be tough times ahead economically for many. I’ll share my thoughts on that on a blog post soon. For now, let’s keep working on our craft. I’ve got 5C’s to guide you on that. Read on.
CHARACTER: The type of characters you create for your story are as important as the story itself. What type of characters have you created? Do we empathize with them? We don’t need to love your character, but we need to feel for them, for their situation and what they’re going through. Do we root for the characters you’ve created? Do we go the journey with them? In Breaking Bad we root for Walter White despite him being a lost soul and doing the wrong things in life, we root for him and go the journey with him wanting him to succeed. Think carefully about all your important characters as they will propel your story to success or lead it down the drain.
CHOREOGRAPHY: The dictionary definition of this word is ‘A sequence of steps and movements in a dance or figure skating, especially in a ballet or other staged dance.
I’d like to use the word choreography to talk about the structure of your story. We all know that every story has a beginning, middle and an end. Make sure you start your story with a scene that grabs your readers attention. Grab our attention and lead us in. And then as you get deeper and deeper into the story, make sure the reader is asking the question ‘What happens next? As we turn the pages as an audience that should be the question we ask, so make sure you don’t lose us on that. Don’t wait to surprise the reader on later pages, our attention span is increasingly becoming shorter and shorter, so you have to give us a reason to stay on and wait for whatever big revelations you have planned ahead. A well-structured script has tension rising, has more and more obstacles in the way of your main character, stakes are high, thrills the audience, surprises us and so much more, and leads us to a satisfying ending. Make sure to properly choreograph your story.
3. CHOICES: Are you placing your characters in tough situations? Are you presenting dilemmas to your characters that gets the reader asking themselves what they would do if they were in the same scenario as the character? We see the strength of your main character by how they react when they are presented with difficult situations and the decisions they make during those tough moments. Help us respect your characters for their perseverance, endurance, skills and other characteristics that come through as a result of the scenarios you’ve presented.
4. CHARISMA: The online dictionary definition for charisma is; a compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in other. Another definition is; a divinely conferred power or talent. I love the second definition better.
As a writer, you have a talent with your words and imagination. Never forget that. If you are still trying to figure out where your strengths are as a writer, that’s totally fine, but you need to write more so that you can find yourself soon. It took me years of writing to discover that I have a natural hand in comedy and this knowledge helped me infuse it in all the shows I’ve worked on, be it comedies like Jastorina and Sue and Johnny, or dramedies like Pray and Prey, Nyumba 10, or Soaps like Mali and Kona, Edutainment Dramas like Makutano Junction. I always find a way to bring in some laughter into my writing, which has given me an upper hand so many times. You need to quickly find out what your strengths are and work that strength because it is your gift from God! So, ask yourself what your strength is and go for it!
5. CLIMAX: How you end your film, TV show or Book is as important as how you start, if not more important. Why is this the case? If you give a satisfying ending, the result is that reviews by those who consume your content will lead to more fans because they will spread word. If you have a poor ending, that’s what they’ll remember. You must finish right, so make sure you put in a lot of thought, heart and soul into your ending because it will make or break you. Ending right doesn’t mean a happy ending, it simply means a satisfying ending, one that is believable and not farfetched, one that stays true to everything you had set up and not false surprises for the sake of surprising the reader.
I hope these 5C tips help you on your writing journey.
Happy Writing and Creating!
Please share this article with a friend or two who are interested in writing! TIA
In these times of never-ending negative news due to the Corona Pandemic, it is becoming increasing difficult for most of us to focus, schedules have been disrupted, income sources for most of us are becoming uncertain. I am however, a hopeless Optimist and I chose to look at my glass as half full and not half empty.
I would urge you to take on the same attitude and encourage yourself that this too shall pass.
If you are goal oriented like me, I know you had lots planned out to achieve in your writing career in this year. It doesn’t need to change, as long as we try our level best to stay healthy by staying safe during this season and what better way than to stay indoors as much as possible and do what we love doing best. Create!
To get to our goals for this year and the future we need to cultivate some habits.
Here are a few habits I’ve compiled after observing my own habits that have led me to a successful career path, and those habits of other writers I look up to. Read below and get inspired to be the best that you can be!
They write every day; and not just in the dreamy sense where you gaze into the horizon thinking of all your great ideas. No. What I mean is butt in chair, pushing the word count and page count, outlining stories and seeing characters coming alive…on paper.
They read every day; Words are your tools of trade. If you are not reading, where are you getting your words from? Successful writers read a wide selection of material from poetry to non- fiction, to fiction, to historical/Period pieces. Successful writers are hungry for information and knowledge which helps them fill up their well of knowledge.
They never stop learning and unlearning; never stop learning and unlearning things, if you don’t evolve then you will have trouble in this constantly evolving industry. Walk with geographical eyes: Don’t just walk or drive about. Walk and drive about taking in life and observing everything. Ask yourself ‘What if’ Questions from things you observe.
They watch for learning; once you join the industry of film and TV your first responsibility when watching anything, is to learn from it. On the occassion that you find you watched something and completely forgot to learn from it then that’s the kind of work you need to go back to and analyse thoroughly, what was it about the show or film that took you in so much?
They have thick skin; Rejection is part of this game, your work will get criticized, by people who are genuine, and others who are simply haters. You need to know how to quickly move on from criticism, don’t let it destabilize you, cry if you must, then move on. The more you put your work out there, the more it is criticized and the more you develop thick skin. You must be your best cheerleader.
They set deadlines and stick to them: The thing that sets successful writers from unsuccessful ones is the honouring of deadlines. Successful writers are disciplined enough to stop binge watching series’ and get to their projects, hence beating deadlines. They beat deadlines for both paid projects and their own passion projects.
They tap into a higher source; I believe in God, I believe He is the giver of ability. Just look at this world He created and see just what an artist He is. Beyond the earth into the Solar system…how majestic. This is the source I tap into for great creativity. If He gives me a little of His genius, I am sorted! When you recognize that the genius idea didn’t come from you but is a gift from God, you are able to stay humble, and the humble artist goes far.
Here’s hoping you all the best in your journey to becoming a successful writer!
This is a short Excerpt from my upcoming book on Writing! You can get more of the excerpt when you subscribe to my email list. Click on my sign up button on my FaceBook writers page. Damaris Irungu O- Writer’s page. And confirm your email address, the PDF excerpt of more on writing will be sent straight to your inbox.
In these times of the pandemic and uncertainty, I choose to remain optimistic that this too shall pass. My glass is half full! Let’s stay positive and safe! It is possible. So below the excerpt and remember to go like my FB page and sign up to get more free tips on writing!
This is an excerpt from my upcoming pocket guide book for writers!
copyright@ Damaris Irungu Ochieng’ – Do not reprint this without the express permission from the author.
WHAT IS STORY?
S.T.O.R.Y- A five letter word that brings about excitement and bouts of panicky sweat all in the same breathe for us writers, as we wonder if anyone will like the story we’ve worked on, the film idea, the pitch.
So how exactly do we define this word ‘story’?
Story has many definitions. The one I came across that really resonated with me and helped me in my writing journey is; someone wants something badly and is having difficulty getting it. It might look like such a simple definition but if you look at it closely you will see that it’s packed with such important content. Let’s break down this definition.
Someone- Is the main character, the person whose life we follow, the one who is most affected by the story. The one we root for. In professional terms, the story’s protagonist (We will discuss more on the protagonist shortly)
Let’s now look at
Wants- This is what they desire and sometimes what they need.
Badly– Something is at stake if they don’t get what they want. They are going to lose something big. It’s going to cost them, in short, something will give, if they don’t get what they want badly. Or they will gain big if they get what they want. So, something is at stake. A big gain or a big loss.
Difficulty- This means the obstacles in the way of the character. The obstacles brought about by the antagonist who opposes your protagonist (main character) or other types of antagonistic forces. Obstacles can also be in the form of your main characters’ fatal flaw, a weakness that gets in their way as they go for their goal.
Once you nail down this definition of what story is, then the rest of the things you need to learn fall into place.
With the Corona lock-down, in most Countries, and In Kenya things being on a go-slow. I know many of you have been taken out of your routines and are now finding yourselves with so much time in your hands, or so you think. To avoid having Corona lock -down over, and you wondering what you achieved from this, I have a few tips to guide you to stay productive.
I have been working from home on most days, since 2007, except for the occasional TV show brainstorms, meetings and the once in a while popping in on filming sets, before going back to my lone desk at home. And I have been super productive in not only beating paid work deadlines, but on working on my passion projects. So today I share some of the tips I’ve applied to help me get things done from home, hopefully if you follow some of these, by the time the lock down is done, you’ll have a script, a story idea fleshed out, A TV series mapped out or whatever else you hope to achieve.
Create a Routine: This is the number one tip to productivity, it’s been talked about a lot and many people take it too lightly, those who take it seriously often end up succeeding in meeting their daily goals. If you are working from home for the first time, you need a routine or time will just fly out the window. So identify and plan your day out, what will you do when you wake up, when will you sit down to work, when will your break be, lunch break and when do you end the days’ work. This will vary for those with kids and those without. If you have young kids like me, you might want to wake up earlier so that you get some serious work done before the kids wake up and you have to attend to them.
Schedule in your days target: It’s one thing to have a routine and show up at your workstation, it’s another thing hitting the targets. How many words have you planned to write today? How many pages of a script? How much character development are you going to get done? You have to know where you are going so that you plan accordingly on how to get there. For example if I know my word count for a book is 2000 for the day, I know I need at least two hours for that(Yes book writing is a muscle I’m currently flexing) If I know I need to write 15 pages of a script, then do I have an outline yet, if not how will this slow me down? I am a writer who has to have an outline before writing, there are writers who don’t, know thyself and know how an outline works for you or against you, this will only come with more writing. Once you’ve scheduled your days target then focus on that till you get it done!
Switch off notifications: Be it social media, emails etc. As a writer you need to discipline yourself to a focused deep time of writing. This deepness won’t come in if you keep getting distracted by the latest on social media or checking emails. It is so easy to go down a rabbit hole when a notification comes through, you read that, then it leads you to some other notification and before you know it, an hour is gone. So have the discipline to focus on the task at hand, leave your phone in another room, switch off the internet for the hour or two that you need to focus. Personally, I do one and a half hours of uninterrupted focus, where my internet is switched off and I focus hardcore for 90 minutes before taking a 15 minute break then back on focus again, then I do my hour break for lunch and so forth. There’s so much going on with reports of Corona every minute that if you don’t switch it off, the lock down will be over, and you won’t have gotten much done!
Fill up the creative well: With the lock down, most people have more time in their hands than they know what to do with. It is also a great time to dust off those books you bought and have never come around to reading, if you read online, get the kindles and reading apps running and do some reading. As a creative you need to constantly refill that well or you’ll run on empty. There’s the temptation to binge watch stuff and there’s a place for that, but for writers, words are our tools of trade so let’s discipline ourselves to interact more with words. Perhaps its time to read up on that shows’ or film scripts that you’ve wanted to read but didn’t have time to. If you’re looking for a script to read. Go to simplyscripts.com type the name of film or TV show and download it, for free and get reading scripts too.
Stay Positive: With all the bad news around us, of deaths, more corona infections, it’s easy to let that energy suck you in, I know from my experience that when I’m down emotionally, I’m not at my best creatively, so guys, lets focus on the positive, there’s lots of people getting healed, vaccines being tested and so much more. If you pray like me Pray and leave it all to God. Let’s keep the energy positive so that we can be creative and get great stories written to be seen in this world in the near future.
I hope this helps get you back on the band wagon if you’d fallen off. Happy writing!
If this is the year you’ve decided to make it big out here as a writer, then what better way than to get the right (write) mind-set to help you win! Having the right mind-set on this journey of being a writer is critical to your survival and better yet, to your thriving. So a few tips on mind-set that have helped me thrive in this Industry for over 12 years now.
This journey is a marathon, not a sprint: I have taken my writing journey as a marathon and not a sprint, I know I will not learn everything I need to learn over- night, I will make some mistakes along the way, but I will not drop out of the race, I will keep running, slowly but surely, I will get there. This kind of mind-set allows me to enjoy the writing process that entails writing and rewriting as I learn and unlearn, it helps me learn from my mistakes and allows me to experiment. It helps me to endure when challenges come my way because I know, if I keep at it, steadily enough, I will get to the finish line a winner.
Run your own race, not your friends or neighbours:
Sometimes we think it’s only teens who fall for peer pressure, but peer pressure is more prevalent in adults than we imagine. How does it make you feel when your friend releases their film that becomes a hit? Or when they land an awesome deal? Don’t compare yourself to others. You are running your own race, you’ve been gifted differently, accept what you’re made of and run your own race. It is not a competition. A few months after my maternity leave, I went back to the tracking field near my home, and I attempted to run, I thought I was running, until an old man in his probably 80’s overlapped me, I could not take it, I tried to run faster and got injuries. I was trying to run this guys’ race, a guy who had been running all the months I was on maternity leave. The only thing that competing did for me was to give me an injury that slowed me down and I didn’t run for another 2 months. So ignore those ones running alongside you who seem to be overlapping you, run your race and you should be okay.
3. No one is perfect: Perfectionism can cripple you. I take comfort in knowing that even the big shots do it afraid, no one knows that what they’re working on will work for sure, they just do it afraid, why then should you cripple yourself with perfectionism? Just do it.
4. Quit the blame game: The moment you turned 18 you became responsible for your life. I know when Lupita Ny’ongo won the Oscar for best supporting actress, some of my acquaintances in the Kenyan Film scene started talking of the unfair advantage, saying her parents were able to educate her in one of the best acting colleges in the world yadadadaa…Well, there are so many actors who’ve been through Yale and don’t have an Oscar, and there are so many others who haven’t been to Yale and have Oscars. Let’s not blame life circumstances for our failures in life. As long as you are breathing, alive and kicking, go after your dreams with zeal and know that you are fully responsible for what you can change. For what you can’t change, pray for God’s grace to accept it. Take personal initiative for your life and quit the blame game.
5. Quit the entitlement: I notice with concern that a lot of upcoming artists walk around feeling that the world owes them. I’m sorry to burst that bubble. No one owes you anything, the world has so many gifted writers and artists, all with great amazing projects and ideas. If you keep that in mind, it will help you stay humble and work harder at your projects, it will help you get the right attitude when your pitch is rejected and you will know it’s not a personal attack but just business. When you understand that no one owes you anything, then you will work on networking and creating relationships that can propel your idea to the next level.
6. Be productive not busy: There’s a huge difference between busy people and productive people. Productive people get things done, use their time wisely and finish up projects. Busy people are not in control of their time, are overwhelmed and have a lot of half- done projects. Where do you fall? Are you productive or just busy? Take a close look at your life and know the difference is what will get you further in your career, don’t be busy with nothing to show for all the time you claim you spend writing and researching.
7. Banish the word Impossible from your vocabulary: The word Impossible could make or break your writing career, you might be thinking of this really cool story idea, then immediately pour water on it with the words Impossible. I honestly don’t believe things are impossible until I have tried and tried, if I had believed in the words impossible I would not have found myself pitching inside Harpo Studio’s through skype right from the comfort of my home here in Kenya, I’ll be sharing on my podcast and blog soon about my experience pitching at Harpo Studios, but the point is, don’t’ let the word ‘Impossible stop you from reaching for the sky.
8. Believe in yourself: If you don’t remember anything else about what I’ve written on mind-set, please make sure you remember this point and have it close to your heart. You are your own best cheerleader. No one else will cheer you and nudge you on, you have to do this yourself and for yourself. The world around us can be cruel and fill us with self- doubt about our capabilities. There’s a wise saying that reads ‘ If you don’t believe in something you will fall for anything’. Meaning if you don’t believe in your God given gift/talent of writing, if you don’t believe you have it, then when your work is negatively criticized, the blow might be too hard to recover from, but when you believe in yourself, then criticism will help you become a better, tougher writer and your light will shine on this earth. So no matter what, always believe in yourself and your gift and work hard to make sure you don’t do a disservice to your God given gift.
Happy Creating and Writing!
And please share this article with your writer friends! TIA
I am a writer from the land of marathoners, so I see it perfectly fit that my first Blog is using inspirational quotes from the world’s greatest marathoner, Kenya’s, Eliud Kipchoge.
A writers’ life is not a sprint, it is a Marathon, and since it’s a marathon we need to know just how exactly to run and finish well as we get on with the year and what better way than with 10 Inspirational Quotes from the one and only, Eliud Kipchoge, The worlds’ greatest Marathoner, who broke the INEOS 1:59 Challenge, running 42km in under 2 Hours. Let’s dive in and get some wisdom on how to run this writers’ race.
10 INSPIRATIONAL QUOTES FROM ELIUD KIPCHOGE
To be successful in sports is not a chance. It is a choice. If you want to be successful, you need to choose. But to choose well, you must know who you are and what you stand for, where you want to go and why you want to go there.
Have you made a deliberate choice to be a writer? Do you know who you are and what you stand for as a writer? What topics interest you? What kind of writer do you want to be? Where do you see yourself as a writer in the next five years? Why exactly do you want to go there? To be a successful writer is not a chance, but a choice. If you’ve made the deliberate choice, then you have to follow through if you want success to come your way.
2. Success comes with more sacrifice. You sacrifice more, you get more success, you sacrifice little, you get little success.
I absolutely love this quote from Eliud Kipchoge. It is a reminder for us writers that nothing comes easy, you have to put in the hours, you have to hone your craft by writing every day, reading every day, watching TV and Films to analyse and see what works and what doesn’t work, the harder you work, the luckier you become, the more sleep you sacrifice, the better your craft. So just how badly do you want to succeed as a writer? What are the sacrifices you are willing to make to get there?
3. Life is like climbing a tree. You hold one branch and aim for the next one. You have to forget the last branch and focus your thoughts and mind on the next one for you to make progress.
This quote speaks to me for various reasons. As a writer you have to remember that you are as good as your last work, so don’t bask in the glory of the past and forget to keep writing fresh stuff, forget that branch and move to the next branch. Also if you are trying to get that particular project financed and you’ve been getting rejections, don’t mop around, move on to the next branch. That is the only way to get to where you’re going, if you stay on one branch then you won’t get to your God chosen destination.
4. 1% of the whole team is more important than 100% of yourself, without teamwork you cannot go anywhere.
I know writing is said to be a lonely career, where you write with your doors closed, but it is important to belong to a community where you can bounce off ideas, a community that can give important input into your work. Also a TV or film’s success is a combination of many people working together. The writer listens to thoughts from the Director and Producers, the Producers listen to professional actors’ concerns, editors and so forth and all that input contributes to the success of the writer. If it is a novel, then you have trusted story editors, proof readers, or beta readers who read your work and give you constructive criticism to move your story to be the best it can be.
5. You live simple, you train hard, you live an honest life. Then you are free.
If you are a writer, spend your time writing, not talking about being an aspiring writer. A lot of wanna be writers spend a lot of time talking instead of writing. Look deeper into your own writing life and judge for yourself if you are indeed training hard, if you are living an honest writers’ life of writing, rewriting, relearning the craft. You are the only one who knows your truth.
6. Only the disciplined ones are free in life. If you are undisciplined, you are a slave to your emotions and your passions.
What’s your reaction when your alarm goes off in the morning? Are you a disciplined writer with time set aside for your writing career? Or are you undisciplined and your writing time is eaten up by Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and many other time stealers? Are you so passionate about writing that you spend more time watching other people’s writing? Binge watching other people’s shows while postponing your own writing? You know yourself better. So take a long hard look at this quote number six from Eliud Kipchoge and decide if you are undisciplined or not, and how will you move forward to favour your writing?
7. Focus and determination and also hope can take you somewhere. You can go beyond any limit.
Do you have laser focus when it comes to your writing? Are you determined? Do your everyday actions towards your writing show just how determined to succeed as a writer you are? Or have you given up hope of ever making it? I hope this quote challenges you out of your rut, because as Eliud says, Focus and determination and also Hope can take you somewhere. Let that be your truth this year and in others to come.
8. It is not about the legs. It is about the heart and mind.
In our case as writers it is not about the typing or dictation but about the heart of the story you are working on. Have you pinned down what the heart of your story is? Why do you want to tell that particular story? The motivation for why you are telling that particular story or why you want to be a writer in the first place is what will keep you going, when the going gets tough. What is your mind set? Do you have a positive outlook towards life and to your career as a writer and how it ties to your purpose? Look long and hard, not at your hands, but into your heart and mind. The right heart and mind will get you to the finish line.
9. Only the disciplined ones in life are free.
You envy that writer who seems to be making it and getting all the gigs, you wish you could be like them, making a steady income from writing from home and being free and in control of your time and career. Well, the only way that writer you admire got there is by being disciplined, they beat their deadlines, they honed their craft, they put in the hours and I guarantee you they continue doing that. Try the daily discipline of writing, beating deadlines even those you have set for yourself, the discipline of learning the craft and in no time you will be there, free! I’m there and I endorse this message. Stay disciplined, the rest will follow.
10. Don’t be the fastest runner in the world, be the fastest in history.
Run your own race, you have your special gifts and talent, you are not competing with other writers, you have your DNA and your finger print which make you uniquely you, why then do you feel like you’re in a competition with your fellow writers? The only way to leave a legacy is by knowing why you want to write, what do you have to say to the world? Once you know this then nothing else matters, you will not be running to be the fastest in the world, but will be running to contribute to history.
I hope the ten great quotes from Eliud Kipchoge have inspired you and set a fire in your writing career. I’d love to hear your thoughts below so please leave a comment on the comment section below.
And if it isn’t too much to ask, would you share this article with your networks or point them to my site. TIA!