Perhaps I Should Stop Doing This And Get A Proper Job!

My name is Peter Ford, and I have a problem. You see, I have these days where I sit down in front of my laptop, stare at what I've written, or even worse, at a blank screen, and ask myself, ‘What on earth am I doing thinking I can write? Perhaps I should stop doing this and get a proper job!' This can be a big problem when it happens, and on a really bad day it can be a complete showstopper. But I'm not alone, and on the positive side, it does give me a rare chance to put myself in the same bracket as writers like Stephen King, and John Grisham. Yes, just like me, it appears even the greats have their moments of self-doubt!

But it's not just a problem for writers. It's something nearly all of us do in our lives, at least some of the time, and it can be totally debilitating. I count myself lucky this is now just an occasional problem with my writing – there was a time when self-doubt was my world. I became almost paralysed by self-doubt to such a point that I doubted I was actually worthy of being alive. Trust me, self-doubt doesn't get much more debilitating than that!

But I was lucky. I had a friend. He was the sort of friend who wasn't frightened to tell me what I had to do to sort myself out. I already knew, of course, but sometimes you need someone to offer one or two unpleasant truths, to remind you that what you already know in your heart, is the thing you have to do. That was the day I decided enough was enough. An old boss I worked for once told me, ‘When something's not working anymore, you have to change something.' Well, my life wasn't working anymore…

Now, ten years on, I can look back and congratulate myself on the best decision I ever made. Since then I've moved (several times), divorced,  married my lovely wife Mary, and started writing. I have never regretted that decision, and the day I left my old life behind was the day I began to leave my self-doubt behind, except, of course, on those occasional days in front of my laptop. But these days it doesn't stop me for long. I've developed a strategy for dealing with self-doubt, that consists of asking myself three questions.

Question One: Why Am I Doing This?

In my case this means, why do I write? The simple answer is because I've always wanted to, but in my old life I was always told the only way to get on is to ‘get a proper job.' That's fine if it's something you want to do, but I believe you're always more likely to succeed if you do what you enjoy doing. Frankly, I enjoy weaving words together to create a story. I know I'm not the greatest, but I also know I get better all the time as I hone my skills.

Question Two: What Motivates me?

When you've spent your life trying to be what everyone else expects, and continually being told a million reasons why you shouldn't do what you want to do, and how you'll never succeed, you tend to believe it. Then, when you meet someone who asks, ‘Why not try?' you reel off all the reasons that have been drummed into you. You finish with, ‘And what if I fail? Everyone will say, I told you so!' Mary's answer was simply, ‘Yes, but what if you succeed?'

You might think proving everyone was wrong would be a powerful motivator, but I've found something stronger. It's not wanting to prove all those people from my past were wrong that motivates me, it's wanting to repay Mary's faith, and to prove to myself that I can do it.

Question Three: What Is My Goal?

I wouldn't be here, with nine books written, if it wasn't for the unfailing support of my wife, Mary. Yes, there are others too, but she is my greatest inspiration. When others were doubting, she kept unwavering belief in me. My goal is simple: I want to repay that belief. How will I do that? By making enough money from my writing to buy a house where we can see out the rest of our days, and by giving us the security to make sure she can retire without any worries.

You might just find you could apply the same thre questions next time you find self-doubt is threatening to stop you from achieving something.

Leave a Comment:

James U says December 23, 2016

Perfect timing, Pete. I really needed the en-courage-ment right now as I bring a major project to completion. (Have I done my best ? Is it good enough ? Who could possibly be interested ?etc.)
And the 3 questions will be useful in future projects.
I’ve signed up for the blog and look forward to your future musings on any and all subjects.
Thanks again.

    Pete says December 23, 2016

    Hi James,
    I’m glad I can help. Every time I write a new book I wonder if it’s ever going to be good enough etc. I know you’ve just finished one book. If you intend to write more, you’ll probably find those questions accompany you every step of the way!

Sue Walker says December 28, 2016

Hi Pete, you basically put into words what I know a lot of us think from time to time. I have been through a lifetime of changes already, and I’m only half way through (I hope). Putting that first chapter down on paper must be one of the most satisfying moments in a lifetime. I happened to be sat next to a stranger recently in a store, waiting on customer service, and we got chatting. She turned out to be the sort of person you find talking to so easy and I ended up pouring out story after story about my past. She was amazed at my life history, the struggles I’d been through, how far I’d come and encouraged me to put it all down on paper. Reading your advice about just taking that leap of faith and just getting on and doing it, together with that stranger’s interest, may just be what I need to get started.

Your books are good, I mean, really good. They are as good as James Paterson, Sue Grafton, Elmore Leonard, Elizabeth George and others of my favorite authors. I can’t put your books down once I start them. Don’t ever give up, as my grandmother used to say “there is more than one way to skin a cat!”…if the sales are down, do some research and find other ways to get the word out. The stories could easily turn into a mini series… think Heartbeat, All Creatures Great and Small, Morse, Inspector Lewis etc. I’m English, so I appreciate the description of the countryside in your stories as well as the humor, and I know lots of Americans here in the US who LOVE those shows and seeing the scenery. They are addicted to Downton Abbey because of the costumes, the humor, the storylines, the landscape etc. It’s their way of visiting England when they can’t travel.

You made the best decision you could possibly have made ten years and I, for one, am extremely glad you did. Remember, it’s not the years in your life that counts, it’s the life in your years – Abraham Lincoln.

    Pete says December 29, 2016

    Hi Sue,
    Wow, thank you. Putting me alongside those authors you mentioned is high praise indeed! But don’t worry, I have no intention of giving up, or stopping anytime soon, I just need to adjust my marketing strategy (which is all in hand).
    It’s funny you should mention all those TV series. I think every one of then has influenced me in some way, and one of the reasons I write so slowly is because I see every scene in my head, just like I’m watching it on TV.
    Writing has been much more rewarding than I ever expected, and one of the most enjoyable things (and for me, probably the most unexpected) is reading, and replying to, comments like yours. It’s the same with emails sent to me by readers. I still can’t quite believe how many people want to talk to me and listen to me, and encourage and support me. It takes some getting used to, but it’s an absolute delight.

      Nancy Jo Brown says January 4, 2017

      I totally agree with Sue. You are a fantastic Author that rank with the great mystery writers we have all read and loved. I have told everyone in the States that I know to give your books a try. Yes they could easily be turned into movie mini series. Excellent idea Sue!

        Pete says January 4, 2017

        Hi Nancy,
        Thank you for those kind words. Every author needs supporters, and I’m so grateful to have people like you out there rooting for me.

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