Whether you're a writer, a botanist, or a lag screwer, one thing is certain – there will be times your confidence in your ability to do the job is so shaken, it could double as a dirty martini.
As much as I enjoy that beverage (and not just for the name), finding myself in a confidence-shaken state is no fun at all. In case you've landed there yourself, here are a few tricks I've found for getting the mojo back:
Whether you're hit with a bad review as an author, or a bad case of chlamydia as an escort, chances are you won't feel like getting back in the saddle right away. Don't. You need time to process, to heal, to formulate a plan, and to drink a few medicinal sips of that dirty martini. It's a vital part of the process to make time for these things, so don't feel guilty about it.
You can do this literally (though I suggest choosing your pillow over a steel door) or you can do it figuratively (a good bitch session with a pack of girlfriends is priceless). Either way, give yourself a chance to cycle through the emotions of the setback. While I don't advise calling your boss or editor at 3 a.m. to sob that he ruined your life, it can be therapeutic to vent to a pal with a sympathetic ear. If you'd prefer to keep the harsh words to yourself, there are plenty of physical ways to blow off some steam. Hit the batting cages, buy a voodoo doll, or play Whac-A-Mole at your local video arcade (my personal favorite).
Do something you're great at
It's important to start building your confidence up again, which means you shouldn't go near the project that set you back in the first place. Think of a task you know you perform exceptionally well and do it. For some of you, this may mean finding a willing partner and retreating to the privacy of your home. A recent setback for me in the writing realm had me doing the "I suck" tango (I swear that's not a reference to the previous sentence). Instead of continuing to fling myself at the same wall, I switched gears – and genres – and poured my energy into a different project. Making a deliberate choice to focus on a type of writing I feel more skilled at has been slowly rebuilding my confidence, not to mention making me laugh (which is another crucial part of the process).
Find friends to stroke your...ego
Long before I ever had a book deal, I went through a string of bad rejections. Determined to keep moving forward, I wrote a new manuscript. My critique partners and beta readers were aware of the rejections, and though I never asked any of them to go easy on me, something shifted in that next round of feedback. Instead of focusing their criticisms on things that didn't work for them, every single reader went out of her way to flag elements of the story that did work. Not only did it give me a much-needed confidence boost, it helped me pinpoint what I was doing well so I could keep doing more of it.
What are your favorite strategies for rebuilding your confidence after it's been shaken? Please share!
And feel free to belly up to my imaginary bar for that dirty martini. Extra olives?