Today’s post is taken from the Genreality blog. It so resonated with me that I wanted to share it with you. Second guessing is a family trait I share with my brother, and I spend far too much time on the hamster wheel. I’m going to put this on the wall and read it when the squeaking gets too loud.
Charlene Teglia made her first novel sale in 2004. Since then her books have garnered several honors, including 2005 Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award for Best Erotic Novel, 2006 Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice nominee for Best Erotic Romance, 2005 and 2007 CAPA nominations for Best Erotic Anthology, and Romantic Times Top Pick. She’s a current Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice nominee for Best Erotic Paranormal Romance.
Don’t be Second Guessed — Charlene Teglia
Things are changing so fast right now I’d be surprised if any heads aren’t spinning. And inside, the mental hamster wheel spins with second thoughts, second guesses, what ifs, maybes, and should haves as we try to make sense of the changes.
Change is a constant and so are second thoughts. It’s so easy to kick ourselves from the vantage of hindsight. “Why didn’t I…I should have…” Or desperately try to predict the future in an attempt to avoid making a mistake. It’s only natural that we want to make good choices, avoid bad ones, be smart. The trouble is, you don’t know if it’s a mistake when you make the decision, and you won’t know until after you’ve followed through. Sometimes you won’t know until long after. But wavering over a decision until the opportunity is past or only half-committing for fear that it’s the wrong choice are great ways to self-sabotage, and that’s never smart.
Second guessing in novel writing leads to endless rewriting of the opening or the middle or the end or the whole fiddly thing until it’s been ten different books, none of them strong because none of them were fully committed to and fully realized, however bad or wrong the idea might have been.
I once had a fantastic music teacher, who said, “If you’re going to be wrong, be loud.” It’s better to commit to a mistake than to do something halfway. This is true in music and in books and in life.
Second guessing in career planning leads to pointless angst over paths not taken, or over the path taken that turned into a dead end and why didn’t I see that wall coming, or fear of taking any path because it means NOT taking any of the others and it might turn out to be the wrong one. It’s exhausting and unproductive, not to mention demoralizing.
The way out of second guessing isn’t easy but it is simple. It involves stepping back and getting some perspective. Most decisions aren’t life or death. Most career moves aren’t, either. And definitely no book is. We’re not brain surgeons; nobody is going to die if we make a mistake.
There is no way to judge how good or worthwhile a book is until after it’s written. There’s only judging whether or not you want to do it and can commit fully to it. There’s no judging whether accepting offer X or Z will turn out better in the future, there’s only knowing what matters to you now and which offer best accommodates that, and which direction your gut is pulling you.
Our gut instincts, our first reactions, are often much more trustworthy than our circular thinking where we confuse ourselves with fears and doubts and hesitations. Fears and doubts are not great tools for producing mental clarity, although being honest about fears can help clarify decision making. Mostly by getting better at contingency planning and thinking through the potential risks if things go wrong, mitigating the known risks, and asking if the potential benefits outweigh the risks.
It’d be wonderful to be sure of everything all the time. It would also be inhuman. We’re emotional and fearful and prone to second thoughts and regrets. But we’re also capable of committing whole-heartedly to an endeavor we judge worthwhile and accepting the consequences if we’re wrong. What’s the worst that can happen? An entire career is probably not really riding on the next decision. A mistake that lead to growth still got you somewhere, just maybe not the place you planned on. Unexpected changes can throw the most carefully considered plans into chaos. At the end of the day, the only thing we can know for sure is whether or not we spent our time and energy on the things we care about.