It is always good to believe in yourself. When it comes down to it, nothing but believing in yourself is going to keep you working on something difficult when you continuously encounter setbacks and challenges that make you wonder if you should just give up. No amount of other people believing in you is going to be able to answer the question of “should I keep doing this.”
It does make it a lot easier, though. If someone else believes in you, it makes it a lot easier to believe in yourself. I used to sort of believe in myself. I would always say I did and I possessed enough blind determination to just keep working regardless of whether or not I believed in myself, but it took an endorsement from one of my favorite teachers in college to actually do it.
I wrote in high school because I wanted to escape. I kept writing because other people enjoyed my escapes as much as I did and because some part of me recognized that writing gave me the ability to work through some of the problems I had faced without having to confront them directly. Looking back, it is painfully clear how much each story I worked on was some part of my attempting to reconcile how the world was with how I had been taught (and how I believed) it should be. How my life was versus how I thought it should be.
In college, as I focused on learning about writing and stories and literature, I started to grasp more consciously what I had subconsciously known and my writing improved. I could now do on purpose what I’d only been doing by accident before. I improved my technical writing skills and kept improving my storytelling skills. I read a bunch of experimented with formats and styles. I grew a lot, but I still didn’t believe in myself.
At the end of my junior year of college, I was awarded a scholarship for excellence in writing. The award was validating, of course. It felt great to see that my professors believed in me and that my work at building a community amongst the other writing students was being recognized. Still, what meant more to me was the speech my creative writing professor gave as she introduced the award and hinted at who had won it.
Hearing what she said, the way she said, and how excited she was to see where I might one day wind up was huge. Everything she said then and the things she said afterwards gave me the confidence I needed to really commit to believing in myself. What had once been a sort of general belief that I’d be able to land on my feet (or get back on them) no matter what happened focused into a sincere belief that I’d be able to achieve my writing goals of helping people with my stories.
It changed the course of my next few years and enabled me to keep writing despite how hard my life eventually became. Eventually, though, even that wore down. A single endorsement, even if I still have the speech my professor wrote, will eventually crumble due to the passage of time and all that I had left was my belief in myself. That helped for a while, but it eventually was riddled with doubt.
Eventually, though, that ended. It was a small thing, at least it probably seems like that to a lot of people, but it was huge to me. A birthday card from a friend. A simple message of a few sentences full of heartfelt words and the same strength of belief that my professor had years before. It helped me answer the doubts I felt and gave me the boost I needed to push from doubts to writing again. My belief came back, strong as ever, and I started working on writing projects I hadn’t touched in months and eventually decided updating my blog every day was a good idea.
When I get exhausted or start to wonder if updating this thing every day for a year is actually worth it, I just look at that card again and am reminded that I’m not doing this for views or for fame or for anything external reason. I’m doing this for me. I’m proving a point to myself that I can do this and that nothing is ever going to stop me from being a writer but my own decisions to give up.
I’m about a third of the way through my thirteen month challenge and I’m getting to the point where I can make room to work on non-blog stuff. At this point, nothing can stop me. I’ve felt burned out for three years now, thanks to the job that brought me to my current city, but I don’t need to feel a certain way to write. If I ever recover fully, from the mental and emotional exhaustion that job inflicted on me, I’ll be more productive than I ever imagined I could be. Right now, I’m constantly exhausted, battling depression, and struggling to make it through each week without letting my mental illnesses swamp me, and I’m more productive than I’ve ever been.
I knocked on wood as soon as I finished writing that paragraph because I’m not so naive as to believe things can’t get worse, but I still don’t think they will. There will be bad days and there will be bad weeks, but I think I’ve got it in me to make sure I’m still having good months.