We’ve all heard it be said before, “I’m just afraid I’ll make the wrong choice!” or “What if I’m doing it all wrong!?”. If you work in the creative field, like myself, chances are you’ve even caught yourself saying/thinking this. You know what I’m talking about! Like that moment when you decide a certain character in your story should take A-action, or get tangled up in B-conflict, but then you pause, play mine-sweeper for an hour, drink a pot of coffee, all the while drumming your fingers in deep second-guessing over whether or not you just destroyed your ENTIRE book. It happens. For some of us it even happens more frequently than we are likely to admit. Creativity isn’t a smooth road. It is messy—beautifully, endearingly messy.
There is nothing wrong with slipping in and out of second-guessing, so long as you can pry yourself out. And, for the majority of us, we do. We pace the floor, fill an hour (or four) with some pressing minutia, then take a deep breath and have back at it. The problem comes when we find ourselves perpetually, or chronically, stuck in cycles of second-guessing.
Personally, I invite anyone reading this blog to entertain the following question if they are finding themselves paralyzed with second-guessing: who is beating you up?
I’m serious! Who are they? What’s there name? When did you meet them? Where do they live? I’m not being sarcastic, or cute–this might be a question you need answered keenly before you can move on to success, and happiness.
After talking to many, many authors, and other people who work in the creative field, I’ve found one common strand among artists who chronically second-guess themselves: abuse.
Let me say that again; ABUSE!
I was actually quite surprised to find out how many of my author friends, both male and female, had been involved with abusers, psychopaths, or narcissists. Are we sensitive, creative types, just more prone to invite these types of people into our lives? Are our natural insecurities, as creators, like sugar to flies when it comes to attracting those who feed most richly off of meeker personalities? Perhaps. Personally, I like to think that creatives bring color into the world, and abusers are cave-dwellers, angrily snuffing out the light anywhere they see it kindling.
Now, there is a very common dynamic within abusive relationships; whether that abuse comes from a spouse, domestic partner, parent, sibling, or coworker/boss. That dynamic is called “control”. Simply put, abusive people are control freaks. You are their proxy and they view you as their property. And one of the most common tools in their control-freak toolbox is something called “displeasure”. Malignant, constant displeasure.
Nothing you do, no matter how well intentioned, or how skillfully performed is ever good enough. What the abuser essentially does is make you play guessing games to find the magic words, or secret action to unlocking their approval. When you get a hint of the right answer, you are mildly tolerated, and they delve out tiny nuggets of attention, or whatever you perceive as their love(they don’t truly love, however.) to satiate you, yet keep you just starved enough to keep after them–like a carrot of a stick.
However, anyone who’s dealt with abusive people know that the tiny rewards are far and few between. In the grand game of trying to find the “right answer”, when dealing with an abuser, the abused almost always makes the wrong choice. You give the wrong answer! The wrong answer is always met with extreme disapproval. This disapproval tends to come in the form of emotional outbursts, abandonment, tantrums, or sometime even physical assault. Basically, you have to get the answer right, or you will get beat up! (Often times literally.) This is how they control you. They keep you second-guessing your every action; considering them in your every move, so you don’t upset them. They make sure that a large portion of your life is built around you pleasing or catering to them. Your life is no longer yours. Your light has been snuffed out and replaced by their hulking shadow.
LMHC, Christine Hammond, says in her article about narcissistic husbands: “…They are so much in tune with your emotions and level of fear that they delight themselves causing you to be emotional or fearful. Just to prove they are in charge of your feelings, they will turn on the charisma till you are no longer fearful and then in a second turn it off so that you are fearful again. The rush they get from watching your reactions and knowing that they have influence over you eggs them to repeat it. Because their feelings are always right, if they enjoy watching you squirm then they justify in their heads that you in turn should be grateful to feed their enjoyment no matter what the personal cost.”
Okay, so bringing this ship back around. Do you chronically second-guess your writing/choices?
Many abuse victims find that even after years of separation from their abuser they still find themselves second-guessing choices, as if the abuser was still judging them, somewhere hiding in their life, questioning them. You see, that is exactly what the abuser wants–it plays into their fantasies of omnipresence. So long as they are in your head controlling you, making you second-guess yourself, they still have you. They are still important to you and a living part of your life.
The only thing is they are only as much in your life as you allow them to be. You can kick them out.
So I need to ask this question again: who is beating you up? The abuser is long gone…did you take over for them, continuing their malice work in your life?
You are going to make mistakes. You are going to look foolish sometimes. Not everything you choose to do creatively, or professionally is going to be the right choice…but it will be your choice, and you don’t have to answer to anyone for it.
For more information with dealing with abusers: