Writer’s block with a side of self doubt

When in a moment of doubt, some words of encouragement from a trusted advisor showed Shibani directly the importance of trusted support in our lives and the role we have in defining our purpose.

Those of you who read my work here, follow me on social or personally know me are aware that I am working on a book.  In theory, I have been working on this book for the last 8 years – journaling, note-taking, saving research.  In reality, I have been working in earnest on it for about a year. 

If you were to ask me what my book is about, however, I can’t quite explain it. There’s no succinct elevator pitch to it. There are many concepts within in: Personal growth. Rewriting the rules for womanhood. Spiritual seeking.  High achievers finding happiness along their path.

Yet, what I struggle with is summarizing these themes into an unforgettable book title with 10 corresponding chapters. This is where I am stuck. It is apparent in the reviews of my latest book proposal, which is being looked over by a few people:

“There are countless books covering these topics, Shibani. What makes yours different?” a book agent told me recently.

Feeling deflated by this feedback and stuck yet again, I paused my writing. It was writer’s block with a side of self doubt. I had imposter syndrome, one could even say.

Though I never identified with the term, imposter syndrome – or self doubt in its essence – hits even high achievers. I am turned off by the phrase because of its over-application to women. Yet, I know there is more to my writer’s block. There is a feeling that I am trying to accomplish something that is not meant for me. In essence, I am impostering an author.

Do I even need to write this book?

Adding to weight of my doubt is my LinkedIn feed. That same week, I see the posts of two women in my network. They, too, were also successful in the corporate world, had top MBA degrees and shared in hardcover their experience of overwhelm with the balancing act of being ambitious women and mothers. Their books were their personal solutions to the tightrope act we similarly faced.

I forwarded one of the posts to my writing coach with the subject line: “Someone is doing what I want to do” with the following message:

She’s saying something similar to me, appears to be (on paper) like me. Can we both exist here?

Seeing the success of others in the space I want to be in created a sense of scarcity for me. I felt that there was no room for the three of us, or more, to exist in this corner of writing world. It was this that my writing coach, Suzanne, addressed in her reply:

Oh my dear, you have nothing to worry about! This woman is completely different than you! You are the ONLY Shibani Joshi….What’s happening to you right now – that inner voice saying “this will never work” – is very common. It is your brain trying to protect you. The world needs you. 

In reading her words, my mind quieted. My anxiety quelled. My spine grew erect again. I knew to keep marching on because her words were true. I thanked her and the Universe for the message. I was also moved by how powerful praise, support and encouragement could be even at this age and stage of my life (something I will write about in an upcoming New Year’s resolution post).

What I was reminded of was the normalcy and humanness of experiencing doubt. In this, you and I are not alone. When a block or moment of uncertainty hits you, as it did for me, I share with you what I needed to hear for myself:

The world needs you.

There is no one like you who exists.

There is room for all of us.

That feeling you have within you -that calling, that purpose – wants to be answered.

Rid yourself of the timeline for it to be achieved, for that is the fun and mystery of life unfolding.

Is there a way to enjoy the journey a little more?

And with the doubt (even if, perhaps, only temporarily) settled, it’s time for me to get back to my writing.

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