I sit in front of my screen, my email is open and a job I pitched for has come through. I would be happy except I don’t know anything about the industry and have a vague idea about how to copywrite that specific document.
I contemplate emailing the client to say I’m too busy etc.
Self doubt threatens to crush and overwhelm me. “Why did I start this whole writing business? I should have stuck to what I knew,” I berate myself.
I allow myself 2 minutes to wallow in self doubt and pity and I pull myself together by asking myself one question: How hard can it be?
I can’t credit this brilliant insight to my own thinking. It was a manager in a previous job who used to counter any obstacles thrown in mine and her path by saying, “How hard can it be?” and I’ve adopted this saying every time I’m faced with a challenge that I know nothing about.
Self doubt and imposter syndrome leaves many of us, especially women, feeling terrified – of moving forwards, of growing, of learning something new.
So in this post, I’m going to share my own tips and learnings with you on how I overcome this the self doubt monster frequently.
1.Wallow in self doubt (but only for a certain time)
I allow self doubt to paralyse me for exactly – 2 minutes. Then I pull myself together and start thinking about what I know about the project instead of what I don’t know. As for the ‘what I don’t know’ I head to trusty Google search to become an expert on the subject.
Tip: Do not allow self doubt into your mind for more than a few minutes, decide on the time, panic in those minutes then firmly chuck out the monster. The longer you let it stay in your head, the bigger it will grow.
2. Ask for projects that make you uncomfortable
I sometimes ask for writing projects that I know will be a huge learning curve – just so I can feel uncomfortable. Why would anyone want to do that? Well, if I’m uncomfortable it means I’m learning heaps and absorbing even more. That usually translates to great copy for the client because I’m bringing new insights and learning.
“How hard can it really be?”
If the amateur cooks in Masterchef weren’t learning and growing over the 12 weeks, imagine how boring the show would be. To watch Matt only ever cook duck or Elena never learning how to present her food beautifully. What’s the point?
3. Learn about what you don’t know, then learn some more
Thank God for Google.
I learnt this trick early on in a previous job where I was often thrown into the deep end without any warning. If I was given an unfamiliar task, instead of panicking I’d Google it and then apply my own insights and experience.
Result: Praise from managers and a realisation that you can find anything on Google as long as you look for it.
As long as Google is around, no one needs to panic. If you’re writing about roofing (which I did for the very first time recently, read up on what makes a great roof).
Learn all you can about the new industry – after all that’s why you became a copywriter in the first place, for variety is the spice of life m’dear.
4. Ask a mentor/writer friends for guidance
If you’re a writer and not part of any support group like this one I belong to, you’re SILLY.
In this age of digital isolation, you need a close-knit network of other writer friends you can rely on to moan and whinge but most importantly ask for advice on exactly the situation facing you now.
Don’t underestimate the group cheering power of an online community. If online communities are not your thing, then choose a real, live person IRL but don’t isolate yourself.
I have saved myself hours of agonising because I belong to this group and others on Facebook.
5. Eat the elephant, one mouthful at a time
I’m not sure who’s said this but it’s clever. When faced with a huge task, break it down into chunks, tackle the chunks one at a time. With any copywriting project, write down what you know then find out what you don’t know, filling in the blanks.
When you’re faced with self doubt as a copywriter, remember the monster will only get as big as you let it.
It’s definitely in your head. Repeat: How hard can it be?