This summer, I almost turned down a writing residency.
Before fully considering the offer, doubt crept in. A friend pointed out that I was more focused on my self-doubt than the opportunity in front of me. And so, I cast a spell against self-doubt.
The spell was quite simple; it was to complete four actions before starting work.
Those actions were:
- An act of kindness
- An act of strength
- An act of creation
- An act of bravery
In the weeks leading up to the residency, and during the residency itself, my spell against self-doubt became a daily practice. Each action was an antidote to my most frequent doubts.
The manifestation of my casual witchcraft was to:
- Make coffee for my partner (Act of Kindness)
- Bust out 30-50 Pushups (Act of Strength)
- Sketch a quick cartoon (Act of Creation)
- Scribble three pages of automatic writing (Act of Bravery)
The culmination of this practical magic was that when I started work on my play I was energized, centered, and eager to tap into the fictional world I was creating. Whenever doubt started to murmur, I refuted it, with my proof of kindness, strength, creation, and bravery
Centering my writing practice on acts of kindness towards others (and myself) let me shed my fear that writing is a selfish pursuit. The adrenaline rush from my act of strength let me draw with energy and abandon. I started sketching because it was a form that had no repercussions on my sense of self as a creative.
I gave up on “learning to draw” in seventh grade when I was unable to render a realistic bouquet of flowers. Last July, when I decided to start drawing, I was unencumbered from any pressure to be good. Unlike writing, it’s not something I’ve practiced.Surprisingly, I fell in love.
Armed with paints, I was full of stories. Freed from any understanding of technique, I was able to let go of my bias that realistic is good. Drawing in my own perspective, freed me to write in my own voice.
After the joy of splashing my thoughts into colorful cartoons, I was able to face myself on the page and write.
By the time the residency started, the spell had taken hold. Instead of bringing my toolbox of doubt, I brought my watercolors and a play I was excited to share.
Over the past six months, the spell has stuck. I continue to count acts of kindness, feats of strength, and drawing as an essential to my writing. What started as an act of desperation has become a source of inspiration.
Do you have your own version of the spell against self-doubt?
Have you ever tried drawing/dancing/singing as a way to warm-up before writing?
Naomi is a writer, performer, and project manager. She has dueling degrees in business and playwriting.