“They’re coming to get you, Barbara.” So runs the famous line from my favorite zombie movie. But the threat you need to watch out for is far more dangerous and prolific than pixelized undead, and it offers no thrills, but a ton of regret and destruction.
Though we all know it when we see it, before I name it, let’s take a moment to focus on its victims. You have dreams, ambitions, a passion for the written word—in particular blogging. You want to make a career of helping other businesses express their dreams through your words. In this way, you’re free to use your talent and make a difference, while also making good money.
I share that dream. And to the readers of this article, like me, you are just starting the exciting journey of freelance blogging.
But there is a monster in our midst, a threat, an enemy that, if left unopposed, will never stop coming until those dreams are dead. Its appetite is voracious. Its attacks are relentless. Running offers no escape. Its only goal is decimation.
That monster is none other than doubt.
Like a zombie virus, doubt starts with a single bite, infects anyone, and can spread until nothing healthy is left. For the new freelance blogger, it makes you shamble through your career before you’ve reached your potential. Before the doubts outnumber your creative output, understand how this threat works and how to stop it truly dead in its tracks.
The Doubting Disease Goes Viral
With zombies, the trouble often starts with a single bite. One painful moment where your guard was down, and the monster sneaks past defenses you didn’t know you should have up. That’s how the mother must feel in the 1990 version of The Night of the Living Dead, when her sick daughter surprises her in the dark basement.
Doubt is like that, too, sinking its teeth into your prospecting momentum.
It sneaks in when you weren’t paying attention. One moment, your day is going well. You have your Excel file open, filling in a list of potential contacts from resources such as the Ultimate List of Better Paid Blogging Gigs. Your fingers flew over your keyboard, and now you are letting that letter of interest cool on your screen before you review it one last time.
Taking advantage of the downtime, you check your email’s inbox, and the negative feedback on a prior project sinks its teeth in. Rattled, you scroll down, and the next email you open is a “not for me” on a guest post submission. Or maybe it’s just the two-week-old dead silence from someone who expressed an interest in hiring you, and you just know they have gone with someone else.
Whatever the situation was, you were doing well, and moving forward with great momentum. Now the unexpected makes you slam on the brakes before you crash into the unexpected obstacle in your way. You check it out, and you get bitten for your trouble by the relentless creature known as doubt.
All it takes is one bite to start the virus of doubt spreading through your system.
It usually takes a while to feel the full effects of the zombie virus. Like the unlucky motel-forager in Resident Evil: Extinction, you feel sick and achy. You are scared. Sometimes you try to hide the true nature of the problem from others so they don’t judge you at the business end of a shotgun or through a tribunal decreeing your exile. That’s the last thing you need to happen as your well-being takes a nosedive.
In your blogging life, doubt gradually attacks every aspect of the once-healthy confidence in your writing that made you launch this career in the first place. Doubt spreads, weakening the trust you have in yourself. The danger it poses takes many forms, the better to get you with.
- You see a perfect guest-post opportunity, but all your good ideas have dried up.
- You revisit and revisit that draft you knew was ready to go a few hours ago, stalling on sending it out.
- You count the “could have done betters” in your old, published posts, losing sight of the fact they were indeed good enough to be published.
- You are contracted to write a post, but the cursor blinks on the blank page, or the pen makes ink blotches, not words, on your notebook.
Whatever its nature, the fever of doubt consumes your thoughts: “What will they think?” “I messed up.” “I’m going to fail.” “They will find out I’m a fraud.” You lie down for a nap, and become one with the couch for a long while, too tired to get up and try again today. After all, the more you try, the worse it seems to get.
Just as the immune systems of bite victims go into overdrive, focusing on that one threat, so does your mind hyperfocus on the contagion of doubt. It can leave you vulnerable, exposed, and distracted from avenues of escape. In the end, it feels like there is no alternative: once bitten, only one fate is left in store.
Becoming the zombie.
Once you become a zombie, your only goal is to feed yourself, thus incidentally spreading the disease. You seek out prey like the teeth-chattering infection vectors in World War Z or their contortionist counterparts in Train to Busan.
Doubt wants more fuel to keep going, and it wants company, forcing you to procrastinate, often socially, instead of doing the work awaiting you. After all, the saying is true that misery loves company.
It wants to bring down others as you complain to your spouse or friends about how awfully you handled something or how your day was just one disaster after another.
You roam forums where other freelancers lament about hard it is to break in and how lowly they are paid, and you spread your doubts with “me toos” and “hear that’s.”
You hunt down Grumpy Cat posts that personify your current mood, and splatter your Facebook feed with them.
Wherever you are, you go on and on about how no one could possibly have done it better, though you aren’t even convincing yourself. You’re just feeding yourself and infecting others, inviting them to feel the same and share their own stories that you try to top. Instead of seeing the good events of the day, all the little things that went well, now everyone only sees the bad.
Doubt mob-attacks where the survivors are holed up, and everything looks doomed.
Fighting Back against the Monsters of Doubt
You don’t want to be sick with a zombie virus or the doubt disease, but what can you do about it?
Like zombie attacks in these movies, doubts are inevitable. You can either lie down and get eaten up by the enemy, or you can fight back.
When the undead are crowding close, you need some breathing room. The same goes for your writing doubts, which is why you need to pick up any weapon and start swinging till the crowd thins out.
It doesn’t matter how you fight or what you fight with. In Dead Rising: Watchtower, the hero uses whatever is at hand, from a literal zombie limb to a modified weed-whacker to a traffic cone. Borrow from that script to gain space to reflect on your situation.
Anything can be a weapon if you know how to look, but try these on for size:
- Focus on affirmations or positive phrases to stop the constant moaning of doubt.
- Hold up successes from your past to fend off the sharp teeth of missteps.
- Write the doubt down and file it in the circular bin to keep it from roaming freely.
- Procrastinate on being herded anywhere doubt wants you to go, so you don’t end up trapped down a dead-end.
Anything you can think of, try it then and there. It’s not about efficiency at this point; it’s about taking small actions that let you step back from the situation and start the work to really keep the doubt at bay.
Planning Your Defense
Once the mob of doubt is no longer clawing at you from every direction, it’s time to work out a plan that gives your freelance blogging career its best chance at survival. This is where you seek out your optimum tools.
In movies like the 1978 version of Dawn of the Dead, a high-powered rifle with a kick won’t do well for someone who has never shot a gun. Running won’t work long-term if the most you’ve ever exercised before was wearing a path between the couch and the computer equipment, such as the radio personality recognized in Day of the Dead (2008).
Pick a tool that fits.
You can find out yours by copying the questions below and answering them:
- What is the doubt saying about your freelance blogging career?
- How effective was your technique to get the initial breathing room?
- What did you do in the past against this doubt, and how effective was it?
- What do you consider your best freelance blogging success in the past?
- Name one thing you did that led to that success?
- What do you consider your greatest strength as a freelance blogger?
- What gives you the most joy about freelance blogging?
- Why are you freelance blogging in the first place?
- What are your favorite things to read or do that give you joy or buoy your spirits?
Here are some examples of techniques:
- Do you like catchy sayings? Print out some quotes and lob them at the hungry doubts.
- Do you like to write? Journal to board up your internal dialogue’s weak spots.
- Do you like to exercise? Go for a walk and clear your head, focusing on the scenery, not the internal devastation doubt has waged.
- Do you like to help others? Find a way to make someone’s day better, especially if you can say to them what you’d like to hear yourself, thus saving someone else from a sneak doubt attack.
Answering the questions above allows you to analyze the creature hunting you, so you can turn the tables on it. Knowing what the doubt is and how it reacts to your current and past attacks will improve your chances. Knowing what you do well and how you do it allows you to try out your strengths. Knowing what you do or like best reduces internal resistance to launching your attack.
Pull your best insights together and craft a short plan of attack that you can keep with you everywhere you write.
Start this plan by describing how you will attack the doubt: “When doubts strike, I will review clips of thank you notes from clients. They will remind me not only am I appreciated but why I chose this career in the first place—the ability to use my gift and make my own schedule.”
Then, add a backup tool your plan, such as “And if that doesn’t work, I will write out five ways the doubt is wrong and my writing is strong.” Because count on it, eventually you’ll need that second weapon.
Practice, Practice, Practice
The more you rely on your plan, the stronger it and you get. There is no cure for doubt, but your blogging career can still take off if you put in the work that frees it to thrive.
After all, as they say, practice makes perfect. It worked for the heroine in Breakdown Lane, who studied up and practiced on her guns before she launched a rescue mission. It will work for you with your plague of doubts.
Once you have your tool, use it. A lot. The more you practice with your tool of choice, the better you are with it. Soon it will become second nature and zombie doubts will lose their heads as soon as they pop up.
- Analyze what works and what doesn’t with your technique. Then focus on making it feel natural, so that in the heat of the moment, you don’t flounder.
- If it’s not scheduled, it’s less likely to be done. Get into a routine to better guard against attacks. Doubts are always hunting, so why not patrol for them from time to time?
- Scheduling is boring, but rewards are fun. After all that fighting, relax with a favorite blog or snack or zombie flick.
- The key is to practice what works best, but don’t be afraid of a variety. It’s good to have a backup doubt-killer, for you never know when your weapon of choice will fail you when need it most. That simply means you move on to your second best weapon and go on the offensive once more, clearing the way to allow your creativity, your talent, and your perseverance to thrive.
Doubts come out of nowhere to bite you, to infect all your thoughts, and to spread among the people you care about.
While there is no long-term cure, there are ways to come out of a full-fledged attack with your confidence intact and your freelance blogging pursuit alive and well. You do this by fighting at once, instead of giving in to doubt’s gnawing. You do this by arming yourself with your best confidence-building defense and fighting those persistent fears every chance you get.
By following this plan, you can lay your doubts to rest with some well-placed headshots and survive the attack with your blogging confidence intact.