Episode 30B – Byron Gifford – Overcoming Self Doubt

Overview

On today’s episode, I talk once again with Byron Gifford. We discuss how to overcome self doubt and dealing with self doubt.

This is a common feeling among new writers, and we have thoughts and ideas to help those that doubt they should be writing.

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Transcript

Stephen 0:48
All right. Well, Byron, welcome back to the podcast. We had your interview last week on the episode. So how are things going today? things are going really good. Hey, we’re Chuck. We’re chuckling at that, because we took two minutes in between both podcasts. little secrets we’re giving out to everybody? Absolutely. So what we wanted to do with this half is more of a casual conversation, a topic for us to discuss. And you chose the topic of self doubt and overcoming self doubt, and maybe even what has caused self doubt for you. So let’s start. Why did you choose this as our topic discussion?

Byron 1:36
I chose this because it was the one thing that could have, it prevented me from doing this much earlier in life. And it easily could have been the thing that stopped me several times, was the self doubt. So I think it’s so important, because I can’t imagine that I’m the only one out there that experiences this.

Stephen 2:01
No.

Byron 2:02
Where Where does it stem from? I don’t know, I think that’s different for everyone. It could have been, you know, my early childhood, lack of confidence, you know, I was raised by a single mother of three. So imagine, you know, 50% or less parents structure always around with interactions being thin. Nothing, I regret, but certainly, you know, confidence may have been lower. So it always kind of used that self doubt was an excuse. But how do I overcome it? And that’s really what I needed to discover, to kind of find, what would it take to get to give me that breakthrough, so that I could move forward and look back on this and say, I conquered it.

Stephen 2:52
Which I think most people strive and struggle for most of their lives. Let me back up a second, ask you this. So when you were younger, you said you got a brother word processor, you typed all sorts of things. And you didn’t. I mean, looking back now you realize, oh, man, those weren’t really great. But at the time, you thought they were super wonderful. And you how many how many? Do you think you wrote back then when you’re younger?

Byron 3:19
Oh, wow, probably, I don’t know, dozens, dozens of different stories. And I would pull like Spider Man and my own little, you know, one, two page stories, and I had a wonderful time doing it. But what it could have been is that those stories, they started with me, but then ended with me. It’s not as if I tear it off the the brother word processor machine handed to a parent and immediately gets a get a read and get some feedback and encouragement. Again, you know, lack of time with with your parents. That could be is that I didn’t have that kind of urging me along. And so I do take that forward in life to my two children today is where I where I can give them praise. Or we can sit down and talk about the experiences. I’m hoping that that is keeping them, you know, confidence levels high and helping them build self confidence in themselves that one day, they won’t have to rely on someone else to fill that confidence cup up. They’ll be able to help keep it for themselves as well.

Stephen 4:30
Right. And I was gonna mention that. Let me ask you this. And this is maybe my personal thoughts bias or whatever. I’ll get to my point, but I have a question for you. So I assume your parents, like a lot of parents would tell you Oh, this is great. This is wonderful no matter what you did. And then you hit the adult world in real life and you did something for work or you did something in college and they’re like, yeah, that kind of But okay, where do you think that the confidence for you might have disappeared a bit? Or where do you think some, you know, did something? Make you start thinking? Yeah, I can’t write because I’m not that good. Do you have something maybe that, you know, you could say, yeah, this kind of did it.

Byron 5:24
It could have been, I, I attributed to maybe, again, divorced parents, where the, you know, there are children that blame themselves for that, for that for those for that for those divorces. And, you know, in my case, it may have been that, that not good enough feeling. And so the things that I would have created, maybe, to me didn’t feel good enough. But again, that’s all inner talk, because I had anyone telling me that it wasn’t some self doubt I take ownership for that self doubt, and I and I wanted to certainly figure out how I could take ownership to overcome it.

Stephen 6:09
And now that you have your book out, and it sounds like you’ve been getting great praise hand over fist. What’s your feelings now? Like for the next book? Are you afraid to put the next one out again? Or are you like, hey, I need to get this done. Because it’s great. The ladder I thought,

Byron 6:28
super excited. And, you know, I think, a little bit of my breakthrough, I can share that way with you, if you’d like, please, please, how I was able to kind of get through that. So the writing of the story and its final version, it did come rather quick to me. As we talked, I was pulling from real life. So I felt that I had a good story just in living with my son in the interaction with these stuffed animals. It really was the illustrations that had me questioning my ability. So the fear and the self doubt were on high alert. And you know, it wasn’t until, again, this was early on in the the quarantine. But I had picked up and read Finally, Stephen King’s book on writing.

Stephen 7:16
Oh, just just read it recently.

Byron 7:19
Did you? Okay, so that, then you probably know, maybe one of his own personal advice to himself, that he that he shed that he shared with all of us in the book, or as readers. And that was really what broke through for me, I when I read this, I was like, this is the best advice I have ever heard. And when he stated that early on, he realized that he couldn’t write for the world. He couldn’t worry if everyone would love his stories, he wrote for one person, his wife. And he said that she was the only person that mattered. And if she enjoyed his work, he was happy. And I finished my story, once I knew that my wife and my son Evan loved it. Same thing with the illustrations. It was because I said I set a daily and a weekly goal. When I every picture, I would finish illustrating, I would show it to my son, Evan. And if he was excited, and I could see the light in his eyes, after each drawing, I was content. And then I was ready to move on to the next one. So to me, if they were happy, I was happy. And that helped me break through. So thank you to that book, because that’s what I needed to help kind of keep that self confidence going and getting the acknowledgement for my family. But so I think this next book, will will hopefully go very smooth for me.

Stephen 8:43
I think that’s really, it’s the mindset. And I think most self doubt, gets thrown out the window when you have the right mindset. And I was just again, I’ll bring up Jay Thorne, I was just talking to him about something a couple weeks ago, my book sales, and I said how my October was better than my July, which had been my best month of the year up to then. And so I was real happy about that. And he said, that’s great that you’re only competing against yourself, and you’re just striving for that next goal, that next number, and then you’re not worried about oh my god. Well, Stephen King just made 30 million this year. How can I you know, be so happy with selling a few. But that’s, you know, not that really the point. I know I’ve gotten better in seeing that. You know, the hard numbers helped me overcome some self doubt or feelings of inadequacy or imposter syndrome. They say things like that. Yeah.

Byron 9:43
Let’s face it. Yeah. Competing with yourself. Yeah, it’s hard to lose against yourself. Right.

Stephen 9:50
And and I’ve had that it was a conflict when I was a softball coach or baseball coach too. Because around here, sports His life. And if you’re not the winning team, then you might as well not even be breathing. That’s kind of the attitude. And I argued against, well, you know what, you’re getting mad at this kid, because they didn’t do so well. But you know what, they did hit the ball twice. At the beginning of the season, they couldn’t hit the ball at all. So I think that’s a win. That’s a success, but they don’t view it that way. I found that so disheartening, that they weren’t helping encourage the kids to get better for themselves. And the thing was, it was coach pitch. It’s the youngest kids, who cares how they really play it. That’s the time to build their self confidence and make them better. Yeah, yeah. And I think they were so worried about the kids being wonderful right then. But I said, you’re missing the opportunity for some of these kids, if you work on their skills. Now, in three or four years, when it will matter a little more, they’re going to be much better. And I think, you know, younger, building the confidence, along with the skills to back it up. Let me ask your opinion on this and thoughts. Because we were talking about the kids, you’re talking about your kids. And, you know, I asked you about your your parents and your writing when you’re younger? Where is the balance then for kids in telling them? It’s good, praising them, making them feel good? But then where does that balance come in? That they don’t feel like, oh, everything I do is perfect. Because I I feel if that’s how they grow up where everything I do is absolutely perfect. And then they get into the real world. And suddenly, it’s not. I think that’s where a lot of the self doubt, not doesn’t creep in, it crashes in, what’s your thoughts and opinions on balancing that? Or if you even agree with that sentiment?

Byron 11:56
I think you’re right, I would agree with you that there is a lot of words to say that constant positive motivation, we’re all we’re saying that everything is perfect and wonderful all the time, I would say with with my children, as well, as we talk about things we talk about. We celebrate the progress, I guess, let me back up into your story earlier about the sports is celebrate the progress. It may not be the 100% success, but there’s progress. And if you can identify that. And so I take that into kind of the conversations with my own kids is how did you progress it that because maybe they didn’t win? whatever they’re doing right, but but let’s talk about the progress that they made? And how could they continue to further progress or progress? When they get those wins? We certainly celebrate those. But I think identifying the progress that people are making will help them because if you didn’t make any progress, well, how could you make some progress? So those are the conversations that I have with my kids. And to me, I’m hoping that that’s going to help guide them to always kind of do that self analysis? Yes. And they’re able to say, Wow, I didn’t progress today, what could I do differently tomorrow to progress. And then again, if they’re setting goals, then maybe they can see their progression is going to lead them to that 30 day goal of you know, of hitting it kind of the same thing with people who typically, a lot of people will set goals on wanting to lose weight. But they set this big marker that’s right from now, celebrate the small wins along the way. And you’ll stay more motivated. And you’ll do more self analysis.

Stephen 13:41
And I think that right there, counter or helps with both of those that you don’t get the self doubt later. Because you know, you’re getting better. And you know how to look at the next level the next step, so you don’t doubt Oh, you know, I’ve already made 100 steps behind me. I just got to get to that next one. And I think that’s a lesson. Maybe we’re not teaching kids by praising them all the time. And that we don’t learn as adults right away or sometimes ever. We just start getting the getting the feeling of I’m a failure, because I don’t have a million dollar business with 500 employees or you know, whatever it happens to be my neighbors have a boat, I don’t have a boat, the whole keeping up the Joneses thing. So now I’m a failure. But then you miss the things where it’s like, well, you know, last year, we were only able to go to the movies once Well, this year, we went three times. Of course, that was not this particular year, but you know what I’m saying? We miss sometimes things where we are getting better, that could build self confidence and get rid of some of our self doubt as adults. I think it’s harder. Yeah, I would agree. So, you said you read Stephen King, you realize But you know, I’m writing this for my wife, and she’s happy with it. If everyone else says it sucks, great, I don’t care. What what could we, if you and I were sitting down having a committee? What could we do for the other adults that are out there and tell them besides what we’ve already discussed here already, I mean, it’s a big issue with self doubt a lot in here a lot of advice going back and forth. Um, you know, if you and I were trying to solve that problem, what what could we do?

Byron 15:35
Maybe a little bit, a little bit of what I did. And again, this would be some advice to the listeners. But I would say, it’s, let me just, let me let me say this, that, you know, I’m a stranger to those that are listening. And so I know that it’s very hard for us to listen to podcasts, I listen to a lot of them to always trust what you’re hearing from someone. So my advices is to share your work while you’re in development, with at least someone that’s closest to you, or most trusted to you. Because it the fact that they’re that close must mean that you, you have faith and trust and love in them, even when all of the the times aren’t always good times. And so you’re able to kind of hear the feedback, because maybe, maybe there is something that’s unclear in your book, and this person can help you kind of get through that, to move forward, kind of as an advisor, so to speak, right? Oh, you know, I took Stephens feedback and brought that to myself and said that, you know, based on what what I’m what the feedback I’m going to get from from these two that I love the most in life, that’s going to give me feedback, because believe me, it wasn’t all perfect. Every time when I would deliver something, they had feedback for me, I would change this in the picture. Or you might want to make that that image of Evan in the book bigger because it might not match the rest of the illustration, the size and perspective. So I would get feedback and have to make changes, but it was so helpful, that support that they

Stephen 17:18
gave me. And I think that’s important. And I like that you said that because I was actually going to mention, a lot of times I I’ve encountered this I know others have that your loved ones. When you show them something they like, Wow, that’s really wonderful. But they don’t give you seen something’s really wonderful doesn’t really help. And especially for me, I much prefer getting some constructive criticism on what could be better or what was confusing or what they didn’t like. And that can be hard to find with family members. They don’t want to hurt your feelings, they want to tell you and encourage you. But I personally sometimes find that less encouraging, because then I don’t know for sure if it’s really good or what could be better. So balancing that if I would say if you have family members that are the Oh man, this was wonderful, but they don’t have any other comments. Say, great, thank you. But find some people that can be, hey, I don’t want you to put this out there and have everybody tell you that this part sucks. So I’m going to tell you this part sucks. My son does that for me. He won’t say you know, this is horrible. He will cross things out, he will make notes and tell me, Hey, this isn’t as good as it could be. Or here’s why I didn’t like this. And on our whole self doubt, that actually makes me feel better, because then I feel I’ve eliminated the bad stuff to get it out there before everybody else sees it. So I’d encourage people to find somebody, like you said that could give you Hey, this isn’t quite right.

Byron 18:59
Yeah, yeah. And the bond that you must have with your son then is gonna be so much greater. Because you have that trusted dialogue with each other.

Stephen 19:10
Yeah. And I think it made him feel good when he was he’s 19 now but when he was just a little bit younger, because I was valuing his opinion and listening to it. But I flat out said, Hey, I want to know what is not good. Because I don’t want to get something out there that nobody buys that everyone gives one star reviews to and everybody pretty much hates because talk about destroying yourself. your self confidence and giving you doubt, you know, that would destroy everything.

Byron 19:44
Absolutely. Absolutely. And in case you know, there’s individuals that write that don’t have someone that’s living in the same household as them perhaps is, is I mentioned I took that writing class and so the exercises in there and People, we had to, we had to bring our writings each week, we had to read them aloud in front of the class. And then you you had to sit there quietly and get the feedback. But so I why I’m saying that is I would suggest people even look for those types of communities if they need to find someone that they feel like they can get trusted feedback from. And, you know, something that’s so powerful and simple. But maybe we forget to do it sometimes is the open ended question versus the closed ended question. If you find yourself just asking people the yes or no questions, the closed ended, I would change your style. And and like you said, What could be better in the story? What would you change? Because then the answer is not yes or no, they’ve got to give you some feedback.

Stephen 20:50
And I love that. That’s a very good point. Because, again, what you just said, and what I’ve seen, if you say, so what did you think? Oh, it was good. Okay, in what way? Well, I really liked it. It was fun. Yeah. Okay. What didn’t you like? Well, no, everything was really good about it. Again, as a writer, that doesn’t help, not in the early stages. And what you said about writing groups in that, I would agree with you and encourage people, you know, go out there and find several writing groups, and go and visit them and try them out. Not all writing groups will meet each writers, personality style feelings, or whatever, cuz I went to a whole bunch of them. And I quit going to some because I’m like, Yeah, I don’t feel that the feedback I’m getting is really helping me at this one, or there’s a couple people that would dominate it. And they would always have the same opinions, regardless of the writer, the style, the genre, or anything else. It’s, and I even argued with the one. He was a thriller writer, and he was like, ripping into this guy that was writing a horror story that, you know, you got to have conflict on the first page, and you got this. I’m like, No, no, no, not with horror. I’m like, that’s a different beast than thriller, you want to build that up. So there’s some surprise and some scare and the people get invested in it. That’s a little bit different. And he disagreed with me. And I’m like, Okay, well, if everything’s got to be a thriller, in this one, I’m not coming anymore. Sure. So I, I didn’t find as much value myself in taking, like chapter six of my book to read. It was more short stories. And that would be something I’d encourage everybody to do to boost their self confidence, and get rid of self doubt is stop worrying about writing that first 300 page book, go write 20 short stories, and take those short stories to different clubs, classes, and critique groups and get feedback and improve them. Because then by the time you get to your novel, you’re going to have a lot more self confidence, because you’ve already written 20. Good stories.

Byron 23:05
Yep. I love that. That’s exactly my experience in that class. These were short stories that we that we brought in every week that we read aloud. And I just happened to really gret I went in never thinking I was going to come out and write a children’s book. But one of the one of the the assignments happened to be a story that I picked this graphic character, and voila, it turned into my to my book.

Stephen 23:34
Nice. All right, well, Byron, you got anything else? To add to our self doubt, conversation?

Byron 23:43
No, I don’t think anything else to add, I just, I just want to say that, you know, if you’re, if you’re listening, and you have that self doubt, you know, you’re not you’re not alone. We’ve, I will hear it, Stephen, you may have went through it, you’ve maybe we still go through it. And I hope that this conversation will give people some great ideas and tips on how they can help break through themselves.

Stephen 24:05
And also, people realize you’re not alone. And you’re not the first author to have self doubt, and need a little more self confidence. And besides having a critique partner, whatever, maybe there’s somebody you need to give you that encouragement or tell you to keep going. I know, if you’re in weightwatchers, you know, they want you to talk with each other and they want you to encourage each other and they text each other. Hey, I really feel like eating a piece of this chocolate pie right now. No, don’t do it. Don’t do it. You know? partners, right? Yes, exactly. And not just somebody you talk to once a week, somebody you could text daily with updates and how you feel and to help really help you through things. Absolutely. And I know there’s a lot of authors that would love to find people like that. So obviously, you know, you can find somebody To meet up locally or that you’ve met.

Byron 25:03
Yeah. And chances are then you can reciprocate to that person because they’re probably looking for someone as well.

Stephen 25:10
Right? Agreed. All right. Well, Byron, I appreciate you taking some time on this today. And hopefully, once your next book or so comes out, we’ll get you back on and find out more about that one and how things are going for you.

Byron 25:22
That sounds fantastic, Steve, and I really had a fun time doing this today, and I look forward to hearing some more of your podcasts in the future.

Stephen 25:29
Wonderful. I appreciate it. Well, you have a great day. Thank you. You too.

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