Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Every Writer's Kryptonite: Self-Doubt

One thing you'll find out about me quickly is that I'm always very honest in my posts. I don't mind sharing when I stumble in my writing or when I get an incredibly painful rejection. It's all part of the process of learning and growing and perfecting your craft. While I can admit my failures in the process, one of the hardest things to endure is the self-doubt.

You work tirelessly on a manuscript, or short story, only to send it to a trusted CP and find out it's junk. Too much passive voice, not enough showing, slow pacing, etc. It's easy to get down when these things happen. Convince yourself to throw in the towel on the whole writing gig. 

Every writer has been through this, even New York Times Bestsellers. It is the nature of the beast. But the key is to not get bogged down in the doubt. Allow it to swallow all the hard work you've done.

When I start feeling discouraged about my writing, I find these three things always give me perspective on my work and help me refocus:

1) Stepping Back

Many times we are way too close to our material, and are unable to see its flaws because we are so in love with the characters, setting, plot etc. I have a completed manuscript that needs MAJOR revisions. The story is one of the best things I've ever written, and I'm crushed I have to rip it apart. So you know what I'm doing? Not touching it for a month. I'm going to let the feedback from agents and CPs sink in. Once I've gotten enough emotional distance, I'm going to tear it to shreds and make it a thousand times better.

2) Reading

When I start doubting my work, I go back and reread my favorite authors. I pour over certain passages, or diagram a plot, just to get back to the basics of writing. As soon as I'm done devouring the book, I feel rejuvenated and ready to write again.

3) Talking to other writers

Hey, let's face it – misery loves company. Talking to other writers who are going through the same thing makes you feel less alone in the process. Writing can be a very solitary thing, but it doesn't have to be.  Reach out to buddies on Facebook or Twitter and ask about their process. I guarantee it will make you reconsider your situation, and give you fresh ideas on how to tackle an issue you're having with your own project.

In the end, there is no hard and fast way to get over self-doubt. It is that one sucky part about being a creative being that we have to get over. The key is to NOT let it consume you. Work through it in any way you're comfortable. And then, get your butt back in the chair and write. You'll be surprised by how much better it will make you feel!




  1. Yay, Amy's first post for us! And yes, self-doubt pops up in every stage of the writing game.

    When used in a healthy way, it serves to push us out of our writing comfort zone, to try a different way of doing things and maybe take a risk (which, ironically, just usually allows the doubt to transfer to whether the risk-taking was a wise thing to do).

  2. I really enjoyed reading this post! Self-doubt is truly a writer's kryptonite.

    I can relate to that stepping back action. I recently had to do the same for my own little oh so precious novel (I loved my baby! Didn't want to touch it at all.) and became more receptive to the much needed revisions. I ended up reexamining other aspects of my life as well. Clearing my head, shifting my priorities, and just doing some refocusing really boosted my confidence and gave me that push to continue writing. Thanks for the post!

  3. You can't totally avoid self-doubt, but the more experience I have and the better my writing gets, the less I have. I agree that sometimes one has to step back from a manuscript that isn't working, or even step away from writing to take a breather once in a while.

  4. Love your three points. They're spot on! All three make a major difference and help us in different ways! :)

  5. I've known a few writers that ended up paralyzed by self-doubt. It kept them from finishing projects or kept them endlessly revising because of their fear of querying.

    Unfortunately the spark that makes us want to write is the same spark that fills us with doubt.

    I'm not sure it can ever be conquered but it can be locked in a closet.

  6. Great points! It's paralyzing sometimes. Reaching out to writing friends has helped so much.

  7. That same mind that allows us to come up with marvelous stories can turn on us unexpectedly. I'll be keeping this post nearby when self doubt pops up. Thanks.


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