QOTW: Dealing With Self Doubt

25 Jun

This week, the question comes from Kim, who asks:

How do you deal with self-doubt?


What self doubt?


Just kidding! Of course, of course. Show me a writer who never doubts his or her own worth as one, and I’ll start checking him or her for batteries. Self-doubt comes part and parcel with being human, let alone being a writer. Some days, it overwhelms me. I tell myself I’m silly and naive to think I’ll ever get published–that my work is no good at all–that I’m just wasting time on this whole enterprise.

How do I deal with it? Well, I’m still working on that one. But what helps me the most is trying to refocus on my most essential question: why do I write? Am I writing to get published? To see my name out there in print and my work between covers? Do I edit and edit and edit because I dream of catching the eye of an agent and someday a publisher? Is that why I type away until the early hours of the morning?

And like always, I remember that it is not. None of those things is why I write. Of course I dream of being published. I won’t be saying no to a six figure advance and a movie deal anytime soon, either. But I write for me. I write because I have stories that beg to be told and characters that beg to breathe. My self-doubt stems from fears of other’s rejection. But if I remember that at the core of things, I write because I can’t imagine living without writing, and that all my publishing goals are secondary to that love, I can usually get myself out of my slump.

I am writing. I am, hopefully, improving. I know wonderful people who are helping me get better. I may not measure up to the great and successful writers I hear about, but I am striving to get there, and I am set on enjoying the ride 😀

The Writer Querying


Self doubt – I know I’m full of it. Whether I’m drawing, or painting, or writing, I find it creeping up on me every now and then. I always wonder if it’s good enough, or if others will like it, or if it just plain sucks. But I draw and I paint and I write because I love it. I remember that it’s not about whether or not everyone likes it – there will always be at least one person who doesn’t – but I do those things for myself first. Having a supportive critique partner really helps as well. If I start doubting my work, my CP will always mention how she can’t wait to read more of my work, and how much she loves it. And really, even when I get notes on how it can be improved, I know it’s because she’s looking out for me. So sure, I doubt myself all the time. But I write first for myself. And what is there to doubt when you write for your own enjoyment?

The Writer Working in Publishing


Oddly enough, I don’t really feel self-doubt when I’m writing. It’s probably because I spent so long writing for just myself that it hasn’t found a way to leech into that part of the process yet. So that means that when I do go to share, either by posting on FP, emailing a friend a MS, or printing out a copy to share with my family, the doubt hits me full force all at once. And it’s crippling. It’s literally terrifying having someone read what I’ve written and the better I know the person, the worse the anxiety. Even though I can logically assess the situation and know that even if someone absolutely hates everything about my work it’s not the end of the world, there’s still a frightened little girl inside of me hiding in a blanket fort. I’ve been working through my doubt slowly over the years. The more positive feedback I got, the better I was able to take criticism. I was able to prove to myself that I wasn’t wasting my time and that if I worked hard enough and long enough I could produce things that other people would enjoy. I still have trouble sharing with people I know well, but I keep reminding myself that I write because I love it and the most important thing is to do what I love.

-The Writer Revising Between Queries


Like many others, I’m sure, I get doubt about a lot of things… whether I’ll be published, write another novel, find someone else after my fiance and I split, be happy in my career, be happy in life in general, etc… What I’ve had to learn over the past few months is that we can build up structures in our minds of how we think/want life to be, but life is full of surprises and opportunities we could never plan for. I won’t end up where I think I will, but hey, it might be someplace better.

I try to keep this mentality when I have doubt, particularly about writing. Okay, this project I thought was going to be awesome, that I’m 15k into it and already sent the synopsis to my agent, isn’t going to work out. That’s okay. I try to be patient, and soon ideas for other projects come. I look at my mistakes from the past project and try to guard against those for this next project.

As for quality of writing, the only way I can deal with doubt in that area is by telling myself that I can always get better, with a little research and hard work. There are tons of quotes by people saying that nobody writes well; but some people edit wonderfully. That’s a mentality I think we could apply to a lot of situations… Could it be worse? Yes? Could it be better? Yes. Okay, let’s move towards making it better. Do I have the ability to make it better?

You must tell yourself ‘Yes.’ 🙂

The Writer Waiting on Submissions


How do you deal with self-doubt?


10 Responses to “QOTW: Dealing With Self Doubt”

  1. Angela June 25, 2010 at 5:46 AM #

    I like this week`s question of the week.

    I often go through self-doubt, mainly because I read blogs of writers and people who are ready to query. There are so many people I know online who have amazing writing that I feel as if my writing is no good in comparison. Of course, the people I know online are amazing nonetheless, but it still affects me; I don`t share my stories on my blog (but I know some people have found me on fictionpress).

    I haven`t found a way to overcome it, but your answers have reassured me 🙂

    • svonnah June 25, 2010 at 9:07 AM #

      I get discouraged reading the blogs of others, even if I’m happy for them. So you’re not alone! The thing I remind myself of is that these people are like me… they’re not happy all the time, but they’re doing their best, and sometimes good things happen for them. Sometimes good things happen for me too, and then I’m one of ‘those people.’

      As I say in my QOTW answer (added later, oops!), the cool thing about writing is that you can always fix it to make it better. So if you’re not happy with the quality of your project, a lot of hard work can transform it into something you’re incredibly proud of. The power lies with you 😉

    • svonnah June 25, 2010 at 9:08 AM #

      Also, about querying… you should definitely wait until you and your writing are ready to query. I think it’s wise to wait and not jump into the game just because others around you are ready. The benefits of waiting are SO worth it.

    • Kat Zhang June 25, 2010 at 3:21 PM #

      Oh, I definitely feel discouraged sometimes by reading “miracle stories” online about people who start querying one day and get an offer two weeks later, start subbing the week after that, and get an offer from the first five publishers the agent contacts and so on and so on….lol. But I try to remember that these are the exceptions, not the rule 🙂

  2. Anne Kenny June 25, 2010 at 3:54 PM #

    I’m going through a rather slushy self doubt moment with my manuscript. It’s a love/hate thing. Thanks for the post

  3. Olga June 25, 2010 at 6:14 PM #

    For me self-doubt has become a self-destructive thing. It’s terrible to admit, but I have only ever finished TWO things in my life – both of them just stories. And I only finished them because I had people on FP threatening to sic red-eyed hamsters on me if I gave up. That’s the kind of motivation I need.

    I usually give up on things a few pages in. Because I look over it, think, “What a load of horsecrap,” and start something else. “Something else” always lasts a few pages…and then I give up and start all over again.

    I am semi-proud to say that I have several hundred versions of “something else” in notebooks, my laptop, random journals, and loose pages scattered throughout my bedroom.

    I’m a grand total of 8k into a story I’m in love with and…I can’t force myself to keep going. You could say I work best under pressure.

    Even now, I have two other something elses in progress (one at 2k, one just tipping 1k…babies!! <3) and a third is tickling my brain.

    I guess you could say I don't deal with it at all…

    • Kat Zhang June 26, 2010 at 8:28 AM #

      I did this for years and years. I saved a lot of my old notebooks, and they’re all filled with hundreds of story beginnings or even random scenes from a middle of a story that has neither beginning nor end.

      Maybe if you have a CP, you’ll be more motivated? At least you’ll have someone to kick you when you don’t show up with pages, haha. Or maybe, next time you think “What a load of horsecrap,” try to have your next thought be “Well, it’s never going to get better if I don’t get it down in the first place.” I’m writing a first draft now. It’s terrible–incredibly cliche descriptions, inconsistencies with character personalities, total lack of foreshadowing for any twists, etc, etc. But I know there’s no way to edit it and make it better if there are no words to edit in the first place. That keeps me typing away and even laughing at how bad some parts come out. I know I’ll fix it later.

      The first draft is exploratory 🙂

      • Olga June 28, 2010 at 9:06 AM #

        I’ve made myself a daily to-do list. Like a schedule. I’ve found it helps. Among things like classes, work, lunch with friends, dentist appointments, and the like, I ink in a story name and a minimum word count. I have all this week mapped out. ^_^

        Here’s hoping it works!! And you’re right – I can always edit later.

  4. Myra June 26, 2010 at 1:59 PM #

    Whenever I doubt myself, I leave my story and go do something else. Reading, mostly, but sometimes go play video games to beat that frustration and doubt, or I’ll take a walk, or go on Facebook, or veg in front of the TV.

    Anything to get away from that leeching feeling of doubt, because some days it drains me of my energy and enthusiasm and I consider deleting everything. Which would be very counterproductive, of course, but sometimes you become blind to the good when all you choose to see is the bad.

    Usually, I’d stop writing altogether because of that self-doubt, and that resulted in a whole lot of unfinished WIPs. But since I’ve taken on the 500-words-a-day challenge, there isn’t a single day I haven’t written 500 words into my WIP’s first draft, even if it’s just a sentence here, there, and a chunk of description there.

    Writing everyday has changed my attitude about writing, and I’m able to face it head-on everyday, even the bad days where I doubt my writing and my WIP and worth.

  5. Kim June 28, 2010 at 9:02 AM #

    Thanks for answering my question! I frequently have bouts of self-doubt, and they could last for days to weeks, even. And I’m slowly recovering right now. Your responses did help, and I find myself questioning why I write at all..and it’s definitely because I love it. I LOVE it. Now I don’t feel like such a stick in the mud!

    *gives LTWF a big hug*

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