This week, the question comes from Kim, who asks:
How do you deal with 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 😀
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?
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.
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.’ 🙂
How do you deal with self-doubt?