The Killing Self Doubt

I thought I would do this blog post as something that people may be able to relate to. For this blog post, I drew on the way I have been feeling lately as I am pretty sure, if not 100% sure but 99.9% sure, that I am not the only one in the world feeling this way. Writing makes people doubt. It makes them doubt their work. It makes them doubt themselves. And it makes them doubt their ability. If you are a real writer, I think all of this is common knowledge, am I right?

I wrote a tweet on Twitter yesterday, saying “Think I’m going to have to do a lot on this draft once I’m finished… Almost scared about the work that’ll have to be done.” I was feeling a little disheartened about my current work in progress. I just felt like my draft was crap and stupid and honestly, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue on with it for a little while there. This tweet got a lot of feedback, many people retweeted it and favourited (we’ll just go with that new word) it and replied to it. This made me realise, if not confirm the fact even more, that all of us as writers, experience the same problems that involve self doubt.

The definition of doubt is to be uncertain about something or to not believe in something happening. For writers, this doubt is in the thought of writing this great book that readers are going to be practically jumping out of their skins to read. We just simply do not believe it and think we are miles away from ever achieving something like that. For writers, this doubt is in the thought of failing to become a writer. Because once you have subscribed to “Author Daily,” there’s no backing out, you’re in it for life. I guess this is an incredibly scary thought.

Personally, I have only ever wanted to be an author, and not just a writer, but an author. I can’t think of anything else I have ever wanted to be. So the thought of not becoming an author scares me to no end when I’m not entirely sure what else I would do with my life if it wasn’t for writing.

I guess a couple of questions to ask is: what happens when your book doesn’t become a success? And what is the success?

Is the success just the fact that your book managed to make it to the top of the pile in the publishers’ office? Is the success seeing your book published on the shelves, with a shiny new cover, sitting among other authors’ work? I think it can be both of those answers. But/or… is the success of not only succeeding in the first two answers, but also in becoming internationally famous where or you can do is write, and not have to have another job on the side to support your life? Where do we draw the line for success? Is there ever an end to the success that writers want to achieve when they become authors? Probably not. And does this increase the doubt that they feel? Probably.

I think the doubt of whether your work is decent enough or good enough for the general public comes from reading famous published authors’ books. I know, for me, it certainly does. I can pick up a book by say Cassandra Clare or J.K. Rowling for example and go “wow, I wish I could write like that.” And then I’ll run to my computer or pick up a notebook and begin writing, hoping that I will write something that is almost as good as theirs. But the doubt that lays hidden within us and that lurks like a killer in the shadows of our own brain prevents us from thinking that we could ever do something like that.

Maybe high-standards is part of it. We let our brain do all of the talking–allow it to push aside any positive thoughts and fill it with negative thoughts. My flute teacher once told me to think of the Japanese flag whenever I let my brain takeover and encourage me to become frustrated when I was playing flute. I think this strategy could work for anything. The Japanese flag is simple – just a white background with a red spot. It’s easy enough to think about without much serious thought. As writers, we need to try and let the mind talk, rather than the brain.

We’ve also got to look at our first draft. Yes, it is probably crap and maybe even a bit stupid. But I’ve learnt from friends that this is just where we get our ideas down and then afterwards, we can go through it, pick out all of the stupid things that we may have put in there and then we either decide: delete or fix. For me, it doesn’t sound that easy but I know it is if I just let my mind talk about the positives and let my brain worry about the logic and whether one part is needed or not.

Self doubt is a killer. It can be really hurtful–emotionally and mentally. But, isn’t that, when we become a writer, when we say we are writer, isn’t that what we are signing up for? The hurt and the pain? Maybe the emotional and mental instability? We sacrifice all of this for the product, but will we give it up? Some people might. Some people might let the self-doubt eat away at them until they just decide they can’t do it anymore. But there will be people, I hope I am one of them, who despite the pain and the hurt that comes from writing, will just continue on. Maybe these will be the people that you see the published works of…

I realise that this blog post was probably a bunch of rambling thoughts. But that’s exactly what it was: my thoughts on self-doubt. I’m not entirely sure yet if I believe half of what I just said, but maybe that time is still yet to come…

~Maddie xx


4 thoughts on “The Killing Self Doubt

  1. Wow. This is an incredibly heart-felt post that cuts right to the core of writers and authors alike. We all have this doubt gnawing away at us, and I feel it every day – in fact, I’m not sure it will ever go away. I don’t believe we can ever kill the doubt entirely – after all, I’ll always be my own harshest critic – but the fact remains, we have to trust in other people around us. Trust in beta readers, or agents, or even just random people who think your book sounds good – writers are too close to the source material to think objectively, but readers will judge a book on its merit alone, not based on what they think about the author.

    You’re definitely not alone in this – every writer feels this way, on some scale. We all share this burden, but have a writing community around you can help throw a tiny flame against the darkness in our hearts.

    Thank you for sharing.


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