The Hidden Monster of Writing: Self-doubt.

Posted by: Emily Shaw on Jun 24 2012, 9:35 am

     Hello, my name is Tia and occasionally I suffer from self-doubt. It’s been an ongoing illness that only flares up when I write or do math. Different people get it for different reasons. The kind I’m struck with is coping with whether or not my work is good enough for others. It’s this self-doubt that caused me to step away from writing momentarily.

     About a month ago I decided to take a break from anything writing related. That included plotting, reading, thinking about my characters or even going on the computer to see what was going on in the writing world. This “funk” as I call it came at a really awful time. I had just become a part of a critique group when I decided that for my sanity I needed some time off. (For this I apologize to my dear group and will make it up to you with future hard work and baked goods).

     I shared my struggle with my chapter members and found out that even the best of us struggle with this. That’s pretty incredible to me. People like them struggling to see their work as good? It baffled me. They have so much talent, so much experience how could they doubt themselves? You see, I’m pretty lucky to be in the chapter that I am. Those women are the most amazing women ever, both in life and in writing. I’m still in awe of them, and yes, I’ll admit it, star struck and slightly intimidated by their talent. When you’re faced with so much talent, your own can seem unworthy.

     Those feelings of unworthiness was what was stopping my from writing. There seemed to be no magic in my writing, no spark or hook that drew me in. In fact, there didn’t seem to be any me in it at all. I found myself trying to create something fresh that had not been done before, but it ended up sounding far too much alike other authors. I was drowning in my writing and I had to save myself. So I took a break.

     This absence turned out for the best however. Life took over and distracted me enough for the duration. The time I took away from writing gave me the opportunity to pin point just what it was causing it. It all amounted to: my writing didn’t seem good enough. Coming into this industry at my age is extremely scary at times. To think that there are people who have been in it for twice as many years as I’ve been alive. They know the ropes, the ins and outs of it all while I still struggle with the basics. I know it takes time to learn a craft (because that’s what writing is, a craft). That doesn’t make the journey any easier.

     After realizing this, I went back to my computer – hesitantly – for the first time last week and wrote a few pages. It felt really good. I wasn’t cranking out the number I would have liked, but it was a start and something I’m happy with. I still struggle with moments of insanity where I question why I bother with it. But those pass quickly when I remind myself the pleasure I get from tapping away at the keyboard, giving life to ideas.

     It wouldn’t be right to say I’m completely cured. Because let’s face it, after talking to my chapter, where several of the women as published authors, they still question if their work is good enough. It will be an ongoing struggle; one that I think will get better over time. A big contributor to this all I believe is because I have such a plain ordinary life, and have only lived a small portion of it so far. But as I learn more about life and what it has to offer, I’ll be learning more about the writing craft and how I write.

     It’s been a year since I have decided to immerse myself into the romance writing world. I have struggled with my self-doubt syndrome before, but I believe it got heavier this time because I have been learning so much about my craft. It can be overwhelming at times, but I’m lucky enough to have such lovely chapter mates to help talk me down from the provisional craziness. Are there any times that you have really doubted your writing ability? After sharing with my chapter it felt freeing to know that I wasn’t the only one. I would enjoy hearing about how you conquered the ugly monster that is self-doubt.


11 responses to “The Hidden Monster of Writing: Self-doubt.”

  1. Jeffe Kennedy says:

    Great post, Tia! I think it’s so true that we never lose that self-doubt and that it’s probably healthy that we don’t. I’m glad your break “refilled the well” – that works for me, too.

  2. Tammy Baumann says:

    No one was more shocked than me when I received the Golden Heart call. Heck, I’d just received a very nice ‘thanks but no thanks’ letter from an editor right before that, so I was pretty sure my story was crap. And yet, five complete strangers liked my story enough to make me a finalist.

    Sometimes we can mistake other’s criticism as the end all, when really it’s just another opinion. There are many reasons we may not fit into someone else’s mold, but it doesn’t make our work bad, just not right for them.

    You’re at the beginning of your journey with nowhere to go but up! So take breaks when you need them and keep on learning and asking questions. We all have faith in you, kiddo! ;0)

  3. Tia says:

    I wanted to share this because I believe that we all fear we may not be good enough at times. Also I’m a perfectionist so I strive to gets thigns done right the first time haha which sometiems does and does not work out. I’m glad people are able to relate and grow and help others from it. Self-doubt is a good thing I guess, becuase without it we wouldn’t strive to do better 🙂

  4. Brenda says:

    I truly wish that I had begun writing when I was your age. I was so intimidated by the idea that I never even tried, so you are WAY ahead of some of us.
    Confidence in anything comes with practice and more practice. And yes, we all need to take a break at times to get our brains back in the right gear.
    What I have come to accept is that I will always have questions and doubts, and I’m certain that the last story I finished will be the LAST ONE I EVER WRITE, because I suck as a writer. Even though I have published a number of books, it always feels like I’m writing the first one again-at least when I start.
    So get back to the critique group. I was going to say “when you’re ready” but we’re never really ready to have someone else look at our work. But’s that trust and friendship you develop with your group that allows and sometimes forces you to grow and learn the craft. That will never stop and that’s just okay.
    So don’t worry, just write and write and write and write. BTW, we’re all neurotic about our writing, so get used to it!

  5. Mona Karel says:

    Tia, your doubts were an inspiration to us all.I did write at your age, but nothing I’d let anyone see today! The journey is different for all of us and honestly as long as we keep writing we can keep having fun along the way, and never have to arrive.

  6. I wish I could tell you how I conquered the ugly monster of self-doubt, but I struggle with it every day. Every day. Yesterday, the monster told me that when I send my revisions to my editor, I will get a phone call explaining to me, very gently, that my book just isn’t going to work for them. Or maybe it will be an email.

    Yep. It never goes away, so the best thing is to ignore it and keep on doing what you’re doing. Write to please yourself, and one day you’ll find an audience, because the craft will come.

  7. Louise Bergin says:

    I think self-doubt is an inherent part of being a writer. We have a vision in our head about how our book should be, but no matter how well we write, we can never completely put that vision into words. And that lack is the root of our self-doubt.

    I’ve read that even movie directors have this problem of vision transferring, and they have all the elements of movie making to put their story’s vision on screen. That helped me realize no one transfers their story vision perfectly–We’re all in this together.

  8. Tia says:

    It is an every day kind of thing that we are all in together. I totally agree!! I wouldn’t trade it in for the world though, becuase I love to write.

  9. Tia, great blog! One thing about self-doubt is that it keeps you striving to improve, and that’s a good thing! What’s important is not to lose sight of why you write.

    “But those pass quickly when I remind myself the pleasure I get from tapping away at the keyboard, giving life to ideas.”

    There it is! You write because it’s what you enjoy and probably feel compelled to do it. That’s the spark you want to keep burning. Get lost in your stories because you love the characters and worlds you create. Perfecting your craft, mastering GMC and other skills will happen with time.

  10. Robin Perini says:

    Great blog, Tia.

    Self-doubt. Hmmm….well, let’s just say I have it every hour…every minute…every second of every day. I figure that at some point they’re all going to figure out that I have no clue what I’m doing and this whole thing was one big mistake.

    I’ve learned to live with it…and sometimes that means curling up in a ball, and sometimes it means calling friends and other writers to remind me that I can string a few words together…sometimes it means chocolate…and sometimes it means I fight through it.

    That being said…I have a great mouse pad that I got from the Southern Magic RWA Chapter. It reads:

    “I AM A WRITER. I will finish this book because I have the skill, talent, energy and courage to do so. And when the demons of self-doubt rear their ugly heads, I will shout them down with words. Because I AM A WRITER.”

    I read that mouse pad every single day…because those demons attack every single day.

    You are not alone. But, guess what…those demons can be squished just long enough to let the joy come in.

    Being a writer is an amazing frustration and a wondrous joy. I will writing…I hate revision…I love having revised.

    You can do this. And let yourself make mistakes. That’s how we learn and grow.

    Don’t let those demons get you know…you have a bunch of demon slayers to back you up!


  11. Paula says:

    Dear Tia,

    Welcome to the sisterhood of Self-Doubt. Ha, doubt isn’t my middle name, it’s my first. But the flip side is arrogance, pride and total blindness. Questioning whether our work is good enough is normal. Believe in yourself and accept that you will be better in the future than you are now. Most of all, Never and I mean never take one opinion as gospel.

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