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Overcoming Self-doubt as a Writer

“Everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”

– Sylvia Plath

Self-doubt is a crippling thing to anyone, but it can be even worse when you are doing something that isn’t out of the ordinary, as such, but is frowned upon, especially by people who think money and stability is everything. These things are important, of course, but they are not the be-all and end-all. I’ve had moments when I thought even my own family doubted me as a writer. Even I’ve doubted myself as a writer. But over the years I’ve realised that whilst a few people genuinely think writing – in any form – is not a valid path to tread upon, it is mainly yourself that is getting you down. Somehow, usually unconsciously, we try to twist every look and every word that comes out of people’s mouths to be negative towards us in some way, however tenuous it may be. It is our own doubt we much conquer, not anyone else’s. Just remember that no matter how great your writing may be to someone, there is always another who says your writing is not gripping enough, not exciting enough. This happens with anything: films, politics, religion. Everyone disagrees, and that isn’t the issue here.

To move forward as a writer, we must overcome ourselves.

Now I’m not talking about any sort of new-age hocus-pocus, and if it comes across this way I apologise. What I’m simply trying to say is that for most of the time, it is us that doubt us, not other people. But why do we doubt ourselves? What is it that we are afraid of? There could be a number of reasons for this.

1.) You don’t think you’re good enough. This may be a valid reason when glanced at, but look deeper. If you are half-way through as story and you’re thinking of giving up, think again; at least finish the story. Even if you hate it, store it away so when you next look at it (even if the writing is terrible) you will perhaps gain ideas, character traits, and other such things for future stories. Nothing is worthless to the writer. If you have finished your story and maybe even several before and you doubt yourself, again you must think. This is one person that is judging and critiquing your work. What about the other seven billion or-so others out there, just waiting for something new to get their hands on and read?

2.) You are a beginner. “But I have so much to learn,” you may cry. “So many writers are better than me.” This in itself is a contradiction. If you think you have so much to learn, then why are you complaining that others are better than you? Of course they re going to be better – they’ve been at it for much longer than you have. The tip here is to write and read. Say it with me: read and write, write and read. As a runner trains his body for the run (reading), so he also runs (writing). Just be careful not to do one more than the other, this can upset your brain. Trust me, I’ve done this before. Simply strike a balance between the two. One cannot become better than others (if you want to call it that) without practicing their craft; it just makes no sense.

3.) You will never be published. Let’s face it, how many brilliant writers out there are published? I know a few good writers whose work has never seen the light of day. It happens. Unfortunately bad writers sometimes get published instead of the good ones, but even then that is still just my opinion; if no one liked them then no one would publish them. One must realise that to get published, even if your writing is excellent, you must submit your work to the right place at the right time. And really, what is writing truly about? Is it to get published and see it on the shelves of your local bookstore? This might be a nice bonus, but it is not the main reason: a writer writes to inspire, to teach, to learn, and to bring emotion to their readers and themselves. People simply enjoy telling stories, and be thankful that you can do this better than most people can, otherwise you would not be writing.

So remember, even if you think your writing sucks, someone will like it. But also remember that your idea and writing must excite you also; if you don’t get enthusiastic about your work and story premise, then who else is? Here are some quick tips that are condensed from this week’s post to help you on your way to becoming a better, more confident writer:

  • You are a writer, and some people will be genuinely eager to learn more about your work – believe me, it’s happened to many numerous times and I haven’t even hit my twenties!
  • Even the best writer in the world wrote a terrible story at one time. The trick they did was stick at it. Write, write, write. Read, read, read.
  • A published writer does not a good writer make. Even if you are not published, you by all means still call yourself a writer, and a proud one at that.

How do you stay motivated? Are there any tips and hints you learned along your journey as a writer? Write them in the comments section below, and share them with all the writers in this community!