Does doubt keep you from writing?

My friend and I have been writing for more than ten years. In that time I have published two books, many stories and several articles. My friend has published nothing. Her problem, I think, is that she is afraid of success.

Just last week we had a conversation about a short story she wants to submit. She has been working on this story for several months now. She has even taken this story to her critique partners for feedback. Now that the time is nearing for her to submit, she is second-guessing her story. “Did I put in too much?” she asked me. “Is it going to be good enough?” she worried.

“Don’t talk yourself out of submitting,” I warned. “Send it out and get on with your novel.”

The self-doubt my friend is experiencing is normal. Many writers wade through doubts every day. Faced with a blank page, they often freeze. They ask themselves, “What do I have to say that’s important? What do I have to say that hasn’t already been said a thousand times?”

Carleen Brice, author of the novel Orange Mint and Honey, (which inspired The Lifetime Movie Sins of the Mother), recently said that as a writer she has doubts every day. “I’m working on a rewrite of my third novel, which sometimes fills me with so much anxiety I want to crawl not just under the covers, but under the bed,” she writes in a guest blog.

I know the feeling. I, too,  battle self-doubt. Instead of hiding under the bed, I turn on spider solitaire and eat up all my writing time matching suits in digital decks of cards. Why do I do this?

Audrey Marlene, in her article, “Self-Doubt – An Illogical Perspective”, says doubt can be caused by many things, including

• Feelings of inferiority
• Low self-esteem
• Feeling a lack of control over your life
• Believing you are not good enough or smart enough
• Anticipating failure even before you begin
• Rejection
• Believing that your emotional security depends on someone or something

It all boils down to fear. Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of losing control. Fear prompts me to focus on what I cannot do rather than what I can do, or on what I desire. Marlene claims the best way to let go of self-doubt is to build self-confidence.

I want to be a writer, and I know that I have to push self-doubt away if I want to be successful. To help banish my self-doubt, I continue to hone my craft, and, if I’m feeling particularly negative, I’ll call a writing buddy to help get back on track. I submit. If my work is rejected, I submit again.

I’ve been writing long enough to know that every word I write isn’t golden. I’ve come to accept, even anticipate, rejection because I know that writing is subjective. I’ve learned that if someone says it isn’t good enough, I can rework the story or throw it in the garbage, where it might possibly belong.

William Shakespeare once wrote, “Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt.”

Conquering fear isn’t easy, but it gets better with practice and positive self-talk. I will remind my friend of this the next time she claims her story isn’t good enough.

Are your doubts traitors? How do you push through them to achieve your writing goals?

-Bonnie Dodge

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2 Comments

Filed under Question of the Month

2 responses to “Does doubt keep you from writing?

  1. I fear not writing or being published

  2. Oh, I’ve got my share of doubts, all right. They’re depressing, yes, but not debilitating.

    When my writing’s been rejected, or I’m feeling like what I’ve written isn’t good enough, it makes me write *more*. It’s like my passion-slash-coping mechanism. I want to produce something else. I want it to be awesome — better than whatever the last thing was, so maybe it will be met with acceptance, this time.

    I can’t *not* write, so I have no choice but to *keep* writing. This is what I love. Career-wise, this is all I want. So treacherous doubts or no, I soldier on.

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