Self-doubt is both positive and negative, depending on your response. It could be motivating or deleterious to one’s ability. But most times, the tendency to it being negative is high. Therefore, anyone aspiring to success or relevance in a discipline or profession must be deliberate in the effort to cripple the coated demon. Similarly, the first thing you need to master, as a writer, is self-doubt.
Jason Rose gives a reasonable analysis of what writing is. He says, “Writing is 10% skill, 40% hard work, and 50% crippling self-doubt.” In other words, if you could cripple self-doubt, you have attained an average in writing.
However, writers are feeble and self-conscious. While quality fuel the thirst to know more, to feel more, to have more, to be more, it could become a boisterous storm that can drown one’s ability. Hence, managing the emotions and feelings attached to the feebleness is primary to improving one’s writing skills.
At one point or another, the feeling gets under our skin. Like a witness to the soul, its voice scribbles on the tablets of our hearts: “You are not good enough.” “Your writing is bad.” “That sucks.” “You’re such a jerk.” The words are like seeds thrown into the field, longing for the rain and the rough and tumble of the farmer. And when it is not revved up from the farmer’s activity, it dies.
Similarly, when you doubt your power because of the lies that are crawling in your head, you give power to your doubt. The lies came, in the first place, so you could question your abilities and drop your pen.
Nevertheless, it’s a choice one must make with anything in life: to either believe in yourself or allow yourself to be sucked into self-pity and feelings of self-doubt. Here are some things that can help you trust yourself again when feeling defeated:
It is the nature of winds to blow, but it is at the helm of each object not to get blown away. A tree that is not firmly rooted will bow to the storm. When you are grounded in the belief of your ability and skill, you are shielded against the gremlin of self-doubt.
You should note that doubt, in itself, is not bad, it’s your response to it that matters. Self-doubt is there to test your agility and perseverance. Most times, self-doubt springs from feedback and criticisms. These are the rewards of every writer’s piece. However, our charge is not to fight but to check our egos, absorb everything, learn from everyone, expand our way of thinking, and improve.
Take a break
If you are feeling overwhelmed by what you perceive as not going so well, take some time away from that project and focus on something totally different. Sometimes, shifting our focus away from what we are stuck on helps us take a new perspective when we come back to it.
Paul Tremblay, an American author and editor of contemporary horror, dark fantasy, and science fiction, says, “For the times when I’m still filled with anxiety that isn’t going away, I get up and walk away from the computer and go do something else; exercise or chores; something physical. It’s important to give yourself permission to bail on writing and not beat yourself up too much about it. More times than not, when I’m not actively thinking about the book, an idea or a solution to a problem in the story bubbles up.”
Damien Angelica Walters, the author of Paper Tigers and Sing Me Your Scars, also adds, “Read a lot, watch a movie, go out, do anything but write. When I do that, the negative feelings start to melt away and I remember why I write: because I love it. It isn’t about accolades or anthology invitations or even sales; it’s about telling the stories that I have inside me to tell.”
Never compare yourself with another
Self-doubt puts you in a hole where you begin to compare yourself with others as you question your identity. Success is not in comparison, but in the assurance of your identity. Never give in to comparison.
Instead, it is important to get the support you need from others. Whether this is from friends, family, or a professional therapist or coach, getting reassurance or help from others can make a big difference.
Sometimes, just the reassurance that you are not the only one who gets stuck or has moments of self-doubt can help you shift away from a “why me” attitude.