5 Ways to Deal With Self-Doubt as a Writer

Girl


Self-doubt

Don’t you love it?

Well it sure loves you. It must, since it’s hanging around so often, whispering sweet nothings in your ear when you try to focus. Try to write. Try to plan.

You’re a terrible writer. People will judge you. Do you even know what you’re doing?

Or whatever that voice tells you.

Mine usually jumps to the worst-case scenario immediately. It never starts small like, “Your friends will judge you.”

It starts about a hundred and seven steps past that.

My first thought is something like, “Holy shit! You’ll be sixty-seven years old with a stack of half-completed manuscripts and half-completed dreams piling and seeping out of the hall closet, behind Christmas decorations and other seasonal oddities you never touch. Pudge lopping out of your gym shorts. Children who are taught to recite: ‘I’m sure this book will be the one, Dad!’ in an effort to ebb the nagging self-doubt that’s crippled for so long.”

Yeah, that’s about my first thought. If you haven’t found this out yet, I’m super dramatic. I doubt your first reaction is that dark and that specific.

We all have self-doubt. Whether it’s as dark and specific as mine, or if it’s a fear that your agent will dump you after her first read of your manuscript… doesn’t matter what it’s saying.

But it does matter what the hell you’re gonna do about it. You’re not going to let that voice boss you around, are you?

Your thoughts shape your beliefs. And your beliefs shape your reality. Think toxic thoughts long enough, and you’ll become toxic.

Here’s how to kick self-doubt in the ass.

  1. Reframe your mind. You cannot eliminate that voice from coming back. But you can change the way you receive it. Instead of thinking of it as speaking your future over you or your inevitable demise, recognize it for what it is — fear and lies. Move past it. Speak truth over yourself in courage. Claim something higher for yourself and believe for it.
  2. Recognize what’s realistic and unrealistic. If your self-doubt is that you’ll get a rejection letter from a publisher one day… sorry to break it to you, but that’s realistic thinking. However, if your self doubt is saying that out of all the publishers out there, no one will like your drivel. That’s unrealistic. I’m sure someone will like your drivel.
  3. Take small steps. A win, no matter how small, will give you momentum that can carry you on towards your next win. It’s a snowball effect.
  4. Don’t live by someone else’s goals. Example: someone you know writes 2,000 words a day so you feel like that needs to be your goal. Do whatever works for you.
  5. Surround yourself with support. Sometimes you need to hear someone say, “I believe in you!” I know I need that every now and then. More now than then of course.

Don’t be discouraged if this doesn’t work immediately. It takes time to reframe your mind. You have to train your thoughts in a healthy way. According to Dr. Caroline Leaf, it takes 7 minutes per day for about 21 days to solidify a thought in your mind into a more permanent state or reaction to something you habitually think about in a negative way.

So meditate on something positive for 7 minutes a day that goes right in the face of your doubts.

Dare for something greater. Or collapse into something lesser.

Your choice.

Question of the day: Am I crazy for dealing with self-doubt? How has it affected you?

8 Comments

  1. I have dealt with doubt as a writer for years. These feelings would start gradual and then grow into overwhelming crippling mindsets. Stagnant, I knew I had to do something to overcome them. For me personally I had to first learn to keep writing no matter how I felt. Emotions are fickle and misleading. Once I created a consistent schedule those voices of doubt started to drown out. Now they dont….hahaha. Yeah they’re still there just not as loud. Great article. I worte about my experience with doubt a few weeks back. Can I share my link here or send it to you to check out?

    • Hi Frank, thanks for sharing! I think your approach to keep pushing on, making a consistent schedule, and sticking with it despite fickle feelings is spot on. That’s a great way to help.

      And you can definitely share what you wrote – post the link in the comments and I’d love to check it out! 🙂

  2. Thanks Ben! I never like to throw a link without asking permission. It’s like walking into someone’s house and opening up the fridge uninvited.

    Here’s my story about dealing with doubt:
    http://www.asparkstarts.com/overcoming-overwhelming-doubt/

  3. I enjoyed reading this. It’s amazing how I can get super excited about such little things, lol. And I always find that it helps to surround yourself with not only positive but also inspirational people.

    • That is a really good point, Deshara! Surrounding yourself with people who are more talented, smarter, better writers, etc… often pushes you to reach higher than you otherwise would.

  4. You’re not crazy. And I believe in you.

What do you think?

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