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Dealing with Self-Doubt as a Writer

March 10, 2015

the reminderI don’t think I’ve gone a week as a writer without self doubt creeping in along the edges, somewhere.

I’d think:

  • no one will ever want to read this
  • why am I writing? why am I doing this? what is the point?
  • Why don’t I just take up knitting as means of expressing my creativity? At least I can get a scarf out of it!
  • etc. etc.

Cue: angst

Cue: lots of self examination

Luckily, the time I spend in these self-doubt moments has gotten shorter and shorter.

Maybe its because I feel my age these days. Or because I am a busier person.

I simply do not have the time or the patience for writerly hand wringing.

My writing time is short, and if I’m lucky enough to be ‘in the flow’, I do not need to sabotage myself by suddenly wondering IF NO ONE WILL EVER READ WHAT I’M WRITING because it’s JUST NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

That happened to me just the other day. I was happily working on a scene for my second Regency mystery when I was suddenly struck by the thought that maybe I was just a hamster in a wheel, spinning around and around with words no one would ever read…

Would anyone really care that Lady Melbourne and my character’s aunt, the Great Dowager of Haughton, are sworn enemies?

Oh, I know. Given that it’s the digital age, I could slap my work up on a self created website and the law of averages would decree that someone, somewhere would probably come across it at some point, even if all they did was click on the link by accident. Ergo, it would be read!

But that is not the kind of reader I am aiming for. I’m hoping for a reader who is invested in my story. Intrigued and invested.

I worry very much about what they think–and so I should.

As a writer you CANNOT disregard your reader. They are an invisible presence on your shoulder, nudging, and guiding. They are half-myself, too, because I write what I want to read and part of the EXCITEMENT of being a writer is discovering what would EXCITE me as a reader.

Oh my god, let’s make Lord Byron a jerk when we first meet him! As a reader, I would LOVE that!

(Honestly, I would).

But the reader on your shoulder should never take the drivers seat. Don’t even let them be a back seat driver.

Consider them the in-car GPS. Sometimes you follow their directions to your destination…and sometimes you don’t!

The problem with giving your inner reader too much leeway: their needs are too diverse. The ‘reader’ is part of an audience and an audience is made up of individuals, who each have their own preferences and tastes. You can’t please all of them. It’s impossible and as soon as I start trying (this plot isn’t tense enough, my characters aren’t funny enough, there isn’t enough romance…) that’s when the self doubt creeps in…

Cue: angst

Cue: no more writing

So here’s what I try to do:

  • notice when self doubt is happening
  • notice what it is saying
  • note the concerns and plan to revisit them another time to see if they are legitimate (like when the rough draft is done)
  • recommit to the writing craft
  • just keep writing

I will even say it to myself out loud (and repeat after me):  JUST KEEP WRITING!

One comment

  1. You inspire me to want to write Julie. (I used to want to write romance) I love how real you are in your blog posts. Just am. FYI… I read them all and I think you’re awesome. XO



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